The expertise (dos and don'ts) underpinning a sustainability project: the RED WoLF example

As anticipated in the previous News item, RED WoLF can be thought as originating form the poster published here. How to move from there to (and throughout) implementation? It is a continuous refinement process, with the partnership adjusting around priorities, expertise areas and motivation, of individuals and organizations.

So there is a founding idea, and the key ideas emerging from the partnership during implementation. To be funded and keep being funded, a project must bring something new on the table. At least, some aspects never investigated before: why should the taxpayer and industry keep supporting activities with nothing to find out or clarify?

On the other hand, new must not mean weird or naive. Energy innovation is the destination of billions from funding programmes worldwide and therefore attracts interest from crowds without specific background. While all this interest may be positive, transiting from a research or professional field to another requires self study and, above all, the identification of one's right port of entry. To make a RED WoLF relevant example, experts of computer networking (we have got a few on board, from both industry and academia) can have a prominent role in the field of energy distribution and optimization.

As an example on the naive side, proposals like "powering homes with electricity from lukewarm air or water" or "building a water reservoir on the roof of your house to store energy and spin a turbine" that can sometimes be heard denote lack of usage of college thermodynamics and high school maths (items not necessary to live a happy life, but useful if you expect the society to invest resources on your energy/engineering ideas). The suggestion from us is therefore to enter the field by building on one's own expertise and gradually get a working knowledge of the other aspects from partners and colleagues with different specializations. This is what in RED WoLF we attempt do all the time, starting from the lead parnter. This requires from each of us the understanding and acceptance of what we don't know and may sometimes be the most difficult bit to achieve.


RED WoLF is a cooperation of physicists/mathematicians, electrical engineers, IT experts, project managers, the already mentioned networking engineers, housing experts, education consultants, social science practitioners, entrepreuners as well as communication experts and I am sure I forget something or somebody. Each of them has found their own meaningful port of entry and make a contribution. To enable all this people to express themselves, is necessary that ideas along the way are initially formulated by whom is experienced in the relevant field. This will prevent the "lukewarm air" naivety mentioned above, and equivalent dead-end memes.


Other common misconceptions may come from academic bureaucracy excess like over-management and micromanagement (attitudes that tend to forget that projects are funded after winning ideas and successful proposals, not because a manager will be appointed at some point) to some kind of "data science" or "data analytics" messianic expectation: some "data god" who magically solves all the problems and surrogates for whatever may be in short supply, e.g. innovative R&I ideas. Data analysis/modeling has always been present in the arsenal of physics, maths and engineering PhD researchers, and is evolving with them.

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