Proceedings of the 2015 ProSPER.Net-Scopus YSA

  1. Opening Remarks
  • Yuji Suzuki (Honsei University/ProSPER.Net Board Chair) gave the opening address in place of Dr. Kazuhiko Takemoto (UNU-IAS Director, ProSPER.Net Secretariat Director). Prof. Suzuki remarked on the importance of cooperation for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region and the unprecedented levels of cooperation that are occurring on these issues in the region.
  • Anders Karlsson (Vice-President, Global Academic Relations APAC, Elsevier, Japan) then remarked on the dire need for sustainable development, given the urgent need to attend to climate change, ocean acidification, and biodiversity loss, encouraging scientists to seek not only accolades but direct application for their research.
  • Finally, Prof. Makoto Ida (Representative from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation) spoke about the ability of individuals to make a difference in societies’ direction, including directions towards sustainable development, and how the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation supports individuals to do this.
  1. Energy Category Forum

The Energy Category Forum was moderated by Prof. Mario Tabucanon (UNU-IAS) and included panelists Prof. Sivanappan Kumar (Chief Panelist; Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand), Dr. Junichi Fujino (National Institute for Environmental Studies/Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Japan), and Dr. Bundit Limmeechokchai (Thammasat University, Thailand). The panelists each talked briefly about priorities within their area of research, connections to policy, and education strategies within the field.

  • Kumar stressed that the priority within the field of energy was to use all energy resources efficiently – waste is often talked about in water, but it is also crucial in the field of energy. He said that if the planet is to truly meet the objectives of the Brundtland Report for sustainable development – leave resources for future generations while providing for the current – issues such as access to energy, affordability, population growth, energy consumption per capita, and especially energy efficiency in all sectors (urban, agriculture, transport) need to be addressed. In regards to policy, Dr. Kumar stressed the need for both researchers and policy makers to be involved in policy process. This also linked to his comments on education, where he stated policy makers needed to be involved in the shaping of research objectives at postgraduate institutions.
  • Fujino emphasized that the biggest priority for the planet was that we needed to have zero carbon or negative carbon global energy sector at the end of this century. He stressed that there is no ‘silver bullet’ to do this, but that we need one – and that is a difficult task the current generation in power has left for the next one. In relation to energy policy, he stressed the difficulty of the policy environment, stressing that in many national contexts decisions were political rather than scientific in nature. In relation to education, Dr. Fujino encouraged young scientists to occasionally be ‘mad scientists’ – to have unorthodox ideas their advisers or senior researchers in their field may never have thought of or consider to be impossible. However, he cautioned that need for a support network from others actors if one is not forthcoming from the research community.
  • Limmeechokchai stated that priorities around energy largely stemmed from a lack of innovation in policy, despite technical expertise in the field. He briefly reviewed all of the candidates’ research areas and stressed the importance of young people like them communicating their research to policy makers and for policy makers to listen for the sake of future generations.

The panelists then had a forum discussion on critical components of energy research, highlighting the following areas.

  • There are gaps in consumption of energy per capita in different nations, but challenge is to lower consumption in some areas without raising it in others.
  • Alternative energy sources are important, but technical challenges remain in integrating alternative energy into conventional energy grids – smart grids and distributive energy grids will be crucial for this.
  • There is a need for more new technology to reach a negative carbon scenario, and just as great a need for social change.
  • Trying to keep a 2 degrees C temperature increase is paramount for the planet.
  • Monitoring energy consumption across sectors is key in figuring out ways to reduce energy consumption.

The YSA finalists for the Energy Category then presented their research. The finalists in the Energy Category were Dr. Ravichandar Babarao (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia), Dr. Adeeb Hayyan (University of Malaya, Malaysia), and Dr. Pradip S. Pachfule (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan).

  • Babarao presented on the applications of an organic metal matrix for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide produced from combustion of conventional fossil fuels for energy. Highlights from the Question & Answer Section include:
    • Question: Would there be differences in application for stationary vs. mobile emitters?
    • Answer: No; large surface area within the matrix allows for both application in large stationary or smaller mobile emitters.
    • Question: What could be done with CO2 once it is captured?
    • Answer: Could be harvested for application in industrial processes.
    • Question: What about leakage of CO2 from the matrix?
    • Answer: Existing technologies can monitor leakage
  • Hayyan presented on the use of palm oil to create a renewable fuel source. Highlights from the Question & Answer Section include:
    • Question: What other options beside palm exist for producing biodiesel?
    • Answer: Many, however, Malaysia’s economy is focused on palm plantations.
    • Question: What is the key factor in production cost?
    • Answer: Over 60% of cost is raw materials.
    • Question: Are there ways to reduce cost in production?
    • Answer: Possibly; it would be cheaper to produce methanol than ethanol
  • Pachfule presented on the applications of another organic metal matrix for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide produced from the combustion of conventional fossil fuels for energy. Highlights from the Question & Answer Section include:
    • Question: How can this technology be scaled up for use in large scale systems?
    • Answer: Easily; the size of the matrix is adaptable to fit the needs of the emitter
  1. Water Category Forum

The Water Category Forum was moderated by Dr. Philip Vaughter (UNU-IAS) and included panelists Prof. Chongrak Polprasert (Chief Panelist; Thammasat University, Thailand), Dr. Yoshifumi Masago (UNU-IAS), and Dr. Binaya Mishra (UNU-IAS). The panelists each talked briefly about priorities within their area of research, connections to policy, and education strategies within the field.

  • Polprasert mentioned the extremes of flooding and draught, both caused by climate change, were priorities that needed to be addressed. He elaborated that news coverage, and in turn policy, tended to focus on damage caused to housing and infrastructure, but there needed to be a greater focus on how flooding and draught impact agriculture. He also mentioned water quality is a key issue, noting that over one million people die from contaminated water, and rising human population could impact this number, as more people degrade more water systems. In regards to policy, Prof. Polprasert noted the public actively engages with policy makers on issues like disease (Ebola and MERS for instance), and thus it was just as crucial for the public to take responsibility in engaging policy makers on issues relating to water. Therefore, public education through government and NGO messaging was crucial in relation to water.
  • Masago noted that while the safe drinking water goal of the Millennium Development Goals has largely been met, the sanitation goal has not. This means that the safe drinking water achievements are in danger of toppling if proper sanitation measures are not taken to make sure contaminants are not seeping into drinking water supplies. Because of the rise of mega-cities (10 in 1990, 41 by 2030) – especially in the Asia-Pacific Region, Dr. Masago noted infrastructure policy would play a crucial role in ensuring water quality and accessibility. Finally, in relation to education, he emphasized the need to apply technologies developed in postgraduate programs in the real world, and that schools with postgraduate programs needs platforms which allowed for this type of implementation.
  • Mishra stressed that the overuse of water across many sectors was a pressing issue, and that the concept of water security needs to be stressed as a policy around the world. In regards to education, Dr. Mishra felt people needed to know how to access safe water during natural disasters, and that educators should share best practices around water management with the public.

The panelists then had a forum discussion on critical components of water research, highlighting the following areas.

  • Regional differences in water source and weather patterns within the Asia-Pacific region means that different countries and regions will have very different water security policies, however, having a safe and secure water supply should be a priority focus of all governments.
  • Hydroelectricity will not likely impact water quality in watershed, however, there are other concerns to be addressed in hydroelectric development
  • The greatest threat to water quality is human waste, industrial pollutants, and agricultural runoff. This issue is complicated by the transboundary nature of many of these problems


The YSA finalists for the Water Category then presented their research. The finalists in the Water Category were Dr. Hongwei Bai (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Dr. Sarva Mangala Praveena (Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia), and Dr. Hongtao Wang (Tonji University, China).

  • Bai presented on a synthetic membrane for water filtration that can be applied within city hydro-systems for clean drinking water. Highlights from the Question & Answer Section include:
    • Question: What specific sector will this technology be applied in?
    • Answer: City drinking water
    • Question: Can UV light be applied to the membrane for added effectiveness in eliminating bacteria?
    • Answer: UV light could be used, however, membrane filter is able to filter out contaminants without assistance of UV
    • Question: Is the cost prohibitive?
    • Answer: For a city like Singapore, no, especially since it will save money since there will be no chemical cleaning needed. Once technology is mass produced, cost will come down, available for more cities.
  • Praveena presented on a nano-silver filter which can be used to purify drinking water in the aftermath of a natural disaster where municipal water treatment facilities are offline. Highlights from the Question & Answer Section include:
    • Question: Water is also contaminated with pesticides and pharmaceutical products, can the filter screen out these contaminants as well?
    • Answer: The filtration system is brand new, it screens out bacteria and microbes, but not pesticides or pharmaceuticals.
    • Question: What is the benefit in using a nano-silver filter vs. conventional chlorine chemical treatment?
    • Answer: Filtration is faster than chlorine treatment – this can mean the difference between life and death after a natural disaster.
    • Question: What is the best way to engage people impacted by natural disasters with this new technology?
    • Answer: Message on what the technology does, not on the mechanism of how it does it.
  • Wang presented on constructing wetlands and using filtration mechanisms for clean drinking water in rural African communities. Highlights from the Question & Answer Section include:
    • Question: Could natural clay in the area be useful as a filtering material?
    • Answer: No, the natural clay is not good for the removal of organic content from water
    • Question: What contaminants were wetlands able to remove from water supply?
    • Answer: Wetlands were good at removing nitrogen, but not phosphorous or organic matter.
  1. Biodiversity Category Forum

The Biodiversity Category Forum was moderated by Dr. Robert J. Didham (Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Japan) and included panelists Prof. Edwino Fernando (Chief Panelist; University of the Philippines Los Baños, the Philippines), Dr. Alexandros Grasparatos (University of Tokyo, Japan), and Dr. Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana (UNU-IAS).

The panelists had a forum discussion on critical components of biodiversity research, highlighting the following areas.

  • Biodiversity science needs to cross more boundaries within its research, including more social science perspectives.
  • Issues of service loss and food security also need to be addressed.
  • Greater need for operations with local applications, such as local monitoring to help with the policy-practice gap.
  • Within education, there is a need to reorient the curriculum towards transformative learning because biodiversity is a multidisciplinary subject, therefore, education needs to focus on interdisciplinary practices.

The YSA finalists for the Biodiversity Category then presented their research. The finalists in the Biodiversity Category were Dr. Jaswinder Singh (Khaksa College Amritsar, India), and Dr. Xiao Sun (Nanjing Agricultural University, China).

  • Singh presented on the application of a worm species for soil filtration and fertilizer in agriculture. Highlights from the Question & Answer Section include:
    • Question: What were concrete benefits for agriculture?
    • Answer: Made soil more porous, which is better for gas exchange and water filtration; vermicast rich in nitrogen for plants.
    • Question: What is the potential for the species to become invasive?
    • Answer: The species eats only organic waste and tolerates a wide range of temperatures, however, it does not seem to have impacted native biota.
  • Sun presented on the application of weevil species for organic waste removal. Because Dr. Sun gave a pre-recorded video presentation, there was no Question & Answer Section.


  1. Closing and Awards

Following all of the panel discussions and presentations, the awards were presented for each category by the chief panelist for the respective category.

  • In the Energy Category, Dr. Babarao was awarded first place, with Dr. Pachfule as first runer-up and Dr. Hayyan as second runner-up.
  • In the Water Category, Dr. Bai was awarded first place, with Dr. Praveena as first runner-up and Dr. Wang as second runner-up.
  • In the Biodiversity Category, Dr. Singh was awarded first place, with Dr. Sun as first runner-up.