| ASSIST. PROF. DR. AYSUN UYAR: ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM IS NOT ONLY THE PROBLEM OF NATURAL SCIENCE BUT ALSO THE PROBLEM OF SOCIAL SCIENCE
During the 6th World Water Forum held in Marseille, ORSAM Water Research Program specialist Dr. Tuğba Evrim Maden made an interview with Assist. Prof. Dr. Aysun Uyar, who works in Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), about the studies of Institute on environment and water. In this interview, we talked to Dr. Aysun Uyar about RHIN, which provides source for the projects related to environmental problems and solutions with the specialists in research centers affiliated to interdisciplinary, foreign and domestic universities, and we also talked about the water studies.
ORSAM: First of all, could you please introduce yourself?
Aysun Uyar: I graduated from METU, Departmant of International Relations. After I did master degree in the same department in 2004, I started my doctoral research in Japan after I got a fellowship from the Japanese Government. In 2008, I completed my doctorate on Japan's free trade agreements and regionalization. Right now, I work as an assistant professor in RIHN, and also I give lectures such as “Introduction to International Relations”, “International Politics” and “Japan and Asia” both in Doshisha University and Ryukoku University. I still continue to carry out research on regionalization, East Asia regionalization mechanisms and environmental integration models. I met RHIN thanks to the World Water Forum organized in Istanbul in 2009. During my doctoral studies, I started to be interested in regional partnership mechanisms conducted on environment, and in the post-doctoral period, I decided to carry on my research on the basis of interdisciplinary environmental studies and international environmental policies. I believe that RHIN, which has an interdisciplinary mission to understand environmental problems created based on the interaction between nature and humanity, is an ideal place to carry out my research. In addition to my own research, I also work in Research and Development Department of RHIN which carries on foreign contacts of the Institute and strategically directs its international relations.
Could you intoduce your Institute?
RIHN has an interdisciplinary mission, it hosts and provides source for inter-university common projects which aim at understanding environmental problems created based on the interaction between nature and humanity and finding solution for these problems in order for integrated environmental research to be settled as a department in Japan. We are affiliated to the Ministry of Education, and we totally work as academic. In cooperation with the specialists in research centers affiliated to domestic and foreign universities, we discuss the environmental problems through suggestions, and we provide these projects, which bring solution for these problems, with source and opportunity. It will be the beginning of our 11th year in April. Considering that projects last for 5 years in general, it could be suggested that we are a young organization. The reason why we carry out our projects for 5 years is to be able to properly establish our academic and official contacts, and to constantly receive datum in the region. In addition to this, the formation process of the projects lasts approximately 2 years. Totally 7 years are required for a project and it is not possible for us to turn towards different or new subjects each year because of this long process. However, we have a quite large spectrum of subject and area in terms of content, thanks to the research programs created during the establishment of the Institute.
In accordance with the establishment provisions envisaged by the Ministry of Education and the Research Institute of Human Sciences we are affiliated to, we carry out our research completely based on scientific datum and academic studies. Therefore, we do not provide source for profit-oriented assistance and support projects which are for the introduction of new technologies or which are directly related to non-governmental organizations. Another characteristics of ours is that our projects perceive environmental problems as much as possible, and they are interdisciplinary studies that produce solutions accordingly. Our starting point is (first in Japan) to understand and address the environmental problems not only in terms of natural sciences, but with an approach that can integrate natural sciences, social sciences and human sciences. For example, I work on international relations and regionalization. But there are also economists, archeologists, historians, hydrologists, geneticists, soil specialists and many other natural scientists, social scientists and human scientists working in cooperation within the Institute. A project is carried out with the participation of 80-100 people with the central group and in Japan and the partners in the region, and there are advisors and also fellows who work part-time within this group.
Do you have works in the field of water?
When it comes to environment, water is automatically one of the major subjects for us. Each year approximately 12 projects, which are at various stages of the 5-year application plan, are carried out within our Institute, and these projects are classified in accordance with the 5 major research programs envisaged in an attempt to encourage interdisciplinary communication among researchers. Those which are for the basic environmental research among these programs are called circulation, sources and diversity. Water is the subject in the projects included in all these programs both because it is a natural resource and also because of its major role in natural circulation and diversity. In addition to these, we have two other programs. You can see water in those programs as well. One of them is called “ecosophy”, and it is composed of projects studying the perceptions of people and societies on environmental consciousness and change, as well as how they keep up with the environmental changes. In other words, subjects such as; what is our perception about environment, how environmental problems and nature has been approached in our culture, language and religion; and thus the subjects on how water is perceived within the society and how it is used, are discussed within our Institute. Our fifth program is “ecohistory”, as is evident from its name, it is composed of projects which analyze the environmental issues in historical terms and which studies how environmental change has affected the march of historical events (or the contrary). Within the 10-year process, we have completed 30 long-term projects, and we still actively carry on some of them. More than half of these projects are related to water. Thus, water constitutes one of the most basic data and research fields for us.
Have you had projects about Turkey?
Our projects have generally been in Southeastern Asia, Central Asia and in Western Asia. In addition to these, we have carried out two projects in Africa. In our projects, rather than directly working on the main theme of water, we touch on subjects related to water and we tackle a water-related environmental problem. In this case, you can consider water as a basin, sub-theme or as a factor coming up afterwards within the research. Let me talk about the first and the only project that we have carried out in Turkey. It was one of the first projects of our Institute which started in 2001 and completed in 2006. In this project, which was conducted on the agricultural production change and diversity of climate change in arid areas, the researchers worked on what kind of agricultural change would take place in the following 50-70 years in Seyhan Basin with the effect of climate change, and on possible models. In this project, water-related datum were extensively used, as the irrigation methods directly affecting agricultural production and productivity were selected as the baseline. While the project was conducted, local authorities, universities, TUBITAK and DSI worked in cooperation.
What are your current projects?
In the first 6-year period of the Institute, studies based on cognitive science studying and analyzing environmental problems were prioritized. As of academic year of 2010, the second 6-year period of the Institute started; and in this period, projects and studies based on design science for sustainable society and environmental formation have rather been prioritized. Each year, 2 or 3 new projects are launched. Our projects that were launched this year consist studies based on raising the environmental consciousness for desertification, sustainability in the coastal areas of Southeastern Asia and the creation of new joint environmental areas.
Thank you for your time.
You are welcome.
* This interview was made by ORSAM Water Research Program Specialist Dr. Tuğba Evrim Maden, between 12-17 March 2012, during the 6th World Water Forum carried out in Marseille, France.