Summary of the 8th ProSPER.Net Scopus YSA, 2015

On July 27th, 2015, the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Programme at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) welcomed eight young researchers from the Asia-Pacific region to the ProSPER.Net-Scopus Young Scientist Award (YSA). The event gave researchers with outstanding contributions in the field of sustainable development, a chance to present their research to both senior scholars as well as their peers. Their outstanding contributions were aimed at receiving the top prize in one of the three fields energy, water, and biodiversity..

This year’s awards were held on the eve of the 7th International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific (ISAP) in Yokohama, Japan, and participants were able to attend ISAP in addition to the awards symposium.

Prof. Yuji Suzuki (Hosei University/ProSPER.Net Board Chair) gave the opening address, remarking 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. Following on this, Dr. Anders Karlsson (Vice-President, Global Academic Relations APAC, Elsevier, Japan) 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.

From here, the symposium broke into its three panel forums and presentations. Panelists came from a variety of research centres within the Asia-Pacific region, and offered their expertise on priority areas in their respective fields before evaluating the finalists.

For the energy forum, the panel emphasized the need for policy makers to understand science and researchers and policy makers to work together. In addition, the burden placed on younger generations by their predecessors was also discussed, specifically the legacy of leaving outdated energy infrastructure behind and the ethical issues of creating externalities in energy production and consumption you do not live long enough to see. Other topics touched on, included the need to lower energy consumption at the same time as expanding access, the challenges of integrating alternative energy technologies into existing energy grids, and the need for monitoring of energy use across sectors to inform energy policy.

During the water forum, the panel discussed how extreme weather events are being exacerbated by climate change in the region, the need for policy makers to turn attention towards sanitation of drinking water in addition to access, and the overuse of water across many sectors . Additional topics included the need for water security to be a regional focus with different means of implementation, depending on the national context, the current concerns around hydroelectric development, and the transboundary nature of industrial pollutants, human waste, and agricultural runoff.

Finally, in the biodiversity forum, the panel focused on the need for more cross-boundary research within the field of biodiversity. This include the social sciences, issues relating to ecosystem service loss, and food security. The panel also went into detail about the need for local monitoring initiatives to address policy-practice gaps, and the need for education programs teaching about biodiversity to be more multidisciplinary.

This year’s winners were Dr. Ravichandar Babarao (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia) in the energy category, Dr. Hongwei Bai (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) in the water category, and Dr. Jaswinder Singh (Khaksa College Amritsar, India).

Dr. 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.

Dr. Bai presented on a synthetic membrane for water filtration that can be applied within city hydro-systems for clean drinking water.

Dr. Singh presented on the application of a worm species for soil filtration and fertilizer in agriculture.