Monash University researchers collaborate to solve global sustainable development challenges

20 October 2015

Leading researchers at Monash University have identified five key principles to facilitate collaboration between biophysical and social scientists to help solve the world’s urgent sustainability problems. They have also issued a call for action, urging others to follow suit.
The invited comment, published recently in a special issue on Interdisciplinarity in the prestigious Nature journal, illustrates the highly successful collaborative approach Monash University researchers have taken to bridge the divide between the biophysical and social sciences to achieve solutions-focused research outcomes that deliver real-world impact.

Monash University environmental sciences
Monash researchers hope to solve the world’s urgent sustainability problems

Professor Rebekah Brown, Professor Ana Deletic and Professor Tony Wong have revealed how a shared mission and constructive dialogue between researchers, policy makers and industry have been crucial to supporting the development of water management strategies which have now been successfully adopted in cities across Australia, as well as in Singapore, China and Israel.
Professor Brown, who recently took part in a Parliamentary briefing in Canberra regarding Australia’s role in achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, suggests that if we are truly committed to solving the world’s sustainability problems then interdisciplinary collaboration needs to become mainstream.
“Despite our rewarding experiences, interdisciplinary research that brings the more diverse disciplines together is still on the margins and must be encouraged and supported if we are to achieve significant research breakthroughs and tangible global outcomes that benefit people and the planet,” Professor Brown said.
Professors Brown, Deletic and Wong also praised Monash University’s support to facilitate this important work.
Provost and Senior Vice President, Professor Edwina Cornish said “Monash University is committed to fostering interdisciplinary research excellence and will continue to invest in creating opportunities that empower researchers across all disciplines to engage effectively despite their different approaches.”
Professors Brown, Deletic and Wong are continuing their successful interdisciplinary approach with new impact-focussed research projects in sustainable water management supported by the Australia-Indonesia Centre and the Asian Development Bank.

Monash asks the tough questions

  • How do you make Australia’s economy carbon neutral?
  • How do we solve the water crisis?
  • What does a sustainable city look like?

While the researchers, educators, partners and funders may speak different “languages” (science, the arts, engineering and policy for example) they are working together to achieve a common purpose.
The Monash Sustainability Institute programs and initiatives investigate how to build water-sensitive cities and better manage water resources. They are catalysing action across Australia’s economy to reduce greenhouse emissions and valuing and integrating indigenous knowledge to help manage natural resources, putting environmental sustainability at the centre of decision making. Monash is understanding and influencing human behaviour, training and educating the next generation of leaders in sustainability, and much more.

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Would you like to study environmental sustainability? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at, or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355.