Interdisciplinary Knowledge and Institutions for addressing sustainability challenges

Global socio-environmental challenges are complex and interconnected, and they cannot be addressed by individual disciplines operating in silos. There is a need to shift knowledge generation from disciplinary, linear ‘tree’ model to interdisciplinary ‘web’ model to generate sustainability-relevant knowledge and solutions. Success in such an approach requires engaging multiple stakeholders right from the start and institutions that foster interdisciplinarity.
Interdisciplinary Knowledge and Institutions for addressing sustainability challenges

The disciplinary or “tree “model has dominated our thinking for centuries. Prof. Junguo Liu from China (JL) worked on his undergraduate courses over 20 years ago in the department of “Water Conservancy”, and majored in “irrigation and drainage”, and tried to design an irrigation scheme to get additional water for crops that cannot be supplied sufficiently by precipitation when he worked on his bachelor thesis. JL did not consider the economic feasibility and social acceptance while designing the program. Similarly, Prof. Kamal Bawa from India (and working in U.S.) started as a botanist, but was able to mold his graduate training many years later to practice sustainability science. Thus disciplinary training is not a hurdle that cannot be overcome to engage in the “web model” of knowledge generation.

JL also had the good fortune of getting involved in a research program on “Integrated research on the eco-hydrological processes of the Heihe River Basin (HRB)” that was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China. It was fortuitous because JL had continuously worked on research on the HRB for the entire implementation period of 2011-2018, and had a chance to learn how the river is managed.

The HRB is China’s second largest inland river basin located in the arid and semi-arid Northwest. The Heihe river ends at the Juyan Lake, a water body critical for supporting the oasis in surrounding areas. The lake became dry in 1992. Degradation of the lake not only led to a decrease in oasis area, but it also made the lake bank a potential source of dust for regions thousands kilometers away e.g. the Beijing City. Early investigation of the water problems followed the ‘tree model’. Prior to the 1990s, disciplinary research was dominated by studies of the hydrological processes, and agricultural water use. The continuing degradation of the lake made researchers and policy makers realize that the knowledge produced was insufficient. Thus, an interdisciplinary collaborative research team from different institutions was formed in 1995 to investigate the driving forces for the drying-up of the Juyan Lake. Experts in hydrology and social development collaborated with ecosystem health experts to conclude that the lake degradation downstream was largely caused by increased water use in middle streams where agriculture had expanded. This new interdisciplinary knowledge then resulted in a transdisciplinary effort with researchers, central and local governments working together to co-design research to identify ways to use water resources more sustainably across the entire river basin. One outcome was the proposal of a water allocation scheme, which the central government accepted in 2000. As a result, a water diversion intervention asking for a minimum of water release from the middle to lower stream was implemented. The shift towards an interdisciplinary, solution-oriented approach played an important role in restoring the degraded ecosystems in the Heihe River Basin. The surface area of the Juyan Lake had been expanded. Meanwhile, the ground water level increased in downstream areas.

In order to address the water sustainability, we not only require disciplinary knowledge of hydrology (to understand the hydrological processes and water cycle), but also require the knowledge of meteorology (to understand the natural driving forces of hydrological cycle), ecology (to understand ecological evolution), economy (to understand the economic system that drives water uses), social science (to understand how people behave for water use and management) and many other disciplines. These disciplines alone cannot generate sufficient knowledge of sustainability. The interdisciplinary “web” model is more useful to generate sustainability knowledge with a systematic understanding of sustainability problems.

But the model model cannot be implemented without several paradigm shifts.

First, reforming our educational systems. Our academic structures generally do not foster the type of interactions required by the web model. Fortunately, progress is being made in several pioneering research and educational institutes. In 2007, the Arizona State University launched one of the first PhD programmes in the world devoted to sustainability — using interdisciplinary approaches from fields such as earth and environmental science, conservation biology, engineering, economics, sociology, and urban planning to identifying real-world solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges. The University removed disciplinary barriers by organizing a new and perhaps the largest academic unit, the School of Sustainability with a large core faculty and scores of affiliated faculty.

In 2007, KB was engaged in setting up an interdisciplinary doctoral program in conservation and sustainability studies at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a private non-profit think tank in India (, with the degree granted by Manipal University. ATREE overcame typical hurdles by organizing interdisciplinary research teams around sustainability problems instead of departments organized around disciplines. Furthermore, researchers placed emphasis on research-policy linkages and action on the ground to address societal-environmental interactions.

In 2016, the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in China established an Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies. It brings together multidisciplinary talents, setting up large-scale shared experimental platforms, and provides venues for ideological collisions to result in the resolution of major scientific and technical problems that are difficult to solve in a single discipline.

Second, more and more researchers should move from understanding a problem to proposing and implementing solutions. Many academics are loath to cross from an ‘objective’ pursuit of truth to a more normative view of the world requiring, among other things, transdisciplinary efforts. However, the urgency of the sustainability problems we are facing including water crisis and climate change must make us think beyond pure knowledge generation.

Third, co-designing sustainability research projects by involving stakeholders at all stages is critical and an essential element of finding solutions. The implementation of a co-designed project requires continuing interactions among stakeholders, including scientists, decision makers at different levels, and local communities. Refinements to original understandings of the problem and new knowledge is co-produced during this collaborative stage. Following the principles of adaptive management, the research team needs to make constant adjustments to the original plans. Co-created knowledge may lead to a revised research design, deployment of new knowledge in solving practical problems, effective stakeholder monitoring and evaluation systems, and ultimately policy changes.

Last but not the least, restructuring of institutions to foster collaboration across disciplines and stakeholders may be critical. In 2018 China approved the first three piloting cities i.e. Shenzhen, Taiyuan and Guilin to implement the SDGs through financing, launching research projects, and involving stakeholders at all level. As a consequence, on January 15, 2019, Shenzhen Institute of Sustainable Development was formally established to assist in applying sustainability knowledge for sustainability urban development.

More and more sustainability challenges are emerging across the globe. Reorientation of academic enterprises to generate the knowledge needed to address these challenges, and restructuring or creation of new institutions is urgently needed. 

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Go to the profile of ZHANG Junyuan
almost 5 years ago

(Wang Tianwei, a junior student in SUSTech) It's a fascinating essay, interdisciplinary education or collaboration  shall be  the trend in future education. One can be an excellent researcher with a outstanding major knowledge, but he may never be a nice problem-solver, which requires broad knowledge, that is interdisciplinary skills. Tree model may foster students to be skilled quickly, but it's not good for future collaboration when facing a complex problem. nowadays, human is facing more and more problems that involves many different field, e.g. environmental contamination, not only the contaminant itself or the factories should be in concerned, but also the economic influence and society. because usually, the problems happen with human's producing activities. That's just a small epitome. but on the other hand, interdisciplinary education needs more resources and often means longer education duration(not just 4 years for a undergraduate), maybe sometimes multinationally, so that they can really have an interdisciplinary knowledge, but not knows a little about each field.  I hope the Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies in SUSTech will make something pioneering.

Go to the profile of ZHANG Junyuan
almost 5 years ago

(Junyuan ZHANG, Student from SUSTech)Obviously, tree model is not suitable for most present research. For instance, when I need to do a research about surface water, I should also excel in chemistry and geology. Therefore, the web model was put forward. It is true that multiple co-operation can help the researcher solve many problems. For example, as the passage mentioned, water allocation policy need to use various subjects to balance the nature and society. But I think there is another model more approach to the real condition--maybe a model like the circular cone. The model is nearly same as  web model, but it is three dimensional, for the reason that I think the multiple fields should have the core leader in the cone. I mean when Professor Liu doing the  Heihe River Basin project, the main problem is a hydrology problem. Therefore, the core is hydrology, and other subjects just offer help. From the web model, we can also see the core. Whereas, I think circular cone is more easy to be understood, even if it is not concise. All in all, the web model still plays a significant role in the research. It is essential that use diverse kind of knowledge in a study. 

Go to the profile of ZUO Jinchao
almost 5 years ago

After reading the paper and the article,I completely agree  what's  the author‘s attention. In the 21st century,  the knowledge exponentially growth. How to acquire and utilize the knowledge is becoming a huge challenge for our educational system. As mentioned in the article, addressing sustainable development requires multidisciplinary integration, including hydrology, ecology, socio-economics, management, etc. Participating in solving a real problem or designing a project will make students grow fast during learning a lesson. In many courses in SUSTech, we are required to finish a project or a presentation relating to the course. I think it is very excellent approach to form the knowledge and I enjoy this way.

Go to the profile of ZUO Jinchao
almost 5 years ago

(Jinchao Zuo, student in SUSTech) 

Go to the profile of Shifan Xue
almost 5 years ago

The paper is very impressive and enlightening. In the world where diverse disciplines are flourishing and competing with each other, the need for interdisciplinary cooperation cannot be overlooked. Sometimes, despite the surpassing disciplinary expertise one may have, the possibility of addressing a universal concern single-handed is out of the question. A most notable example for this would be global warming. At the very beginning, people might count on disciplinary efforts, environmental science in particular, to cope with the problem. However, as it turned out, the result left much to be desired, unless joined efforts by various disciplines are made, such as environmental science, energy engineering, politics, economics, law and so forth. Interdisciplinary approaches are bound to be the new trend and the 'web' is an ideal model for replacement.

Go to the profile of ZUO Jinchao
almost 5 years ago

(Yiqiu Wu, student in SUSTech) The paper has unique insights and advanced vision . The interdisciplinary has always existed, just like environmental engineer, it contains a lot of knowledge about chemistry and biology, but in order to solve problems related to the environment, people divided related points into environmental disciplines. However, in the age of information technology, the cost of learning knowledge becomes lower and the efficiency of communication becomes higher, we are able to solve complex problems. At this time, these more complex problems are challenging our existing discipline system. Before the establishment of the new system, in order to solve these problem such as governance of the Heihe River Basin mentioned in the article, we need interdisciplinary knowledge, the interdisciplinary “web” model come into being. Therefore, a platform such as the Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies established by SUSTC is essential.

Go to the profile of Yitong Yang
almost 5 years ago

The point in this article is very good. What is clear is that we need people who are vertically developed -- well-researched in an academic field -- so that the research can be advanced and accurate, but we also need people who are horizontally developed -- have comprehensive multidisciplinary knowledge -- who are more appropriate for solving practical problems. There are interdisciplinary phenomena in many subjects nowadays. For example, environmental economics has become a common term, and resource-economy-environment is often studied as a chain reaction. Many enterprises also have sustainable development departments, which means that interdisciplinary talents are needed by the society. So it's good to accept the interdisciplinary study and apply it to our school.

Go to the profile of Xingyue Zhang
almost 5 years ago

In this essay, authors proposed the "Interdisciplinary ' web ' model" to emphasize the necessary connection and collobration among different subjects in solving sustainabillity problems. I cannot agree more with them. Different from theoretical disciplines like mathematics and physics, being highly connected with the future of human determines the solution-oriented characteristic and unique complexity of sustainability problems. 
Take a look at 17 sustainable development goals adopted by all United Nations Member States: to realize SDGs requires knowledge involving meteorology (13.Climate Action), biology (14. Life below water), sociology (5. gender equality)... I believe all the disciplines are involved and take their own irreplaceable place in solving these global problems.
As a senior in SUSTech who just starts to be engaged in scientific research, I feel inspired by Pro.Liu’s lecture and essay: Always be open-minded and solution-oriented. While I am still trying to achieve a balance between learning broadly and learning deeply and I am considering whether it is really beneficial for undergraduate to learn broadly in the sacrifice of the proficiency in their own specialized field to a certain extent? I believe there is a long way to establish a balanced and effective educational system.

Go to the profile of Yinong Cai
almost 5 years ago

From history, hydrology not just depend on water. Human’s civilization, art, building etc. all come from water. On the other hand, research about hydrology not only focus on the water itself, we must put us attention on ecology, the economy system of water uses and  behave for water use and management, like LJ said. About the “ wed “ model, it’s sure that the problems of sustainability need the thought of interdisciplinary conservation. But it isn’t an easy goal through many effects has been done, the root of this problem is the system of education in the world and people don’t have enough energy to consider too many fleids.It is especially important to build a platform for all researchers to discuss and evaluate a problem together. I’m happy to see professor. Liu can have a try. Maybe someday we'll all be beneficiaries

Go to the profile of Dong W
over 3 years ago

(Dong Wang, a student in SUSTech)The opinion of interdisciplinary cross-domain learning co-operation mentioned in this article is very good,and the example of teacher Liu mentioned in this article is very suitable. Because the previous knowledge structure is relatively simple and the problems to be solved are relatively simple, in-depth learning in a single field was completely possible in the past. But as the complexity of knowledge and problems increases(many people were needed in the field of quantum mechanics in the last century), interdisciplinary learning and co-operation is an inevitable trend, I think it is the future direction.

Go to the profile of 董春玲
over 3 years ago

First of all, I quite agree with Mr. Liu. In the context of globalization, interdisciplinary research has become very common. Especially when the world is facing the same crisis, it is our common wish to work together to solve the problem of environmental. There is a need to shift knowledge generation from disciplinary, linear ‘tree’ model to interdisciplinary ‘web’ model to generate sustainability-relevant knowledge and solutions. What's more, team work is conducive to improving the efficiency of problem-solving, which we have been advocating.

Go to the profile of Shi YY
over 3 years ago

(Shi Yuanyuan,a graduate student in SUSTech)This paper uses the water case as an example to help people analyze how to use knowledge related to sustainable development to find solutions to complex problems.The case of HBR in this paper illustrates that in order to manage water resources sustainably, researchers have crossed multiple disciplines, and they believe that the network model of knowledge generation will best suit the current needs of water resources management.Cooperation is critical to addressing many issues, such as adapting to water shortages, water allocation policies and the upstream and downstream impacts of water pollution.Experts in hydrology and social development worked with experts in ecosystem health to shed light on this phenomenon.This new interdisciplinary knowledge has led researchers, central and local governments to collaborate across disciplines to design studies to identify ways to use water more sustainably across the river basin.Moreover, the drying up of the Alkwati River in southern India, another example, illustrates how complex knowledge networks are needed to understand the nature of the water crisis and possible solutions to water shortages.In today's interdisciplinary knowledge, water resource shortage or water resource allocation is no longer a problem that can be solved by a discipline.This also gives me a new inspiration for my future scientific research, that is, problem solving should not focus on only one discipline or one direction, but should pay attention to the integration of multiple disciplines, which may bring additional gains.

Go to the profile of Ziwei Yu
over 3 years ago

(Ziwei Yu, graduate student in  SUStech)First of all, I quite agree with the views put forward by Academician Liu. As water resources and other issues become more complex, it is no longer sufficient to simply adopt environment-related expertise. Only the Web Model can help us. In the “Planning Support Tools and their Effects in Participatory Urban Adaptation workshops”, which I have seen before, are about how to link researchers and people in local relevant departments with certain tools(such as AST model) to form a Web model, and analyze the results. From these conclusions, we can find that the Web model is far superior to the Tree model, which tells us that in the future research, we need to find our own team and give full play to our advantages to help our team solve problems. Only in this way can we make the most efficient application in real life problems.

Go to the profile of Chen Ding
over 3 years ago

The paper is so impressive and enlightening. The opinion of interdisciplinary cross-domain learning co-operation mentioned by Mr.Liu is very nice and eye-opening. After read this paper,I see the potentual of the web model for generating sustainability relevant knowledge and solutions.And we need to learn and explore in this area further.

Go to the profile of yaomeng
over 3 years ago

(Yao Meng, a graduate student at Sustech) In recent years, with the rapid development of science, technology, economy and industry all over the world, a series of problems have followed.For example, in my research field, groundwater level decline, groundwater pollution, dry up of rivers and lakes, etc., these problems are often not pure one-point problems, which involve the intersection of many fields such as environment, atmosphere, physics, mathematics and economy.As Liu mentioned in the article, the only shortcut to solve this problem is for scientists in many different fields to find the root cause of the problem, propose corresponding solutions, and then implement them through relevant stakeholders such as the government and local residents.Therefore, the challenge we have to face is to integrate the current academic system and transform the former model of cultivating top talents in various fields into a model of cultivating interdisciplinary talents.In my opinion, such a reform should start with the most basic university training, multi-disciplinary comprehensive learning, expanding the scope of knowledge, and then close to the needs of the society to improve the ability to solve practical problems.The second challenge is how governments, scientists and local people can work together to solve the problem.I think the national level can set up a corresponding special major accident steering group to coordinate their cooperation.thank you

Go to the profile of Yewei Wang
over 3 years ago

The point of this article is very meaningful. At present, environmental problems have become a major problem in the world. Environmental problems plague almost all people, but the methods to solve environmental problems have not kept pace with the times. The interdisciplinary research mentioned by Mr. Liu in the article is obviously a better method. I also believe that the transition to an interdisciplinary, solution-oriented approach will play a more important role in future environmental problems. The web model in the article is also an interesting point. It is different from the previous tree model, but an interdisciplinary problem-solving model, which left a deep impression on me.

Go to the profile of Yuxin Li
over 3 years ago

In this paper, Prof. JL introduces us a new mode of thinking, learning and working —— “web model”, which is also more useful to generate sustainability knowledge with a systematic understanding of water sustainability problems. Although, there is still a long way to implement the model, Prof. JL put forward several constructive plans in this paper, like  reforming the educational systems, restructuring of institutions to foster collaboration across disciplines and stakeholders. I believe these methods can make a great contribution to organize interdisciplinary research teams to address societal-environmental interactions.

Go to the profile of Kewei Liu
over 3 years ago

This article is really Thought-provoking. In recent years, the environmental problem has always been one of the urgent problems in the world. Nowadays, with the rapid development of economy, human activities lead to more and more complex environmental problems. So when we are thinking about solutions to problems, we can't just consider natural factors. As the article says, we should break the boundaries between disciplines and work together to solve practical problems. The cooperation of scholars from different disciplines can make us look at the problem more comprehensively. Also, making all stakeholders(scientists, decision makers at different levels, and local communities) participate in the research together will make the work more efficient. I think the point of this article is applicable to solutions of many problems, and the “web model” is the future direction.

Go to the profile of 孙帅
over 3 years ago

Mr Liu's article is very forward-looking. As human beings face more and more complex problems, it is difficult for a single subject to solve complex problems.Cross-discipline arises at the historic moment.Hydrology and ecology are the focus of our country and even the whole mankind, tree model is a very novel way.We should recognize the future development trend, learn our own professional,but more importantly, improve our comprehensive quality.As we all know, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed that a community with a Shared future for mankind is crucial to a country's development.This kind of cross-disciplinary development is a response to it. We should attach importance to the joint efforts of all disciplines to make contributions to the development of mankind.

Go to the profile of 谢丰
over 3 years ago

From this essay, I learn a lot. The most importance is that scientists should move from understanding a problem to proposing and implementing solutions. Many academics are loath to cross from an ‘objective’ pursuit of truth to a more normative view of the world requiring, among other things, transdisciplinary efforts. However, the urgency of the sustainability problems we are facing including water crisis and climate change must make us think beyond pure knowledge generation. We should walk the talk.

Go to the profile of 梁旭阳
over 3 years ago

after reading the paper of Liu,I learn a lot of knowledge about interdisciplinary want to be an good researchrer who must master  the kowledge of multi-field  subject.with the development of  the science and technology,sustainability challenges are not a single problem.The solution of a problem often requires the cooperation of multiple departments .

in the future study life ,I will insist to attain enough knoeledge as soon as i can.

Go to the profile of 王迎庆
over 3 years ago

I think author’s point in this article is pretty good. I agree with the author that more and more researchers should move from understanding a problem to proposing and implementing solutions. Many academics are loath to cross from an ‘objective’ pursuit of truth to a more normative view of the world requiring, among other things, transdisciplinary efforts. However, the urgency of the sustainability problems we are facing including water crisis and climate change must make us think beyond pure knowledge generation.

Go to the profile of Pengfei Wang
over 3 years ago

(Pengfei Wang, student in SUSTech)

        Global socio-environmental challenges are complex and interconnected, this challenge has affected the quality of human life. However, such problems can not be solved by a single discipline, more and more scholars realize that multidisciplinary joint innovation will be a new trend. For example, Hydrological Model is the product of the combination of computer language and hydrological principles. Hydrological Models help people a lot in hydrological forecasting, flood risk analysis and other topic about "water". They may be a possible way may be a possibility tools to solve social and environmental problems.

        In this article, Liu introduced the "tree" modle and "web" modle, think about the real world under the condition of considering more abundant factors. With the support of theories and data from more disciplines in the future, "web" modle will get a great progress.

Go to the profile of 林颖
over 3 years ago

I can not agree with more about the central mind.As a student learning groundwater ,we need not only a solid knowledge of hydrology, but also knowledge of meteorology to understand the role of ecological evolution on water, the economic and human impacts on water use, distribution and management.An interdisciplinary "network" model is more conducive to enhancing the understanding of sustainable development and solving sustainable problems.we should also keep in touch with and expand our professional fields and new knowledge related to and out of our major.

Go to the profile of Yiguang Zou
over 3 years ago

First of all, in this artile and the paper of "On knowledge generation and use for sustainability"  publiched in Nature Sustainability , Professor Liu and his co-workers propose a new conceptual "Web" model which can be called a revolutionary creation to substitute the old "Tree" model. Wtih the development of society and economy, many issues about environmrnt pollution, humam health , climate change , ecological degradation , water crisis and other matters arise increasingly to the whole world. Consequently, people gradually realize the most urgent task for the whole mankind is how to develop sustainabaly ! The  heart of "The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" is 17 Sustainable Development Goals and any single disciplinary couldn't achieve these goals well. So, the interdisciplinary research is really needed and various stakeholeders about a cetain issue should be invloved. Particularly, the new "Web" model can illustrate ture meanings of  interdisciplinary research vividly and it emphasizes  interactions and cooperations among correlated disciplines. In addition, I'm strongly convinced that we will carryout these goals through collaborative efforts. At last , in the course of "Global Hydrology and Environmental Frontier", I was deeply attracted by the research fields of Pro.Liu and the problem-oriented research spirit of his team which is called "iTower". In the future, I wish to have an opportunity to study further in "iTower".

Go to the profile of LI Xicheng
over 3 years ago

I found great inspiration from this article. In the world of increasing diversity and globalized, the envrionmental problems we are facing is getting complex. The core idea of this article is that cooperations from multistakeholders and the turning of approaches from tree-like and web-like are very important. It gives the examples from China and India to illustrate that approaches to the environmental problems should be from joint effects of multidisciplinary. It will definitely be a trend that experts from different areas will get together to figure out the solution best for human society and environment.
I think this approach can bring a lot of  help during my own research. I really appreciate the article.

Go to the profile of Shuwen Zhang
over 3 years ago

(Shuwen Zhang ,student in sustech)This is a very interesting article. The author determined the geometric similarity of river networks by analyzing large watersheds in various climatic and geological environments. It is proved that the shape of the basin is mainly related to the Huck coefficient, not to the index, but not to external forcing such as lithology and wetness measurement. I think the research in this article is very novel and influential.

Go to the profile of Wang Pengju
over 3 years ago

(Wang Pengju, a graduate student of SUSTech) In recent years, the problem of water environment pollution and treatment is greatly urgent. Not only the hydrologists, but also researchers from many other directions and fields are using their knowledge to help solve and improve water environment problems. This article refers to the Heihe river basin management project that the author participated in, which I consider is a very critical national project. It is mentioned in this paper that knowledge in different fields, such as hydrology, economics and sociology, need to be used in the research process.This enlighten us that in today's knowledge explosion era, we can not only focus on their own disciplines, but also try to learn more about other relevent disciplines. As a result, we could think from multiple angles, and use different methods to solve problems. In addition, although I am a student of environmental engineering, I am very interested in professor Liu's research direction, and I hope I can continue to learn more knowledge about hydrology in the future. Thanks a lot.

Go to the profile of Chen Wang
over 3 years ago

(Chen Wang, student in SUSTech)

"In this age of globalization, technology and trade seem to be destroying all barriers. It seems natural to pursue the future of the university through cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural and cross-border cooperation. Today, the challenge for universities is how to bring together great and diverse talent, then support them and let them make their own decisions." said Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan. At present, the global challenge of social and environment is complex and interrelated. Many of the environmental problems we face cannot be explained by a single discipline, but rather by an interdisciplinary "web" model, which is more conducive to the generation of sustainable development knowledge and to the systematic understanding of sustainable development issues. Interdisciplinary research is a challenge and revolution to the study of a single discipline, and a substantial breakthrough in human understanding and transformation of nature. This is the inevitable trend of scientific development and technological progress, which will have a far-reaching impact on science and technology in the future. It will help us find answers and even solutions to many previously unexplained problems.

Go to the profile of Yang Yuanxi
over 3 years ago

(Yang Yuanxi, a graduate student of SUSTech) I have learned a lot from this essay. This paper introduces two models, and it is clear that "web" model is the trend of the future. Today, the world is in the era of knowledge explosion, Interdisciplinary approaches arises at the historic moment. Our country has been stressing the importance of a community with a Shared future for mankind and the need for multiple disciplines to jointly solve global environmental problems. Like environmental engineering, we study is a combination of physics, chemistry and biology. In a word, teamwork is becoming more and more important, and one person can go faster while a group of people can go further.

Go to the profile of wangyuying
over 3 years ago

In this paper, the author proposes an interdisciplinary "network" model to emphasize the necessary links and collaboration between different disciplines in solving sustainability problems. I agree with them very much. Before that, General Secretary Hu Jintao put forward the issue of sustainable development, which is very important and has unique complexity. In the process of solving these global problems, all disciplines are involved and occupy an irreplaceable position. As a new graduate student, I feel that Professor Liu's papers have always been open-minded and solution oriented. While I am still trying to strike a balance between extensive learning and in-depth learning, I am considering whether extensive learning is really beneficial to college students at the expense of proficiency in my professional field? I think the balanced development of multidisciplinary needs more discussion.

Go to the profile of Jiaqi Wang
over 3 years ago

(Wang Jiaqi, student in SUSTech) It is a very excellent essay. It is my first time to understand the concept and the importantce of interdisciplinary clearly. Before I read this essary, I think I just only should do good research related to my major, and it is not necessary to do more about interdisciplinary. However, in this essay, the authors say that insteading of solving the complex challenges by individual displines, we need to embrace the interdisciplinary approach. Also, the authors ilustrate the importance of the interdisplinary by describing the problems in China and India. Indeed, the goal of our research is to resolve the realistic problems. Interdisciplinary approach are used to effectively address the complex challenges, such as water management. I learned a lot from the eaasry. I agree that there are still challenges when transforiming the "tree model" to "web model". But I believe that we will make great contribution to solve the complex problems if we understand and make best of interdisplinary.

Go to the profile of Pengwei Liu
over 3 years ago

I really appreciate Professor Liu for giving us such an article about how we should consider and solve the environmental problems.

Nowadays’ crises of our ecology are caused by varies kinds of human activities as well as the global change of the Earth. They’re not simple origins, so obviously we can’t just try to solve them by using knowledge from single subject.

Professor Liu’s opinions of addressing the water sustainability and constructing the interdisciplinary “Web” model provide us a very outstanding example to communicate different subjects together to involve in the practical problems’ solution. It will be a challenge for these three piloting cities, but they will surely gain profits from exploring the new pathway soon.

Not only those environmental problems can be solved by the interdiscipline, but also social and economical hurdles may be good test fields of these experiences.

Go to the profile of He Qiule
over 3 years ago

(He Qiule, a junior student in SUSTech)This is an article with unique insights into hydrologic environmental remediation.
As an important inland river in the northwest, the ecological environment of Heihe Basin has been seriously damaged due to the economic and social development in recent years. The cut-off of the river has seriously affected the production and life of the downstream people.
Starting from the ecological restoration of Heihe River basin, this paper establishes the relevant hydrological model to help restore the ecological hydrological process of the basin.
After these studies, the author of this paper jumped out of the original hydrology field and came to the conclusion that the ecological restoration of the river basin requires not only the knowledge of hydrology, meteorology, ecology and other natural disciplines, but also the theory of sociology, economics, politics and other social disciplines.
Because in recent years, the government's emphasis on the ecological environment more and more high, the government is also due to a lot of measures, laws and regulations of river basin ecological environment protection, but also invest a lot of money for restoration of the ecological environment, especially the developed cities in this experience for other cities and countries for the ecological environment protection and restoration of great reference significance.
Therefore, this paper is an interdisciplinary article, which is of great guiding significance to the eco-environmental workers.

Go to the profile of Guojun Mi
over 3 years ago

      I agree with Professor Liu's point of view very much. Although my own research and practical experience is far from that of Professor Liu, I can find from observations in life and various readings due to the rapid development of social technology. First, when we face problems, we have more tools to solve problems. These tools are often multi-dimensional, instead of only one path in the past. Second, the problem we are facing is more complicated than ever. It involves science, society, politics and other aspects, so that we need a more comprehensive perspective to see the whole problem completely.

       In my opinion, in addition to facing practical problems, in our normal scientific research, we have also networked our knowledge and research. Similar to real problems, the scientific problems we face are often not simple single-dimensional problems. With the deepening of research, we must combine knowledge and technology in multiple fields if we want to make good scientific discoveries. I believe  future scientific research will have the following three development trends: The first is the shift from "lone wolf research" to "team research". This is actually very obvious now. For example, there is a "peacock team" in Shenzhen. The project hopes to bring together talents from different fields to form a team to solve one or a group of scientific problems. Take the Peacock team of my perovskite solar cell as an example. The team combines materials science (device preparation, analysis and testing), chemistry (material synthesis), physics (micro-mechanism research and analysis), and electronics (macro-device design and analysis) Waiting for multi-disciplinary research talents, in order to understand and solve scientific problems from multiple dimensions, and obtain breakthrough research results.

      The second is that our research will shift from stepwise research to central divergent research. In the past, scientific research was often a "chain structure", where one small problem was solved and the next small problem was solved, gradually approaching the essence of the problem. However, future research will first determine a core problem, starting from this core problem, and diverging outward to determine multiple sub-problems at the same time. Researchers in different fields will start their research from their own fields. Also take our research in the field of perovskite solar cells as an example. Perovskite solar cells have a five-layer structure. In order to improve the performance of the battery, in the past, everyone used to consider energy from bottom to top or from top to bottom. Is there an optimization method, and now we want to focus on improving the performance of the device. Different teams consider the optimization of each layer, the optimization of the interface between the layers, the adjustment of the preparation technology and other aspects, and all work together The goals are carried out simultaneously.

       The third is the shift in research direction from "principle-oriented" research to "problem-oriented" research. We all know that in the current scientific research environment, if an article wants to be published in a good journal, it is generally necessary to explain the mechanism very clearly, but it is easy to forget to consider "what realistic problem does this research hope to solve".

       Professor Liu's point of view focuses on how to really solve the problem by forming a diverse team when facing a complex problem. At the same time, from a personal point of view, in fact, everyone can try to better organize their own knowledge and skills and realize the "networking" of their own knowledge. This will also help us know what we should learn. Know how. From the perspective of a student, I think that the realization of personal knowledge network can be developed from the following three aspects.

       The first is our own efforts. We should pay attention to the construction of our own knowledge system. I personally recommend the "concentric circles" approach, with our research topic as the center, and fill in the required knowledge or skills from the inside out in order of importance. When the sex is the same, they are placed on the same circle. Through learning from the inside out, continue to build and expand their own knowledge system. At the same time, when your concentric circles intersect with others’ concentric circles, you can build an effective cooperative relationship and create a common topic through the intersection, thus entering the research field of others and realizing effective academic cooperation And communicate. On the other hand, in a research team, the center of each person's concentric circle can actually be regarded as an important node on the knowledge network of the entire team. Connecting each node can express this team's knowledge network.

       The second is the need for classroom education and assessment to guide students. I think our school is doing very well on this point. In classroom education, teachers can try to change the current teaching method of "using knowledge to teach knowledge" and realize "using cases to teach knowledge". This method allows students to more clearly understand what they have learned in real life. The application can also guide everyone to think about this problem, and at the same time increase the interest in learning and the concentration of the classroom. In homework and assessment, teachers can encourage students to solve problems through group cooperation, such as group presentations, group projects, and so on. In postgraduate education, everyone has a certain knowledge base and research experience, and everyone has a specific research direction. Because of the nature of the classroom, everyone's research direction often has a common theme. So it is actually a very good platform to simulate and practice the "knowledge networking" in Professor Liu's article. Teachers can use "open assignments" to turn the entire class into a large "research group", allowing everyone to solve the same big problem from their own research field, and finally gather everyone's insights. To achieve a multi-dimensional answer to a question, everyone will get meaningful gains and insights from it. ,

       The third is the guidance of after-school activities and education. Schools and departments can bring students closer to actual problems through various on-site visits, visits to companies, and invitation reports. On the other hand, through the combination of "liberal arts, science and politics" education, expand students' knowledge and increase their knowledge reserves.

       All in all, I believe that whether it is for individuals or teams, knowledge networking and team networking will become the future development trend, helping society to develop better.

Go to the profile of Jianfeng Chen
over 3 years ago

I think the views expressed by the author in this article are very powerful. In the field of hydrology and environmental engineering, a single subject knowledge can not meet the growing needs of engineering construction. In order to solve the problem, we need not only the subject knowledge of hydrology, but also the knowledge of meteorology, ecology, economics, social science and many other subjects. The interdisciplinary "network" model is more helpful to generate sustainable knowledge and understand sustainable development problems systematically. Moreover, the "tree" model mentioned in this paper is also very attractive to me. I am still wondering whether we can improve some theories based on this model in other disciplines?(Jianfeng Chen, a student in Sustech)

Go to the profile of Yaxin SHI
over 3 years ago

(Shi Yaxin, student in SUSTech) With the development of society, the globalization of interdependence and win-win cooperation between countries is an inevitable trend. Similarly, with the improvement of human cognition, the understanding of things has become multi-dimensional and diverse. Traditional single disciplines or extreme branches can no longer meet people's needs in dealing with issues such as sustainable development. Under this circumstance, multi-discipline and multi-dimensional thinking can often produce unexpected results. This is especially obvious for hydrology majors. Water resources involve all aspects of human life, so there are a variety of water problems. And it is not only hydrology that can meet their actual needs. However, the water problem must be solved for human survival. Therefore, in order to ensure the sustainability of water resources, it is necessary to link up with other professions and integrate the best of each family, as the Heihe River Basin (HRB) and Arkavathy river in southern India mentioned in the paper.

Go to the profile of 曲凡
over 3 years ago

(Fan Qu, a PG student in SUSTech)

In this article, Professor Liu creatively put forward the view that the “tree model” should be replaced with web model, in which researchers weave knowledge between the disciplinary branches and build on the connection across disciplines to develop questions. Then he used water management as a case, and cited the examples of HRB and the Arkavathy river in southern India to confirm this view. This shows that the transition from a tree model to a web model is crucial for solving sustainability-related issues by improving the design of the research process and ultimately leading to policy decisions that meet the goals. As an environmental engineering student, this article also let me know we can't solve problems just by relying on methods and knowledge related to one major, and making good use of the web model and transdisciplinary approach is essential for generating sustainability relevant knowledge and solutions. Finally, thanks to Professor Liu for his view, it gave me a lot of inspiration.

Go to the profile of Yiwen Liu
over 3 years ago

(Yiwen Liu,a graduate student in SUSTech)Professor Liu's views on Solving Water Sustainability and building an interdisciplinary "network" model in his article inspire us to think deeply. To solve the problem of sustainable development needs multidisciplinary integration, including hydrology, ecology, social economics, management, atmospheric science and so on.Interdisciplinary research and the intersection of different research directions may help us improve our own future research depth and obtain good results

Go to the profile of Shen xiangyu
over 3 years ago

(Shen Xiangyu, a student in SUSTech)  I have gained a lot from this article. Nowadays, the society is a pluralistic society, and correspondingly, the problems we may face are also pluralistic, which need to be solved through multi - disciplinary cooperation, rather than a just single subject. As the article above says, in order to address the water sustainability, not only the knowledge  of hydrology, but also the knowledge of ecology, economics and social sciences is needed. I think it is necessary for college students to have the multi-disciplinary joint training, which can efficiently improve the ability to solve the practical problems. 

Go to the profile of LIU Yue
over 3 years ago

As the article said, 'interdisciplinary' is being more and more important in contemporary education. Not only Hydrology needs interdisciplinary knowledge, but also music can be connected with science. Therefore, to study other subjects will bring different perspectives to work out current difficulties. I think Environmental Science is a typical case, including chemistry, geology, biology and so on. As the last paragraph said, more interdisciplinary knowledge we can learn, more sustainability challenges we can solve.

Go to the profile of Qianhui_Liu
over 3 years ago

(Qianhui Liu, a postgraduate from SUSTech)

This essay is extremely fabulous. It introduced the role of multidisciplinary in the construction and application of hydrological models, and sorted out the development history of hydrological models from tree to network. The most attractive one is the development process of the hydrological model, the integration of multiple disciplines is taken into consideration, while it gradually came to a more widely-thinking path, which is more effective for solving practical problems.

Among all the challenges, in my opinion, restructuring institutions to foster collaboration across disciplines and stakeholders are the most important, cuz it refers to many socail and ecnomical issues, which require more concentration of all the people.

Go to the profile of Gege
over 3 years ago

This is an inspiring article after reading it. Through reading this article, I have a deeper understanding of hydrological models, especially the author combined hydrology and ecology, meteorology, economics, and humanities and social sciences. The cross-interaction and interaction of the knowledge of, proposed an innovative tree network model. Nowadays, more and more researches have begun to discuss sustainable development, doing academic and research, in the final analysis, is for the harmonious symbiosis of natural ecology and humanistic society. Whether it is hydrology or other disciplines, interdisciplinary cooperation is very meaningful. If we study soil ecology, we can also continue to global climatology, agronomy, and crop economics. In short, it is necessary to construct a knowledge framework model when doing research. I hope that in the future, when we are doing research ourselves, we will be able to open up the branches and leaves.

Go to the profile of leebob
over 3 years ago

I very appreciate one point in the article,‘restructuring of institutions to foster collaboration across disciplines and stakeholders may be critical’. Students from different experimental study groups can classes covering various subjects for freshmen in need, organize a series of innovative theme seminars with credits, and stimulate students to think more about interdisciplinary fields. Through a series of activities, freshmen can find like-minded learning partners, enjoy a good interactive learning environment, and lay the foundation for their choice of interdisciplinary majors in the upper grades.The positive changes in the subjects can help environmental disciplines sustainably respond to future challenges。

Go to the profile of CAO Xudong
over 3 years ago

This is a great paper about sustainability, which inspires me a lot on relationship between nature, water and human. They are related by so many elements. Basically what we do everyday are all matters to the water and nature. So we need to focus to each small movement in our daily life to maintain the sustainability

Go to the profile of KongMX
over 3 years ago

 I agree with Professor Liu's point of view very much. The interdisciplinary research is needed as environmental problems are complex. Especially when it comes to water environment. In a specific watershed, there are many people living in and many industries, only focus on one aspect may not be able to solve the envronmental problem. I think this can give me a lot of  help during my research.

Go to the profile of Lin Liu
almost 3 years ago

First of all, I can not agree more with the author’s statements and standpoints. As a student in SUSTech, sustainability is what we SUSTechers constantly pursuing from the day we became a SUSTecher on. Not only because of the four same letters “SUST”, but also sustainability is inevitability nowadays. Besides, interdisciplinary communication is common in our campus. We also have interdisciplinary colleges. For a long time, Hydrology is a complex subject. And we humans never solve problems through a single way. The solution needs a combination of different ways. Entering 20th century, environment and hydrosphere were getting worse. Traditional and single solution can not deal with these problems. The article and paper point out a bright and promising way straight from the shoulder. It is really enlightening and impressive.

Go to the profile of Yuan HC
almost 3 years ago

(Yuan Haochen, undergraduate, SUSTech) Wow I have to say it is so impressive to know the web model. Nowadays, interdisciplinary learning  is becoming a much more famous and popular research field in higher education. Without doubt, by using tree model can train students deeper in a certain field, while teenager may lose chance to accept a broader and general education which can benefit them in daily life. The web model raised by Prof. Liu et al can provide a comprehensive system to educate students. As for water resources management, if we only consider about technology and efficiency, but ignoring the humanistic care and society factors, the policy formulated by government will be less possible for the use of the human lives. Hope SUSTech can contribute a little bit.

Go to the profile of Xiating Jiang
almost 3 years ago

As a SUSTech student majuring in hydrology and water resources, I used to be confused about what is my majrity point to do for we learnt a lot of courses belonging to different subjects, and this artical is illuminating to me. If thinking of a environmental science issure only from the view of linera “tree” model, It is easy to ignore some factor that may indirectly influence the process and get a inaccuricy solution. For problems that integrate multidisciplinary knowledge from the social sciences and the natural sciences, linear “tree” model is no longer suitable, but interdisciplinary can act well. Acturally from water cycle we can find the reason why interdisciplinary crossing can be so important. There are several variables interrelated in the water cycle, from atmosphere to sea, from glacier to biological water. If there is a problem in one link, the whole system will respond. As for how can we shift our mind into “web” model, the artical also give three main points: reforming education systems, problem-oriented research method and interdisciplinary cooperation. Southern University of Science and Technology is a new university with a mission of reform established under the above ideological boom. I am honored to receive the education of "web" model thinking here. Sustainability will become an inevitable consideration in production and life, hoping that the author's vision will become the norm in the field of environmental science in the future.

Go to the profile of Lin Ruimin
almost 3 years ago

This article has helped me to better understand interdisciplinarity. I think one of the major reasons for the rise of interdisciplinarity is that our knowledge system is shifting from "knowing our world better" to "reshaping our world better". Facing severe environmental and resource problems, there is a more urgent need to understand "how to achieve sustainable development while considering multiple views". Problem solving is more important than pure knowledge output.

Although not all disciplines should move in the direction of interdisciplinarity, I believe that interdisciplinarity research is necessary in the field of sustainable development. Models of natural phenomena involve multidisciplinary knowledge. When it comes to environmental issues, it is also necessary to study human behavior rather than just looking at it from an environmental perspective. Solving environmental problems emphasizes a comprehensive understanding of the components of the problem and connections between knowledge, rather than depth of knowledge. A deeper understanding of knowledge in a single direction alone can easily lead to a one-sided approach.

Reforming education is a necessary initiative. It is important to learn from all fields and from solving project problems. But interdisciplinary collaboration impress me most. On the one hand, interdisciplinary learning places additional demands on the upper limits of human energy and intelligence, and collaboration allows for better integration of knowledge. On the other hand, we need to understand the needs and resources of the stakeholders to better promote the application of knowledge.

I believe that designing relevant institutions and education systems based on current and future environmental issues can be helpful in addressing sustainability challenges.

Go to the profile of xinyue shen
almost 3 years ago

I can’t agree more with this article. After reading this article, I have a better understanding of interdisciplinarity. Environmental problems can be said to be a kind of sustainable development problems. The interdisciplinary web model is more useful to generate sustainability knowledge with a systematic understanding of sustainability problems. I am a student majoring in hydrology and water resources engineering in Southern University of Science and Technology. So I need to know more about the interdisciplinary construction of network model, and this article makes me start to understand and become interested in interdisciplinary. As the article says, in order to address the water sustainability, we not only require disciplinary knowledge of hydrology, but also require the knowledge of meteorology, ecology, economy, social science and many other disciplines. In SUSTech, our courses do it well. For example, When discussing the hydrological cycle, the teacher discusses it from three aspects: inland minor cycle, ocean minor cycle and sea and land major cycle. And he gives us the analysis of the cycle process of each step and influence factors. The teacher also analyzed the interaction between the hydrological cycle and human activities, such as floods, droughts, melting glaciers and so on. All these give me a deeper understanding of the hydrological cycle. Prof. Liu also says that how we can build the interdisciplinary web model. It needs four steps, reforming educational systems, move from understanding a problem to proposing and implementing solutions, co-designing sustainability and restructuring of institutions. The Southern University of Science and Technology established an Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies. It brings together multidisciplinary talents, setting up large-scale shared experimental platforms, and provides venues for ideological collisions to result in the resolution of major scientific and technical problems that are difficult to solve in a single discipline. I am very very very honored to be able to study in this university. I believe that in the future, the author's view -- the interdisciplinary web model will be realized in more and more universities and more and more majors.

Go to the profile of Liu Yi
almost 3 years ago

This remind me a question that bothers me for a long time. In my first year of university, I was impressed by the idea that nowadays, engineers should study in program which means study under specific task, learn what they need. That will help because there is so much, so broad knowledge now, we can't prepare all, we need to learn according to need, and practice at once will certainly enhance our understanding of the knowledge. But when considering about creativity, it is seems that we always be inspired by ideas from area not belonging to our major field. As mentioned in this article, we need a broad range of knowledge to solve problem now. But if we only learn what we need, it is likely that our knowledge is more like a tree instead of a web. As an old saying goes, sometimes we need to learn something useless. So I recommend when we encourage program learning, we also need to learn broadly and learn something seemingly useless.

Go to the profile of Xuchen Zhai
almost 3 years ago

This is a very good paper, with a fresh point of view. At the present stage, it is almost impossible to produce an omnipotent scholar like Aristotle because of the great amount of knowledge in a single subject and the very limited amount of human energy. Therefore, in the face of the challenge of sustainable development, it is important to promote interdisciplinary development. The author mentions the Web model, through which disciplinary barriers can be broken down and environmental problems solved across multiple disciplines can be cultivated. The problem of water resource pollution needs to involve the combination of multiple disciplines such as environment, economy and business management. The scholars trained by the Web model will be more competent to solve similar problems. This article gives me a new way of thinking. I need to keep my mind open and constantly accept the knowledge of other disciplines. The knowledge of multiple disciplines will be more helpful for me to solve some complex interdisciplinary problems.