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Promoting interdisciplinary education − the Vienna Doctoral Programme on Water Resource Systems

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Author(s): G. Blöschl | G. Carr | C. Bucher | A. H. Farnleitner | H. Rechberger | W. Wagner | M. Zessner

Journal: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
ISSN 1027-5606

Volume: 16;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 457;
Date: 2012;
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ABSTRACT
The Vienna Doctoral Programme on Water Resource Systems (DK-WRS) is a programme that aims to educate students in interdisciplinary water science through cutting edge research at an international level. It is funded by the Austrian Science Fund and designed to run over a period of 12 yr during which 80 doctoral students are anticipated to graduate. This paper reports on our experiences of setting up and implementing the Programme. We identify three challenges: integrating the disciplines, maintaining depth in an interdisciplinary programme, and teaching subjects remote to each student's core expertise. To address these challenges we adopt a number of approaches. We use three levels of instruments to foster integration across the disciplines: joint groups (e.g. a joint study programme), joint science questions (e.g. developed in annual symposia), and joint study sites. To maintain depth we apply a system of quality control including regular feedback sessions, theses by journal publications and international study exchange. For simultaneously teaching students from civil and environmental engineering, biology, geology, chemistry, mathematics we use visually explicit teaching, learning by doing, extra mentoring and by cross relating associated subjects. Our initial assessment of the Programme shows some very positive outcomes. Joint science questions formed between students from various disciplines indicate integration is being achieved. The number of successful publications in top journals suggests that depth is maintained. Positive feedback from the students on the variety and clarity of the courses indicates the teaching strategy is working well. Our experiences have shown that implementing and running an interdisciplinary doctoral programme has its challenges and is demanding in terms of time and human resources but seeing interactions progress and watching people grow and develop their way of thinking in an interdisciplinary environment is a valuable reward.
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