15th International Conference on Hydro-informatics, May 27-31, 2024, Beijing, China
Hydroinformatics is not just an application of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to water resources, hydraulics or hydrology. The best analogy with which to explain the relationship between ICT and Hydroinformatics is probably the relationship between telecommunication networks (which can be, and on the trivial level most often are, applied to telephone conversations) and added value networks, such as those providing access to WWW servers. The former are only a low cost material support to the latter. Hydroinformatics provides a symbiosis, and even a synergy, between ICT and water science and technologies with the objective of satisfying social requirements.
The “social requirements” are real : the more that society becomes aware that it depends upon water, the more it understands that water is central to sustained development at the level of a country and even a subcontinent. These problems go beyond hydraulics and hydrology. While until recent decades, hydraulics and hydrology were determining these questions; now these problems largely transcend the sphere of influence of hydraulic and hydrology. On the one hand, the concept of “stewardship” exercised by humanity (that is, its responsibility for the conservation or sustainable management of natural resources) has shifted the decision-making power from hydro engineers to politicians, ecologists, NGOs, the public in general, and the media. On the other hand, the technical ways in which investment decisions are transformed into projects and the everyday technical management of water systems are more and more determined by corporations such as water companies, by basin authorities, etc.
Classical hydro engineering (hydraulics, hydrology and related research), seen from a corporate or political point of view, together with meteorology and water quality, deals with “just” one aspect of the total problem. As a consequence, the results of hydraulic research, as well as core modelling software, are ever more rapidly “encapsulated” and in such encapsulated forms integrated in larger systems or “added value networks”. They have to be seen in the context of a more comprehensive exchange of information concerning the real world water-based assets and the interests and intentions of their various stakeholders.
The rationale and purpose of hydroinformatics is to develop a new relationship between the stakeholders and the users and suppliers of the systems: to offer the basis (systems) which supply useable results, the validity of which cannot be put in reasonable doubt by any of the stakeholders involved. We are only in the initial stages of this process. Hydroinformatics changes the way in which hydraulics, hydrology and water resources studies generally are applied in society. In order to achieve this, hydroinformatics places itself deliberately on the market for products and services in this area. Water is a commodity of high market value. So is information and the means to manage information. There are already specific means for the “ICT merchandising of goods” and these are currently oriented towards the management of water and connected resources in a project involving several major European hydraulics institutes. Hydroinformatics deals with these specific goods, this market and, increasingly, this specific way of marketing.
Hydroinformatics is a technology built around developments and applications of systems which are, for their users, objective systems. A tool is objective if the users are involved in its definition , if they can easily understand the results and use them, if they have the possibility to input their own hypotheses into the system and see the consequences - as well as to show these to other stakeholders. Thus, for example, a hydroinformatics system of managing agricultural pollution in a catchment basin demonstrates the consequences of different cultural practices. If the tool is objective, the stakeholders might criticise a hypothesis of cultural practice (hence policies) leading to undesirable results, but not the tool. Thus the tool creates a possibility of negotiation and trade-offs based on merit and not on irrational sentiments.
The systems with which we are concerned include not only physical, chemical and biological processes, but also social, including cultural, economic, political, sociological, legal and other such aspects. The hydroinformation correspondingly always works in a team, and may indeed create the sociotechnical means through which the team functions. A hydroinformatics system has to liaise with all these factors through the inclusion of its users. The users become part of the system.
Hydroinformatics is limited to aquatic environments, to water and all with which water interacts. It is a technology, not a science, and we know that technologies often change more rapidly than sciences. Meanwhile it gives to hydraulics and hydrology a chance of synergism with ICT and thus avoids the situation of being simple suppliers of solutions or modelling software to be encapsulated. Socially, such “simple” encapsulations might be disastrous to professionals and institutions in this field because, on the one hand, would not guarantee the scientific quality of the encapsulated material and, on the other hand, it may lead to the death of hydraulic and hydrological research, i.e. to ending all progress in our field. The social roles of hydroinformatics within IAHR might thus be expressed as those of “proper encapsulation” and “creating a synergy between ICT and hydraulics and hydrology”.
The ethics of hydroinformatics. Hydroinformatics has the responsibility to produce the right environment for a synergy to occur within groupings of stakeholders of different cultures, aims and objectives. This question, as well as how to ensure the fundamental quality and reliability of “encapsulated” results of research as well as of modelling software is today in its infancy and R&D from the philosophical level (which allows for spanning the gap with “different cultures”) to the scientific level are needed.
Interpretation and availability of knowledge and results for non-specialist stakeholders. Normally a user of what we produce cannot understand the results. Even if they are shown in beautiful colours, etc. They must be produced in his language. E.g. flood forecasting results supplied to civil protection teams are today either unintelligible or must be reduced so much that only a fraction of potentially available information is delivered – there is a lot of R&D to be done in the field of meta-information presentation from available detailed information, in the field of hardware, software, telematics, integration of multimedia systems Encapsulation of expertise. So many people today bought modelling hydraulics or/and hydrology software – how many of these users have the experience related to modelling? Is it possible, beyond usual jargon on AI (artificial intelligence) and “expert systems” to encapsulate expertise and make it available? There is a lot of R&D to be done in these field – and it leads to the next point.
Encapsulation of expertise. So many people today bought modelling hydraulics or/and hydrology software – how many of these users have the experience related to modelling? Is it possible, beyond usual jargon on AI (artificial intelligence) and “expert systems” to encapsulate expertise and make it available? There is a lot of R&D to be done in these field – and it leads to the next point.
Further encapsulation of hydraulics research results and modelling methods and sub-systems. This must be done within the wider framework that includes the concept of multi-method, multi-model operational systems; electronic commerce software, models and expertise on the WEB; through the WEB, access to a wide engineering clientele, including SMEs (software manufacturers) and teaching institutions, to these “goods” which became commodities on new market.
5th generation of modelling systems. Outside hydroinformatics context, there is no social need felt today for such “intelligent” modelling systems. Hence hydroinformatics R&D should push towards such developments within the framework of electronic commerce and encapsulation of research results.
Education and communication. One of most important components of hydroinformatics is communication with other domains and people and systems concerned with the aquatic environment, including hydraulics and hydrology, but also other fields. Hence importance of research aiming at development of methodologies, tools and systems based on ICT and telematics applied to education, for the dissemination of hydroscience results, to conference organisation and publications . On the educational side the range goes from teaching-oriented tools for hydraulics-hydrology students and professionals to “vulgarisation” of water science problems for lawyers, NGOs, elected decision makers, media and the public. As far as conferences and congresses are concerned, their present form based on oral presentation of papers is totally obsolete in face of ICT approaches and means. R&D is needed, as well as experimentation, on new way to organise such events in our field of activity, especially on how to develop the synergies with the hydrosciences .
Framework for implementation of hydroinformatics R&D
The implementation of the R&D hydroinformatics agenda should be carried out by the Hydroinformatics Committee and Committee of the IAHR through the following main channels and activities:
Working groups and task groups composed of Hydroinformatics Committee and
1. Eco-hydraulics Committee and IAWQ
2. Continuous Education Committee , TECHWARE, EU/DGXIII and educational institutes (IHE, European Graduate School of Hydraulics),
3. IAHS and WMO (meteorology)
4. Other Committes and the Editor of the Journal of Hydraulic Research in order to improve and/or create the communications and informatics means to assist the elaboration of manuals and monographs
Working groups specific to the Hydroinformatics Committee with various outside co-operations:
1. Conferences and congresses, with the purpose to organise next Hydroinformatics'2000 according to completely novel approach,
2. Electronic commerce in the field of hydroinformatics,
3. Information database and system aiming at aid and assistance to IAHR corporate members in setting up the consortia bidding for international research projects.
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education
14th International Conference on Hydroinformatics, 4-8 July 2022, Bucharest, Ronamia
13th International Conference on Hydroinformatics, 7-13 July 2018, Palermo, Italy | Proceedings
12th International Conference on Hydroinformatics, 21-25 August 2016, Songdo ConvensiA, Songdo, Incheon, South Korea
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