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Open Access Water Energy Food: WEFWEBs, EPSRC, Nexus

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"The water, energy and food systems (the WEF) of the planet are under strain, sometimes described as the ""perfect storm"". They are all intrinsically linked and inter-dependent (the nexus), and humanity needs to plot a course to ensure sustainability and in an ideal world, equity of access to resources.

The WEFWEBs project is examining the data and evidence for the water, energy and food systems, their interactions and dependencies within the local, regional and national environment. We need to maintain a balance between the three sometimes opposing directions that our primary systems are moving in to ensure that we safeguard our ecosystems, while still being able to live sustainably, in a world where demands are increasing. To study these systems and their dependencies and interactions, we need to bring together a multitude of different disciplines from the physical, environmental, computational and mathematical sciences, with economics, social science, psychology and policy. Each of the three systems are studied through the data that exists concerning their flows, resources and impacts, but also through individual and civic understanding of the systems.

We will collect, synthesise and assimilate existing data and models, with new data that will be collected using new sensing technology and social media. We will examine each of the multiple dimensions of the nexus in three place based studies where we can explore and examine the outputs from data analysis, process and network models, and social perceptions.

This project delivers multiple dynamic WEF nexus maps with spatial level spanning the dimensions of the problem, reflecting current status and changes, and the interactions in the primary systems in space and time. There is currently no critically systemic, participatory, multi-stakeholder mapping of the entire multi-scale WEF nexus for the UK and this project offers innovation in terms of the multi-disciplinarity and variety of methods including systemic intervention, data analytics and crowd sourcing techniques being used to map the WEF nexus.

Ultimately, WEFWEBs will provide a better understanding to citizens and policy makers alike of the effects of choices and decisions to be made.

Planned Impact

Our beneficiaries are regulators and policy makers, utility companies, food producers and retailers, individual citizens and academics.

WEFWEbs brings multiple benefits to all these groups;

The fundamental impact from this work will be the improvement in the sustainability of our society and an improved understanding of the consequences of the choices which we make as a citizen or a society:

Policy makers, regulators and planners: Stakeholders will benefit from the ability to make improved decisions around planning and aligning policies at national and regional levels, potentially improving public services. Debates concerning the WEFWEB nexus at national and international level can be informed by this improved understanding which WEFWEBs brings, increasing the effectiveness and evidence base for policy.

Utility companies, primary food producers and retailers: Stakeholders will benefit from WEFWEBs by being able to improve their decision making, by being able to examine the consequences of changes, environmental impacts and ultimately in potential efficiency gains, fostering improved economic performance and the reduction of waste.

Society: Societal and civic impact will take the form of more informed consumer choice, potentially economic benefit to the individual, resilience and more social equality, and thus quality of life. For researchers, academic impact derives primarily from excellence in research, the focus being on delivering new insights into the WEF nexus. This project will provide training and research experience to the postdoctoral researchers across a wide range of research areas spanning the NEXUS. These individuals will benefit from exposure to a broad range of industries, governmental organisations and regulators. Improved understanding of the nexus will increase the effectiveness of our primary systems, and help improve WEF security, by mapping out interdependencies. This research at local level could have an immediate impact, but is likely to have a longer term impact."
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2018

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  • Impact is a series of high-quality, open access and free to access science reports designed to enable the dissemination of research impact to key stakeholders. Communicating the impact and relevance of research projects across a large number of subjects in a content format that is easily accessible by an academic and stakeholder audience. The publication features content from the world's leading research councils, policy groups, universities and research projects. Impact is published under a CC-BY Creative Commons licence.

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