New Article! Ways of Knowing Water: Water Security and Integrated Water Management. NEW PUBLICATION!

After waiting for over a year, finally our article is online! This article is titled “‘Ways of knowing’ water: integrated water resources management and water security as complementary discourses“, Andrea Gerlak and I wrote it for International Negotiations and Environmental Agreements (INEA), a well-respected journal in the area of environmental policy and political science.

The article is part of the Special Issue which is dedicated to the role of the concept of security in global water discourse. It has come out of the international workshop on ‘Securitization of the Water Discourse’ at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem in December 2012 which drew together the key scholars from around the world engaged in water resources management and policy. Here is the abstract of the article.


In the past decade, water security has emerged as a new discourse in water governance challenging the more traditional dominant discourse of integrated water resources management (IWRM). This review article applies the ‘ways of knowing’ approach to study the relationship between these two discourses. In doing so, we uncover how IWRM has been narrowly construed as a prescriptive way of knowing water based largely on technical–scientific knowledge, while water security represents a discursive way of knowing water with a greater consideration of human values, ethics and power. We argue that these two ways of knowing are complementary rather than conflicting. As both discourses are pursued at multiple levels, the practical way of knowing will emerge to represent how these concepts interact in a specific policy context.

If you want to read the article, please drop me a line and I send you a copy.

ADA University Faculty Debate

On March 13, 2015, ADA University Debate Society hosted a great round of debate with ADA University faculty – Dr. Anar Valiyev, Dr. Kavus Abushov, Dr. Javid Gadirov, Dr. Farhad Mukhtarov on the motion “Freedom of speech is more important than religious sensitivities.” The event followed up with a round of discussion and Q&A panel. Generally, the event brought up many important and noteworthy ideas and clash points which grabbed huge attention of the audience. Here is the video of the debate.

What Makes Ideas Spread?

There is too much choice at the moment, the tyranny of choice. The only way to make sure that your idea, bad or good, becomes influential, you have to make sure this idea is different from all other ideas! It may be crazy, it may be risky-looking, but this is really the “safe” way to play it — to be noticed and given the attention of consumers, clients, constituency or your boss, you need to stand out, and the only way to do that in this world of overflow of information, is to be different.

Steve Jobs – Think Different is one example. A host of other examples come from Seth Godin’s TED talk embedded below. To me, the most remarkable of all what he says is that one needs to go out of comfort zone, to get noticed, to be different, and to command attention of the others to have the forum to push ideas. And then it’s up to how good or bad the idea is.

Oxford Bibliographies: Great Resource for Students and Researchers!

Energy Security and Water Security

Farhad Mukhtarov (ADA University, Azerbaijan) and Aleh Cherp (Central European University, Hungary; Lund University, Sweden), with essential assistance from a graduate ADAU student Richard Sarpong, published 2 articles in Oxford Bibliographies, Oxford University Press. One article is about Energy Security — the concept that commands great policy attention nowadays, from the issues of oil and gas prices, to geopolitics and climate change. The second article is about Water Security — essentially, the idea of human security applied to the field of water resources. Read more Oxford Bibliographies: Great Resource for Students and Researchers!

Public Policy Bits: Check Blog by Professor Cairney

However, one website offers a good take on many of those concepts, and only in 1000 words! It is the blog written by Paul Cairney and can be found here. This is excellent for students of public policy and people with general interest. So are you taking a public policy class and you have to read about Advocacy Coalition Framework? Read this on the blog in just 1000 words! Or almost all key concepts which are usually covered in a policy class. Some of the concepts covered in the blog include the following: Policy change and measurement, The Policy Cycle and its Stages, Success and Failure (Evaluation), Bounded Rationality and Incrementalism.

And if you are a Ph.D. student, or have a friend or someone going through the process, then the Ph.D. Chat page of the website will also be of interest. Enjoy the blog!

ADA Faculty Debate on Charlie Hebdo

Friday, 13 March at 4pm in the Large Auditorium of ADA University I am going to debate freedom of speech versus religious sensitivities. This is open to all ADA members, especially students interested in the subject. All are welcome!

Weekend Reading: “Social Theory”

One day when I was a student in Oxford, I went to a student auction to buy a bicycle. Instead, I bought a book. It was only 3 GBP and it was second hand. It was called “Social Theory: a Historical Introduction” by Alex Callinicos, and this was a start of my passion for social theory Read more Weekend Reading: “Social Theory”

Science Wars: Policy Translation Debated

The debate on the travel of ideas has ignited once again, this time on the pages of the new scientific journal called Global Discourse. Founded in 2010, this journal claims not to have a particular disciplinary audience and to target inter-disciplinary approaches. It managed to raise an interesting discussion with the latest issue Read more Science Wars: Policy Translation Debated

Global Governance of Biofuels. NEW PUBLICATION!

Farhad Mukhtarov co-authored a new paper (short communication) with Professor Patricia Osseweijer from Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) and dr. Robin Pierce from Harvard Law School (US). It appeared in the last issue of 2014 of Bio-based and Applied Economics, a new journal devoted to the issues of energy transition and bio-economy as viewed from multiple perspectives.
Read more Global Governance of Biofuels. NEW PUBLICATION!

bell hooks on teaching and critical thinking

One of the major things that makes my life meaningful at this particular moment is teaching and the chance to pass some knowledge and ways of thinking to my students. It is not self-esteem which I am gaining here, although I recognize that teaching is a mildly narcissistic activity which may inflate already oversize egos. My major satisfaction comes from the consciousness that I have the opportunity and hopefully the capacity to touch someone’s life early on to an extent that would allow transformation, personal and professional, mostly via showing the new ways of looking and thinking about reality, about the mundane, about the obvious. Rendering the mundane exotic is perhaps key in education. Giving the students such lenses is the greatest gift of education. Read more bell hooks on teaching and critical thinking

Institutional Design in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. NEW PUBLICATION!

The Journal of Environmental Science & Policy will feature in early 2015 an article co-authored by Farhad Mukhtarov, Svenja Fox, Nozila Mukhamedova and Kai Wegerich. This article is an attempt to resolve the tensions between the need for institutional reform and learning in this process and the paramount importance of the policy context in determining the fate of institutional reforms Read more Institutional Design in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. NEW PUBLICATION!

The Water Bomb of Ireland is Ready to Come Off

This post shows how water is a slow-ticking bomb in the European policy domain, that many more protests and political fights are set to happen in the years to come in that area. Europe is used to good life with unlimited resources, such as water; the reality, alas, is different, and the people are not used to this, especially the baby-boomers. Read more The Water Bomb of Ireland is Ready to Come Off

An Ode to Writing: Writing as a Practice of Freedom

What is Freedom? Many philosophers have tried to answer this question. When listening to Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability, I often think of freedom in a way of breaking through the boundaries of the ‘comfort zone’, by making myself vulnerable and in a way, opening up new avenues for personal growth. And in making oneself vulnerable, one breaks free, free from his old self, free from the boundaries, free from the habits of mind and body. Read more An Ode to Writing: Writing as a Practice of Freedom

Happy New Academic Year!

Back to school

I am jet-lagged after my vacation and have to wake up early for my 9am morning class and get back into the working mode again after the vacation. Sleepy, with a bunch of papers I am going to the classroom and see a lot of new students buzzing around with excitement, colleagues waving at me in the corridor and some old friends with whom we ended up working for the same university. It is good to be back, I missed my students and the university life! Read more Happy New Academic Year!

Weekend Reading: “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”

The travel of ideas

This week’s weekend reading is the international bestseller from Malcolm Gladwell “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”. In this book released in 2000, the New York Times columnist and a writer Malcolm Gladwell describes the turning point when a trend starts to catch fire, becomes important, takes prevalence and spreads as an epidemic. Read more Weekend Reading: “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”

New Book!!! “River Basin Management in the Twenty-first Century: Understanding People and Place”

Good news for those interested in water resources management and policy! A new book is published by CRC Press, part of Taylor & Francis Group, which is called “River Basin Management in the Twenty-first Century: Understanding People and Place” edited by Victor Squires, Hugh Milner, and Katherine Daniell. It has a rich collection of various approaches to water management. The CRC Press website summarises the book’s contents as follows: Read more New Book!!! “River Basin Management in the Twenty-first Century: Understanding People and Place”

Scientists-poachers: are you one of them?

This is a brief sojourn into the social science literature on environmental and policy change which shows the diversity of the field, the multiplicity of assumptions, emphases and models. It also shows that some of these ‘labels” may have more in common with assumptions and hypotheses made by the quantitative researchers than others. Thus, bringing this diversity in light may be the first step in creating the dialogue, and indeed, bridging the big gap among the researchers, including those in water governance. So, what is your label? And would you like to be labeled? I prefer to stay a “scientist-poacher”!

Personal Anecdote

Forgive a brief indulgence in personal anecdote, although exclusively for a purpose. I was interviewed for a job at a Dutch University some years ago, and since my PhD thesis had neo-Gramscian ideas, I was asked whether I was a neo-Gramscian. The intention was to indicate that there are a few like-minded prominent researchers at an associated faculty of social sciences. I responded that I was not sure who I was, perhaps a social scientist with a variety of ideas. In reality, I was a “scientist-poacher”! I have been encroaching on the fields of economics, political science, international relations, geography, linguistics, cultural science and God knows what else! And I have no name for myself! That would not be a problem if not the human need to classify in order to comprehend and judge (see a nice article by Freeman and Frisina on this). Nowadays, you are not because you think, as Descartes had proclaimed. You are because you have a label! Read more Scientists-poachers: are you one of them?

Oxford Handbook on Water Politics and Policy (2015)

An excellent news for the scholars and policy-makers in water policy and politics is that the new Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy is contracted and currently in progress to be published in 2015! Most excitingly, this is the first edition of such a high profile Handbook in the field of Water Policy and Politics and will most likely become a flagship publication with great impact on scholarship and policy Read more Oxford Handbook on Water Politics and Policy (2015)

Three secrets of productive writing

Is it familiar that a moment when you sit to write something, all of a sudden everything else becomes more attractive, be this checking emails, cleaning the house, feeding the cat or calling your mom?! You happen to remember at this particular moment that the plants have not been watered for weeks and that a colleague asked you to return her book this morning. Welcome to the club of procrastinators! No pain — no gain, that’s how writing works, at least for me. It takes discipline and daily struggle to get things written, but the outcomes are terrific — written work that is shared, discussed, timeless if in print and often makes a difference. One should of course enjoy writing, but to get going and motivated, it is all about concentration and self-discipline. There are a few tips which have helped me in my years-long struggle with the blank sheet of paper or rather, a blinking mouse cursor. Below are three golden rules which I found most useful.

Secret 1: Designate writing time and keep it!

First of all, make time for writing only. Initially, I would block 2 hours every morning for writing, that is between 10 am and 12 pm I would not check my emails, answer phones, receive anyone in my office or worry about anything else. I would just write. It is easier said than done, but if you force yourself to do that for a few mornings, you will actually be looking forward to that moment of peace and self-time. This advice came from a senior colleague at a Dutch University who is an accomplished writer and authored hundreds of peer-reviewed publications.

Secret 2: When working on one thing, do not worry about other things

Another very important advice came from a personal coach. There was a moment when I had a lot of papers in my head and none actually in my hands. I would worry a lot about all of them and that would prevent me getting the first finished and progressing further. My personal coach, in what became a break-through meeting, told me a simple truth that I should not worry about anything else when working on a particular subject. Just do one thing at hand. And the coach asked me to promise that in the coming weeks I had only 1 major paper to work on. I promised, and I made small progress. Eventually, I learned that it is better to focus on one paper than write several at the same time, and that time may be very productive if you actually write and do not worry about a myriad of things.

Secret 3: Use a Pomodoro timer!

I think I heard about this from a skype update of a colleague, Googled and started using myself about 2 years ago. I am now writing almost always with my pomodoro clock ticking, which most of the time helps me to focus. This is a personal thing: some people will like the fact that it is only 25 minutes that one must focus before a 5 minute break, and get a lot done in that time. Others may find that too rigid and a bit stressful as there is a timer and you have to follow rules…But it works for me. At least it helps me to get going and sometimes when I wonder off on Facebook or the Internet, a quick look at the clock reminds me that I should be focussing on the paper. As a former chess-player who had his games timed, I find this a good system and the one close to my heart.

Useful links

Of course, successful and productive writing is not just these three tips. A lot depends on the larger time and project management. Below you can find a few documents and links which I found useful in my career.

Producteev – an on-line system of project management, akin to Omnifocus in APPLE
Getting Things Done — an excellend book by Allen, something for anyone interested in personal efficiency
The balanced researcher — for anyone struggling with writing, science and building social life, especially as an expat. I loved it!
Macademic Blog— a blog run by my former Ph.D. supervisor Prof. Aleh Cherp from the Central European University. There is a lot on productive scholarship, but the focus is on Mac.

I wish you productive writing!

Public Policy Bits: Ways of Knowing Public Policy

Farhad Mukhtarov and Andrea Gerlak have just published an article in Policy Sciences, a well-respected political science journal, on Ways of Knowing and Integrated Water Resources Management. In this article, the authorss came up with the argument that there are 3 ways of knowing reality, and public policy for that matter, which they named prescriptive, discursive and practical. The prescriptive way of knowing is action oriented and based on science and abstract reasoning; the discursive way of knowing is based on values and consideration of power relations in a policy field; and the practical way of knowing is about knowledge which originates from practice.

In developing public policies, all three ways of knowing must be utilized, as in the Graph below from the paper. Policies based on only one or two of the ways of knowing are doomed to failure as in the case of 2oth century anti-smoking regulation or water resources management. A variety of examples from the area of water management, and particularly, integrated water resources management, are given.



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