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Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School Proceedings 2017

Christian Hanus, Gerald Steiner (Editors)

Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School Proceedings 2017

Cultural and Social Implications of Global Change on the Danube River Basin

Table of Contents

Preface of the Rector

Friedrich Faulhammer


Verena Winiwarter, Gertrud Haidvogl


Christian Hanus, Gerald Steiner

Interdisciplinary Research for the

Sustainable Development of the Danube River Basin

Verena Winiwarter, Gertrud Haidvogl, Stefano Brumat

Globalization – and Implications for the Danube Region

Manfred Prisching

Natural History of the Danube Region

Gertrud Haidvogl, Verena Winiwarter, Stefano Brumat

Cultural Tourism Issues and the Role of Local Communities

Aleksandra Terzić

European Union Strategy for the Danube Region as a chance for improvement of cooperation of the Danube Basin countries

Snežana Filipović

The Research Proposal Writing Process

Porfirio Guevara, Filippina Risopoulos

PlantPower – Phytoremediation of Contaminated Soils in Former Minefields of the Western Balkan Area

Aghayadeh Ardebili Ali, Gaijski Goran, Jurecska Laura, Kiš Maja, Tumpa Andrea

Iron Gates – The Green Reopening

Diana Nedelcheva Bebenova–Nikolova, Dejan Berić, Stefan Denda, Irina Florea-Saghin, Tamara Mitrofanenko, Marius Popescu, Jasna Stojanović

Innovation of Sustainable Energy Technology for
Application in Romania Danube Delta Rural Areas (RDDRA)

Marko Ilic, Evelina Grǎdinaru, Andreea Ivanciof, Abraham Kabutey, Alina Satmari, Ana-Maria Rȋtea Luca, Plamen P. Penev

Preface of the Rector

Following the successful three previous Danube:Future Schools in Gorizia, Italia, it was a great pleasure that the fourth edition of the Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School was organized in Krems (Austria) by our university, the Danube-University Krems – University for Continuing Education.

80 km from Vienna, Krems is located in the heart of Europe and on one of the connecting lifelines of our continent, the Danube. From a historical point of view, Krems was an important trading center, integrated into international networks and well-known far beyond the borders of Austria. Until today, Krems is still involved in international networks - in tourism, in politics, but also in science networks, especially since the foundation of our university.

In regard to our history, the Danube University Krems positioned itself in the early beginning as a Central European competence center for further education with special attention to aspects of the enlargement of the European Union. Therefore, in particular the Danube region plays an important role. On an institutional scale, the Danube University Krems is also strongly interlinked with other Universities of this region, especially via the Danube Rectors’ Conference (DRC).

Another reason why it was a great pleasure for the Danube University Krems to be the host of the 4th Edition of the Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School in 2017 is with the Summer School’s theme: Cultural and social implications of global change on the Danube River Basin. Placing societal challenges in the spotlight is a main principle at the Danube University Krems.

In this context, from the institutional point of view, it was a central aim to support young scientists of the Danube Region through the Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School and to strengthen the scientific networks in this region. Furthermore, the Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School also touched upon thematic and methodological priorities of Danube University Krems – especially the concentration on societal challenges and the concept of transdisciplinarity.

The articles in this publication show the success of the summer school. The many ideas that have been developed by participants not only point to the actual challenges of our time, but also show how they can be overcome through research and innovation. The project sketches of the participants are supplemented by wellfounded contributions from established researchers, in a way that the publication not only impresses with research ideas, but also has a handbook character that invites to an in-depth analysis of the concept of transdisciplinarity and the societal and natural changes in the Danube basin.

At this point I would also like to express my gratitude to all those who made the summer school and this publication possible. First the organizing committee consisting of Prof. Gerald Steiner (Danube University Krems), Prof. Christian Hanus (Danube University Krems), Dr. Gertrud Haidvogl (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna) and Prof. Juliana Popova (University of Ruse).

Thanks to Prof. Verena Winiwarter as well as to all speakers who shared their knowledge and know-how. Special thanks go to Stefano Brumat, who was instrumental in the preparation of the Summer School, and to Filippina Risopoulos and Porfirio Guevara, who accompanied the participants through the event. Richard Sickinger is to be thanked for the finalization of this publication. Representing numerous people at the Danube University Krems, who were responsible for the event on site, I would like to thank Andrea Höltl, Florian Kerschbaumer, Ingrid Muthsam, Martina Placht and Heidemarie Weinhäupl.

Finally, I would like to wish the readers interesting hours with the present publication and congratulate all participants once again for their research ideas, some of which I hope will be realized.

Rector Friedrich Faulhammer,
Rector Danube University Krems,
President Danube Rectors’ Conference


The European Strategy of the Danube Region in 2011 was a major impetus for transnational cooperation in the river basin. Stimulating excellent research, strengthening research infrastructure and fostering collaboration between research and education centers are targets of the EUSDR-Action Plan. Sustainable development of the region is a prime goal, but particularly challenging as the 19 countries sharing the river basin have diverse environments, societies, economies, cultures and histories. Joint visions of the future, harmonized targets and approaches to address existing challenges and to benefit from the simultaneously existing cultural and environmental assets require tailored solutions and adequately trained people.

The EUSDR Flagship Network Project Danube: Future supports this endeavor by offering interdisciplinary training for young scholars of the Danube region’s universities. After three international schools held from 2013 to 2015 at the Gorizia campus of the University of Trieste, Danube University Krems agreed to organize and host the Danube: Future International School 2017. We were very grateful about this decision and would like to thank Rector Friedrich Faulhammer, Dean Gerald Steiner and Dean Christian Hanus and their teams for their commitment.

With experience gained, the structure of the DF-Schools evolved over time, but the major goals did not, Danube: Future International Schools are dedicated to bringing together PhD-students and young post-doc researchers from a variety of scientific disciplines and from different Danube countries to jointly work on a specific topic. With lectures and group work participants are encouraged to exchange and to develop interdisciplinary project ideas for the future sustainable development of the Danube region. The 2017 school was centered on the cultural and social implications of Global Change on the Danube River Basin. Thematic and methodological lectures, excursions and introductions to funding schemes fed into four promising project drafts which were developed in working groups during the 2017 edition.

Danube: Future, managed by Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, BOKU-University Vienna and the Universities of Trieste, Novi Sad and Ruse, is a joint endeavor of the Danube Rectors’ Conference and the Alps-Adriatic Rectors’ Conference and can thus tap the largest pool of knowledge in the River Basin as the two organizations currently unite almost 100 universities. As a flagship project of the EUSDR Priority Area 7, Knowledge Society, it offers training, a knowledge base, and support for research development. As coordinators, we would like to thank all financial and intellectual supporters, among them Project Administrator Stefano Brumat of Ethic Solutions, and last but not least, the students, coming to learn more about the possibilities arising from the challenges of the DRB.

Verena Winiwarter,
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Gertrud Haidvogl,
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Project Coordinators for the Danube: Future Project


Christian Hanus
Gerald Steiner

The stream "that generates and holds Central Europe together" (Magris) or "the European river par excellence" (Weithmann): The fact that the Danube and its associated cultural and natural area are of elementary importance for Europe, is evident. For this reason, the scientific examination of the Danube region plays a central role, especially at the Danube University Krems, which bears its name, and especially when it comes to questions of global challenges such as climate change, food security, digitalization, migration movements and economic crises and its reference back to the region. For this reason, it was a special pleasure and honour for the Danube University Krems to organize “The Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School 2017” and welcome young researchers from all over the Danube region to the Wachau Valley.


The Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School is part of the Capacity Building Module of the Danube:Future project, a Flagship Project of the EUSDR - the European Union Strategy for the Danube Region, in the Priority Area Knowledge Society. Danube:Future is a joint network project of the Alps-Adriatic Rector’s Conference and the Danube Rector’s Conference. It aims at capacity building in the Danube River Basin (DRB) and at networking to aid the development common research projects for a sustainable future of the DRB.

The last three editions of the Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School were organized in Gorizia (Italy) and concentrated on interdisciplinarity (2013) and the natural (2014) and cultural (2015) heritage of the Danube Region. Following those very successful three previous Schools, the fourth edition of the Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School was organized in Krems (A).

The Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School 2017 focused on the cultural and social implications of global change on the Danube River Basin and the core topics of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Global change processes, like climate change, digitalization, health and wellbeing, migration movements as well as economic and financial crises, are among the greatest challenges of our time and also shaping the Danube macro-region as a specifically challenging region of Europe.

Up to now, global change research has largely focused on natural, environmental, and economic aspects. Considering the fact that Horizon 2020 has determined the social sciences and humanities as a horizontal subject to be considered in all Grand Challenges, the 2017 DIS put a special focus on the cultural and social implications of global change on the Danube River Basin. Against this background the DIS 2017 School offered a program of high-profile lectures, methodological inputs regarding interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity, thematic excursions and professionally supervised working phases for proposal writing. Science as well as different stakeholders from society, politics and economy are obliged to think about a sustainable future and resilient societies. For this task we need an inter and transdisciplinary approach, sound methods and strong scientific networks.

The Training School gives PhD-students and young scientists from Alps-Adriatic Rector’s Conference (AARC) and the Danube Rector’s Conference (DRC) universities the opportunity to discuss these issues – with a particular focus on the Danube region and the question of resilience and social peace – and to develop their own research proposals within this broad context.

In this occasion, 25 participants representing 17 Universities both from EU (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Romania) and non-EU (Serbia) attended the Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School edition 2017. 14 PhD students and 11 junior researchers had the opportunity to gain knowledge about the cultural, social, economic and ecological implications of global changes on the Danube River Basin. Following an introduction on the core topic of the Interdisciplinary School – global changes – and lectures on the natural heritage of the Danube river region as well as the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, the School covered a wide range of subjects, such as tourism, cultural heritage, energy management and innovation as well as sustainability and governance. Two half-day excursions (to the Wachau Region and the power-plant Simmering in Vienna) deepening the discussed topics offered a unique opportunity to deal with the challenges of the macro-region.

The participating students had the opportunity to discuss and revise their topics and ideas and to participate with their respective competences. This process was supported by scientific staff of the Danube University Krems, the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies (IFF) at the Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna and the Medical University Vienna, as well as by the two facilitators, Dr. Filippina Risopoulus-Pichler from the Department of Geography and Regional Science at the Karl Franzens-University Graz and Porfirio Guevara, PhD as a freelance collaborator of the Faculty of Business and Globalization at Danube University Krems and the organizational team of the Danube University Krems.

The second part of the school was dedicated to group work by students. Participants worked in groups with support of two facilitators and seven experts, identifying common ideas for a future project and writing proposal drafts. Group presentations with direct feedback by the international Jury were taking place at the end of the programme.

Proposal Writing

During the project work, the participants of Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School were applying creativity and problem-solving methods (see the article of the facilitators, Porfirio Guevara and Filippina Risopoulus-Pichler in this edition for more details). Four interdisciplinary project groups were cooperating in designing and writing their project proposals. Three of them are presenting their work within this edition. All four groups have not only mastered the interdisciplinary collaboration in the groups but have also integrated aspects of transdisciplinarity into their research designs.

From this point of view, the project of Danube: Future and especially the Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School can be seen as a model of handling the challenges of the future, on how to deal with complex topics in scientific research. Topics we meet today in research, and especially when it comes to sustainability, are typically interwoven and complex. Therefore, apart from a broad thematic range, the Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School put a special focus on the concepts and methods of inter- and transdisciplinarity.


Transdisciplinarity (Td) can be seen as a third mode of doing science, complementing disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity (see Scholz / Steiner 2015a, b). Transdisciplinarity integrates not only different scientific disciplines (interdisciplinarity), but also experts and stakeholders from practice. As Scholz and Le (2011: 118) put it, “Td starts from the assumption that scientists and practitioners are experts of different kinds of knowledge where both sides may benefit from a mutual learning process. Thus, co-leadership among science and practice based on equal footing on all levels of the project (i. e., the umbrella project, the nodes and the case studies) are needed to assure that the interests and capacities of theory and practice are equally acknowledged.” (Organized that way, co-leadership becomes an essential part of a method guided discourse process.

For the sustainable transition of the society in relation with global challenges and complex societally relevant problems, we need better knowledge on how to organize research processes that provide on the one hand improved problem understanding and, on the other, produce robust orientations on policy options or business decisions for practitioners. Experts from science and practice benefit by getting in-depth insight into the dynamics of complex systems and mechanisms of sustainable transitions.

The Danube University Krems and especially the two participating faculties – the Faculty of Business and Globalization and the Faculty of Education, Arts and Architecture – are pursuing the strategy of transdisciplinarity as a way of mutual learning between science and society in teaching and research. In the area of academic teaching we, as a University for Continuing Education, have the big advantage of teaching working students who bring in their topics and questions from practice. But, also in research we are practicing transdisciplinarity in a broad range of topics and projects, for instance through our Transdisciplinarity Labs (TdLabs) on Sustainable Digital Environments (www.donau-uni.ac.at/sde-tdlab), on Sustainable Mineral Resources (www.donau-uni.ac.at/smr-tdlab) and public administration of the future - GovLabAustria (www.govlabaustria.at). Several projects – among those our part within the Data Market Austria or the Project DANUrb, a network of seven countries in the Danube Region to develop a sustainable strategy of cultural politics and tourism, are based on the idea of transdisciplinarity. Another transdisciplinary project is the involvement of the Danube University Krems in the reconstruction of earthquake-destroyed cities in central Italy. In L' Aqulia (since 2010) as well as in Accumoli (since 2016) concepts are developed and implemented together with the population, which aim to rebuild the destroyed communities as close as possible to their original state, taking into account modern findings on earthquake safety, and thus to revive social, cultural and economic life. With several transdisciplinary projects in EU-programmes such as Erasmus-plus, the Danube University Krems has been able to build up competence in the area of proposal writing, especially in the area of EU programmes such as Erasmus plus. Against this backdrop, DIS provided a good opportunity to contribute these competencies in the Danube Region and strengthen existing networks.

Regarding further developments, we hope that the Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School is going to serve as a milestone for further developments. We are looking forward to cooperate with the University of Ruse, which organizes the next edition of DIS, and to further cooperation; especially with our partners from the Danube: Future Project, to whom we would like to express our gratitude for their support during the whole process namely Dr. Gertrud Haidvogel, who supported us during the whole time, Prof. Dr. Verena Winiwarter for her invaluable input and support, Dr. Stefano Brumat for his professional organizational and administrative support and, most important, the highly motivated participants.

A special thank goes to Vice-Rector Prof. Juliana Popova from the University of Ruse for her participation in the organizational committee together with us and Gertrud Haidvogl. The University of Ruse organizes the next edition of Danube:Future Interdisciplinary School in 2018, and we are very much looking forward to hearing about the results of this School.

Against the backdrop of the economic, cultural, historical and political significance of the Danube, as illustrated by the introductory quotes, the effectiveness of The Danube: Future Interdisciplinary School can be rated as particularly high. We hope that the ideas and networks generated in their framework will provide new impetus for the development of the region's future.

Interdisciplinary Research for the Sustainable Development of the Danube River Basin

Verena Winiwarter
Gertrud Haidvogl
Stefano Brumat


Sustainable development under conditions of aggravating global climate change is more than a technical or natural science question. It is an all-encompassing, perhaps even wicked, challenge to societies. This calls for adequate research strategies. A problem-driven approach, in particular when dealing with wicked problems, will necessarily have to be interdisciplinary. But interdisciplinarity is more often invoked than carried out successfully because it is challenging to both academic structures and to the knowledge and abilities of researchers.

The Danube: Future White Paper, a community-based effort to formulate research needs for the sustainable development of the Danube River Basin, suggested several principles for research. These might serve as starting points for interdisciplinary team formation, one of the challenges researchers of the DRB face. A concerted effort by funding agencies is needed to address the many issues arising from the need to develop the DRB according to the principles of sustainability.

The necessity and challenge of interdisciplinary research

The Danube River Basin (DRB) with its unique natural and cultural heritage, but also with its challenging cultural and natural legacies and diverse political and economic environments calls for a variety of themes and a multiplicity of methods of research into the hybrid phenomena that make up the history and present of the DRB (Winiwarter & Haidvogl 2015).

The diagnosis is clear: such challenges can only be addressed with inter- and transdisciplinary approaches. Such statements are abundant in the literature. A few examples can show the similarity of the argumentation:

„For anyone tackling real world environmental problems, the challenges of multiple disciplinary collaboration are virtually unavoidable. Indeed, the pressure of peer expectations and funding requirements make it appear that this is the sine qua non for successful and useful research on environmental challenges. ” (Pooley, Mendelsohn & Milner-Gulland 2014, p. 23)

„Key issues in the study of human development, such as minimizing the impact of poverty and deprivation and improving health, well-being, and attainment for all, require a collective effort by different disciplines. Research and funding agencies around the world have recognized the need for interdisciplinary research (IDR) in solving important problems and accelerating scientific discovery. ” (Schoon 2015, p. 350).

„ Other major issues which face society—sustainable energy, a sustainable environment, improved health, food security, sustainable development, and an understanding of complex socio-environmental problems (Morse et al., 2007) require a collective effort by different disciplines working in interdisciplinary groups. ” (Bililign 2013, p. 83)

When it comes to river basins, the situation is similar. Scholarly discussions of Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) define it as a process

„ which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems” (Braga & Lotufo 2008, p. 37).

The authors then bemoan the gap between theory and practice, pointing to a hiatus between international recommendations and reality in large international river basins. They diagnose that the quality of recommendations stagnates. This lets them formulate a call for new approaches including social theory and geographical information science – again, interdisciplinary research is considered necessary for problem-solving.

All the quotes presented assume that real-world problems are ‘out there’. Researchers come and see a problem, roll up their sleeves and get to work. They understand (or are forced to understand) that the problem at hand can only be tackled by a combination of data and methods from several disciplines and then an interdisciplinary team is formed with more or less success and research is carried out. But reality is more complex. One often neglected issue is that questions are defined by researchers according to their methodological frames. What an architect perceives as a design problem can be a public health issue to a doctor. Problem perception and definition is already a process of disciplining.

Katri Huutoniemi has analysed different ways of co-operation between disciplines based on grant applications to the Finnish National Funding Agency (Huutoniemi et al. 2010). She distinguishes approaches by scope (What is integrated?), type of interaction (How does integration happen?) and by goals (Why is integration undertaken?). According to her, the integration of knowledge across academic disciplines and the accountability of science to society are two major issues of science policy. In a more recent contribution, she views interdisciplinarity as a mode of epistemic accountability across disciplinary boundaries, which promises to make academia more than the sum of its disciplinary parts. Interdisciplinarity, seen this way, is not simply a category of research, but involves a social epistemic mechanism of coordination, control, and compromise between disciplinary regimes of knowledge. Due to being situated on the borders between disciplines, interdisciplinary research operates in an accountability environment that is contingent on more than one discipline: it is obliged to actively search for an audience, consider what is worth investigating, and struggle with norms of good conduct. This is also why interdisciplinarity appears resistant to definition and evaluation: it keeps challenging the prevailing epistemological structures (Huutoniemi 2016).

An interdisciplinary team is faced with interpersonal communication issues as much as with finding a common purpose. Hence, descriptions such as the following by Manion should be considered as normative rather than descriptive:

„ The team relies on collective contributions, comes together to solve problems and make decisions to improve the team ’s work and group performance, and members share a common purpose and goals and hold themselves mutually accountable for results.” (Manion, Lorimer & Leander 1996, p. 7)

All utterances, including body language, matter in such teams, and disciplinary backgrounds are of as much importance as are issues of rank, gender, age and experience. Researchers are probably well advised to consult reference works such as Frodeman’s Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (Frodemam, Thompson-Klein & Dos Santos Pacheco, 2010) but even more so the recently published handbook of social cognition (Fiske & Macrae, 2012). It contains chapters on the social embeddedness of cognition, cognition of (other) minds and on the perception of body language, which are all pertinent issues, but seldom discussed in this context.

While a lot of work about interdisciplinary research remains normative and lacks empirical data, a collection by Frickel, Albert and Prainsack presents a wealth of data and is more than worth consulting. Several chapters take a critical look on the practice of such research (Frickel, Albert & Prainsack, 2017). Team composition can yield unwanted effects such as disciplinary capture. This is a phrase coined in the context of investigating the obstacles to successful interdisciplinary cooperation in African conservation issues by Evelyn Brister. She distinguishes four epistemological challenges to successful interdisciplinary co-operation which, she points out, can occur even if everyone involved is well-meaning and there are no attempts at disciplinary imperialism. She suggests that such epistemological obstacles can occur in four interlinked and reinforcing domains: (1) facts, (2) evidentiary standards, (3) causes and (4) research goals.

„Disciplinary capture occurs when the standards, value commitments and methodological presuppositions of ONE discipline in a collaborative project consistently take precedence over other disciplines, hereby playing an outsized role in how the ostensibly integrative interdisciplinary research progresses.

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