Wicked problems and how to solve them

phys.org | 10/18/2018 | Staff
samtetley (Posted by) Level 3
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Wicked problems are issues so complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problem is, or how to tackle it. Wicked problems are like a tangled mess of thread – it's difficult to know which to pull first. Increasing antibiotic resistance, security of food and energy supply, increasing global warming and wars can all be classed as wicked problems.

Since its first definition in 1973, many authors have associated the term "wicked" with water problems, which we research. Old water networks, bursting pipes, leakages, hosepipe bans – keeping the water supply running is a daily concern all over the world.

Places - Water - Changes - Rainfall - Patterns

This shouldn't be surprising – even in places where water seems abundant, small changes in rainfall patterns can affect local supply. For example, this summer in Ireland, there were less than sufficient levels of rainfall. The dry spell only could be compared to the one experienced by the country in 1976.

As a result, the country's water reservoirs fell to such low levels that water authorities issued warnings of an imminent crisis. As in other places around the globe, the problem in Ireland is linked to multiple factors. These include the drier than expected summer, increased water demand, water leakage – nearly 50% – and a chronic underinvestment in renewing local water distribution systems. Meanwhile, the water treatment industry is the fourth most energy-intensive industry in the UK.

Money - Water - Technology - Answer - Research

Pumping money into researching water technology is not the answer here. Yes, we all know that research underpins new technologies, and that a common cycle of research and development happens in universities. Researchers identify a problem, compete for funding and go about finding a solution. But from there, many factors get in the way of applying research to wicked problems in practice. There's a lack of appropriate guidance...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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