A need for decision makers, a challenge for the empiricists: An IAHR white paper on pathways towards democratization of hydro-environment observations and data

Water-related problems affect several billion people’s lives and represent an annual challenge assessed at multitrillion US dollars, which substantiates their core role in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Preventing direct and indirect impacts associated with water excess or water scarcity events requires expert judgement based on reliable information. Therefore, observations and measurements are fundamental prerequisites for making scientific progress. 

The current policy trend towards open-science (open-data repositories, open-software communities, open-access publications), is an opportunity for data democratization. However, it must be affordable and sustained by trusted researchers and scientific institutions in order for it to become a real instrument of progress towards common access. Furthermore, the easy access to information may contribute to the false perception of assurance. Experts capable of interpreting the data and aware of their limitations, should always be involved to avoid ill-informed governance and policy-making processes. 

In this new IAHR white paper, a broad spectrum of experts from different backgrounds,  including Assoc. Prof. Michael Nones from the Department of Hydrology and Hydrodynamics of IG PAS, guided by the focus of the IAHR technical committee on Experimental Methods and Instrumentation provides a community vision on future pathways aimed at leveraging conventional and emerging methods to facilitate access to hydro-environment observations.

Here we indicated democratization as the transition towards more shared and affordable access to information by the scientific community, stakeholders, and society in general explained prof. Nones. An example is the increasing use of citizen science to monitor water-related hazards, or the increasing availability of free satellite images that can provide us with near real-time info to be used in river management or emergency response. Profesor also emphasised the crucial role of effective communication among scientists and common people by quoting White Paper "Communication and collaborative processes are essential among researchers, but they should also involve the stakeholders of any shared data. Communication across disciplines and communities is essential, and may also be strengthened by adapting the language to a non-specialized audience."
The International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR), founded in 1935, is a worldwide independent organization of engineers and water specialists working in fields related to the hydro-environmental sciences and their practical application. Activities range from river and maritime hydraulics to water resources development and eco-hydraulics, through to ice engineering, hydro-informatics and continuing education and training. IAHR stimulates and promotes both research and its application, and by so doing strives to contribute to sustainable development, the optimization of the world's water resources management and industrial flow processes.