Together with our sister projects of the Water Governance 2027 Synergy Group, GOVAQUA and InnWater, we are delighted to dedicate this article to our female researchers to promote their work and careers around the development of water governance approaches.

These innovative approaches take into account the interdependencies between the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the design of coherent water governance practices and policies at different levels and in different sectors.

As part of RETOUCH NEXUS, we interviewed Ms Maria Vrachioli, PhD, Senior Researcher at the Technical University of Munich (Campus Weihenstephan), chair of Agricultural Production and Resource Economics.

Career and challenges

Q.: Ms Vrachioli, can you tell us about your journey to becoming a researcher, the challenges you encountered along the way and the most important lesson you learned?

Ms Vrachioli: Securing funding, overcoming underrepresentation and balancing work-life challenges marked my journey as a female economist in academia. I learned that perseverance is crucial despite setbacks. Collaborating and seeking mentorship strengthened me and helped me to enrich my academic path and contributions to the field.

Role in the project

Q.: What do you do within the RETOUCH NEXUS project? How have your studies and expertise enabled you to fulfil this role?

Ms Vrachioli: Except for coordinating and managing the RETOUCH NEXUS project activities, I am also actively involved in the monitoring and economic modelling tasks of the project.  Using the analytical skills from my studies, I can ensure the alignment of the project’s activities. This enables me to effectively navigate through the project’s complexities. In addition, my background in applied economics contributes to actively participate in the research related tasks and offer my insights into the project’s impact towards sustainable and resilient water governance.


Q.: At European level, do you think the research sector has become more open to women? What could be done to achieve greater equality between men and women in this field?

Ms Vrachioli: Progress towards gender equality in the European research sector has been made, but a few challenges still persist. Promoting mentorship programs, and fostering a culture of inclusivity are essential steps to achieve greater equality between men and women in the field of research in Europe.

Q.: As an expert in sustainable water governance, what do you see as Europe’s greatest challenge in implementing sustainable water governance?

Ms Vrachioli: Europe’s main challenge in sustainable water governance is finding a balance among different needs from different users. This involves dealing with cross-sectoral water governance aspects while considering issues, such as water scarcity, pollution, and climate change impacts. It’s crucial to ensure manage water resources sustainably, considering the water-energy-food-ecosystems Nexus dynamics. Cooperation between countries and different levels of government is also vital.

Q.: Finally, what advice would you give to future generations of women who want to become researchers?

“Break barriers, pursue knowledge,

pave the path for future water research.”

Ms Vrachioli