New training in evidence synthesis techniques due to launch in January
In January 2018, The Walker Institute is set to launch an exciting new initiative called Climate Services Academy and Training (CSAT) to train a growing cohort of postgraduate research (PGR) students in evidence synthesis techniques.
Led by Professor Ros Cornforth, with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the initiative is supported by academic staff in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (SAPD) and aims to develop the capacity of CSAT graduates in the key interdisciplinary and synthesis skills that are critical for tackling major societal challenges.
Ros said: "The focus of the training will be on the interpretation of climate information and its meaningful and contextualised synthesis with knowledge from a range of relevant disciplines and perspectives. The programme will engage in the conceptualisation, measurement and modelling of the impact of climate change on food security and incomes in developing countries with particular reference to how this influences policy.
"The end result will be early career scientists in both the natural and social sciences who are better equipped to evaluate and synthesise knowledge aimed at strengthening system resilience and reducing the societal risks posed by extreme events on food production and food security. This approach is of direct relevance to agri-business, the insurance industry and to governments and donors in developing countries. It will equip graduates from CSAT with the necessary skills to make an immediate contribution to the world of policy making and development programme formulation, refinement and delivery."
With innovation at its core and driven by the accumulated professional experiences of academics and NGO practitioners at the University of Reading (UoR), the CSAT programme will encompass three components: a programme of intensive training, followed by immersive placements in partner countries, continued through with a legacy component that comprises an expanding knowledge exchange network of CSAT-trained graduates.
Ros explains: "This structure will enable the first cohort of eight UK-based doctoral students - four of whom hail from African countries - to gain a practical, real-world experience of the critical elements of how to synthesise research and transform it into evidence that can inform decision-making.
"It has been specially designed as interactive training that will be delivered at UoR over two weeks in January 2018, working in conjunction with the co-located NGO, Evidence for Development, colleagues from SAPD, Dr Andrew Ainslie and Dr Sarah Cardey, and Dr Katja Samuel from the School of Law, all of who have direct research and policy experience in African contexts."
She continued: "This training will be followed by a two week period of immersive placements in Uganda, Malawi, Senegal and Ghana which have been carefully selected for the 'first run' of CSAT due to the institute's strong existing research and policy collaborations in each.
"In-country partners have been instrumental in the selection of the tailored research/policy topics that will be tackled in each of their countries. Learning will be shared as two UK students will be paired with two in-country students in each of the four countries. We intend to include the in-country students in the intensive training phase in future iterations of CSAT."
She added: "The impact of the programme will be enhanced by the combination of training with practical experience. The UK based training provides the tools and knowledge, whilst the immersive experience enables students to apply what they learned in real situations, to gain first hand insights into the challenges of translating synthesised knowledge into evidence-based practice, and to reflect on strategies they might adopt in their professional careers to address these challenges. The group will also work together to reflect upon and evaluate the programme and design legacy activities to enable them to continue to share and benefit from best practice going forward."