Science Forum 2018 Plenary Session // Grappling with Complex Systems: The Water-Energy-Food Nexus Experience

This document summarises the findings of two background papers that were commissioned to guide the discussions in the "Grappling With Complex Systems: The Water-Energy-Food Nexus Experience" session. The two papers are "The climate-land-energy and water nexus: Implications for agricultural research" and "Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Agriculture Research for Development: The case for integrative modelling via place-based observatories."

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New paradigms regarding agriculture as an integral part of interlinked value chains that promote sustainable growth, food and energy security and waste reduction are emerging. The Water-Energy-Food Nexus embodies several tradeoffs/synergies between food, environment, health/nutrition. The main focus of the session is on ways in which we can reconcile the many interactions in this complex system and use these approaches to improve the way CGIAR research is designed and implemented.

One way of dealing with complex systems is through models. Models are tools: their real usefulness stems not only from their ability to predict the outcome of management interventions, but rather in their power to foresee the likelihood and severity of opportunities and consequences that might arise from a combination of climate, soil, plant, animal and human interactions. The difference between prediction and foresight might appear subtle, yet it is profound: predicting an outcome transfers all power to the person making the prediction (usually a scientist), while foreseeing likelihoods and consequences empowers actors to choose and actively create the desirable future they envision while avoiding undesirable outcomes.


Science Forum 2018 website (open access) 

Background Papers

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Water Utilities // Smart Solution to Improve Water-Energy Nexus for Water Supply Systems

By Jorge Helmbrechta, Jordi Pastorb and Carolina Moyac. The Water-Energy Nexus is considered as one of the most important multidisciplinary challenges that the global growing water market has to face in the forthcoming years. The current trend of water transmission system to the creation of DMAs (District Metered Areas) offers great possibilities of non-structural solutions that use existing data and transform them into useful information to support decision making. This paper presents a smart...

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Machine learning for Energy-Water Nexus // Challenges and Opportunities

By Syed Mohammed Arshad Zaidi, Varun Chandola, Melissa R. Allen, Jibonananda Sanyal, Robert N. Stewart, Budhendra L. Bhaduri, and Ryan A. McManamay. Modeling the interactions of water and energy systems is important to the enforcement of infrastructure security and system sustainability. To this end, recent technological advancement has allowed the production of large volumes of data associated with functioning of these sectors. We are beginning to see that statistical and machine learning...

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The Challenges of Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production // From Unilocal to Comparative Research

By David Simon, Henrietta Palmer, Jan Riise, Warren Smit and Sandra Valencia. The implementation of the WEF Nexus approach calls for transdisciplinary and comparative knowledge production and research. This reflective paper surveys the lessons learnt and challenges faced by the Mistra Urban Futures (MUF) research centre and its research platforms in Sweden, the UK, South Africa and Kenya in developing and deploying different forms of transdisciplinary co-production of knowledge. Considerable...

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