Information panel on the Kamogawa River, Kyoto, Japan (Source: Paul Rabé, 2022)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The following list of FAQs will be periodically updated as we respond to questions from applicants.

About RCM

The title of the network and coalition is “River Cities as Method”. A method for what?

The network partners (i.e., the organizers and the case study teams) will work together to develop method(s) to build new social-ecological vantage points that are essential in revitalizing urban rivers and the ecological, social, cultural and economic systems linked to these rivers.

What is the objective of RCM?

RCM investigates the river-city nexus in different parts of the world and aims to promote ecologically and socially inclusive revitalization of rivers and the landscapes/riverscapes, cities and neighborhoods that co-exist with them.

At the same time, the network also has outcomes that are knowledge-based. The work of the RCM coalition should lead to new insights about “transformational resilience” in an urban/peri-urban context that will enrich theory and science, and which can be integrated into university/school curricula.

What is the “river-city nexus”?

The “river-city nexus” is both a spatial and conceptual phenomenon. The nexus as space refers to an area of a city or a built-up area adjacent to a river, and the nexus as concept refers to the multiple connections between the river and river ecosystem and urban life, in the realms of the environment, economy, social and cultural life, and (urban and regional) planning, to name a few.

RCM is led from the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden. Is RCM just focused on Asia?

The RCM network is global in nature. We are interested in case studies of river-cities from all over the world. Water, river ecosystems, and urbanization are global phenomena and challenges that need to be interrogated and critically examined on a global scale, beyond an area studies approach.

Why is the RCM network and coalition important?

The current relationship between humans and rivers is one characterized by “imposition” and not of understanding how rivers really function and how humans can reduce their impact when creating disruptions in the water course.

The shift from “imposition” to “impact reduction” is especially important in the context of climate change, as rivers will have an important role to play in transporting greater volumes of waters, or as part of a system of better water management in arid zones.

The shift from “imposition” to “impact reduction” and improved co-existence with rivers involves not just a technical understanding of river systems, but also an appreciation of the social, cultural, economic, and political forces that have shaped the river-city relationship for centuries.

What does “disruption” mean?

A disruption in the river context is a change created in the natural course of the river or in the flow or quality of the water or the level of sediment in the river. This can be a result of natural circumstances, but in most cases direct or indirect human interventions are at the root of these changes.

It is these human interventions that are of particular interest to the RCM network. Disruptions can have major (negative) impacts on local ecosystems and cultural, and socio-economic conditions of local communities.

RCM components

Component 1 (river bios) is about telling the story of the river and the river-city nexus in ‘recent history’. What does “recent history” mean?

“Recent history” can be defined as any time period that is relevant to understand the context of the major disruption that your case will be exploring. This could be as long ago as hundreds of years in the past (for example, as a result of colonial engineering of the river) or as recent as several decades ago.

We leave it up to each team to define their relevant historical period, but of course as a network, we will engage each other about what constitutes the relevant history in each case.

Component 2 (mapping) is about mapping the river-city. What does “mapping” mean, and where will the data come from to do this?

Mapping will be one of the most important methods used in RCM, to help the teams visualize their river bios (component 1) and as a basis for their river revitalize plans (component 3).

Mapping serves as an important tool for the systematic study of landscapes for knowledge generation, visualization, experimental design, and decision-making—and to observe relationships between individual components studied and the whole. Moreover, as a process, mapping provides tools to encourage the involvement of various stakeholders in planning and design processes, and it makes interventions visible for all stakeholders, thereby facilitating a participatory approach.

Component 3 is about “river revitalization”. What kinds of measures are envisaged here?

Depending on the river revitalization strategy proposed by each project (case study) team, the methods in this component may involve a combination of measures, including organized events (i.e., bringing together local stakeholders and international actors and scholars), advocacy, and contributions to pedagogy and learning.

Advocacy refers to the dialogue with stakeholders and policymakers needed to achieve a transformative and holistic river revitalization strategy.
In terms of pedagogy, the network seeks to engage with local schools and universities, to introduce or strengthen sustainable development content in curricula, using the local river-city as a concrete case for school children and university students to grapple with challenges related to transformational resilience, sustainability and the biosphere.

The network partners will help each other formulate appropriate measures to achieve their respective revitalization goals.

Building a case study team

What is the time frame of RCM, and how long should each case study last?

RCM will be set up as an open network that does not have a specific time limitation. The individual case study projects will initially be planned for a period of 4 years, for networking and comparison purposes across teams. But each project team can continue working on their case as long as they want, and as long as the need exists.

Which stretch of the river should each case study team identify?

The selection of the appropriate stretch of the river for each case study is entirely up to each team. The decision should be based on where the river disruption is located, and which area should be the focus of a revitalization strategy.

How to build up a team?

It is important to have a transdisciplinary team, consisting of persons from various fields, to ensure that the river-city nexus can be understood from different perspectives. Teams should ideally also consist of a mix of academics and practitioners and activists, to capture different forms of knowledge and experience. Local researchers can consist of students from a local university or other educational institution, or/and members of local civil society organizations.

What are the roles of the International and Local Principal Investigators?

The international PI will be the person who leads a case study team and has international connections and experience, to facilitate connections with the other teams in the network.

The Local PI will be the right-hand person of the International PI and is someone who is based where the case study takes place and who can coordinate local logistics and the local researchers.

How many people should be on each team?

There is no fixed number of people in each team. It is important to have at least an International PI and a local PI. Other team members will be added according to each project’s needs. Residents and other local stakeholders can also be involved in each case study’s activities, where possible.

About funding

Does RCM provide funding for case study teams?

The RCM network has just been established and does not yet have its own program funding. The purpose of the Call for Expressions of Interest is to identify and bring together a core group of case study teams who will jointly apply for program funding from different sources, led and supported by IIAS.

In the absence of program funding, what can individual case study teams do?

In the absence of program funding for the network as a whole, case study teams can still proceed with their research and their work on the three components (river bios, mapping, and revitalization strategy) based on own funding or in-kind funding. In this stage, case study teams might proceed at different speeds, which is acceptable for an open network like RCM.

Are the case study teams allowed to search for/bring in their own funding?

Yes, each case study team is welcome to apply for and bring in own funding to carry out their work on the three network components (river bios, mapping, and revitalization strategy), as lon g as this outside funding does not preclude funding from other sources that the organizers may bring in at a later date for the network. Own funding can come from local sources or international sources.

About the application process

When is the application deadline?

The deadline for submissions of expressions of interest for case study teams is 15 August 2022

Does a case study team need to be complete before applying?

A case study team does not need to be complete at the time of the submission of an expression of interest. But it is important to have at least the International and Local PIs in place. The identities of these people will be important for funding proposals (see FAQ section on Funding).

I am interested to be part of RCM, but I cannot or do not want to put together a case study team. Can I still participate in the network?

Yes, this is possible. Please contact us with your ideas and suggestions.
RCM is being set up as an open network, where partners can join and be involved at different levels of intensity. RCM aims to be an umbrella network that can accommodate different initiatives related to the river-city nexus around the world.

The “core group” of the network will consist of teams with specific river city case studies, as the network revolves around peer-to-peer exchanges pertaining to these case studies, which are RCM’s research focus. But we are open to accommodate other researchers or activists outside of the core group, who join RCM for specific events or for specific activities (i.e., publications) related to river city topics.