Reflections on HI-AWARE’s 5th Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Science conference in Kathmandu

by Katharine Vincent

Last week I was privileged to attend the 5th Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Science conference, which also served as the final workshop for DECCMA’s sister project within the CARIAA programme-Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience (HI-AWARE). Whilst DECCMA is investigating climate change and adaptation in deltas, the biophysical “hotspot” in which HI- AWARE focuses is glacier and snowpack-dependent river basins, which include the Indus, Upper Ganga, Gandaki and Teesta river basins in Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

David Molden (DG of ICIMOD), Maheshwar Dhakal (Ministry of Forests and Environment) and Flip Wester (PI of HI-AWARE)

The conference was split into 2 days – the first had the theme “gendered vulnerability”, and the second was a launch of HI-AWARE final products.

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On the first day community members had been invited from the project pilot sites across the four countries. It was very inspiring to hear how the pilot adaptations are actively reducing people’s vulnerability to climate change: through climate-smart agriculture in Pakistan, eco-san toilets in India, and flood-resistant houses in Bangladesh. The gentleman from Bangladesh reported that, whilst he was with us, neighbours were sheltering in his home as the Teesta had flooded and his was one of the few houses that had not been submerged.

HI-AWARE’s findings on gendered vulnerability were presented from case studies upstream, midstream and downstream in each basin. New “genderscapes” are being produced, particularly as a result of migration. Whilst individual women may be empowered with new decision-making capacity when their husbands leave, the institutions have not caught up with these evolving gender norms and thus can still act to impede gender-equitable access to services and facilities. Building on our CARIAA-wide synthesis work on gender-related findings, I participated (alongside colleagues from PRISE and ASSAR) in a panel discussion highlighting results of our qualitative comparative analysis of 25 cases, and the predominant conditions that can support or dampen women’s agency.

On the second day, the HI-AWARE team launched 15 briefing papers describing key findings relating to the projected magnitude of climate change in mountains, heat stress, water availability (for agriculture and urban use), flooding and critical climate moments (in adaptation pathways). This was followed by presentations on their approach to research into use – or research impact – activities, knowledge management/communications, and M&E.

In addition to the content findings, one of my favourite parts of the conference was when HI-AWARE-supported postgraduate students (“fellows”) and early career researchers, communicators and practitioners talked about their journeys as part of the project, and how it has affected their career paths. The confidence and skills gained by these young men and women was obvious, and their enthusiasm and commitment inspiring. Almost all of them also spoke about their improved knowledge and understanding of gender and the importance of communicating research findings for impact. Both of these elements are things we have also prioritised in DECCMA and are, I believe, essential for transdisciplinary research that is effective in enabling socially-equitable adaptation to climate change.

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Finding Thanos (from Avengers: Infinity War) in a climate change research project

by Sumana Banerjee

Bitten by the Marvel bug, I wasted no time to catch a showing of Avengers: Infinity War before the spoilers started filling my social media timelines. This post obviously does not contain any spoilers-but rather shares how a cool movie like Avengers made my brain think of some research project oriented lessons.


Working for DECCMA has trained me to be attuned to the mention of themes related to environmental change, sustainability, and resource use. So when Thanos shared his grand vision of salvaging the universe from overpopulation which leads to resource scarcity, I was all ears for this Marvel villain. The SDGs started flashing in my mind as some could be realised by his grand vision (after some thought I feel at least these would apply – 2 for Zero Hunger, 12 for Responsible Consumption and Production and 13 for Climate Action).  Before I could finish counting the SDGs, Thanos revealed his strategy to implement his vision, which was to kill half the universe! It goes without saying that our proposed strategies in DECCMA are very different to his…

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This was clearly playing on my mind, and it was much later when it struck me that I have encountered glimpses of Thanos in people when it comes to teamwork and the linkages between grand visions and implementation plans. I surely do not mean that the team members wanted to kill off half the universe-or the team for that matter. But in the real world of research projects, teams must manage competing priorities, worldviews and disciplinary training of their members in order to build consensus on how to achieve common goals. In other words – the grand vision is achieved by collectively defining the implementation plan.

Effective teamwork and leadership often have the “five C’s” where character, competency, chemistry, compatible vision, and capacity feature. All these C’s are integral to any kind of teamwork and external efforts can improve these, with the exception of character.  For a change in character, it has to be internally-motivated and enabled. Since research teams often have young researchers, it may be worthwhile to share good practices which can help build the character necessary for effective (and enjoyable!) teamwork. It is important for leaders and senior researchers to instill in the young members the importance of the following –


Talking, and more importantly listening, will help in exchange of perspectives, problem-solving, and generation of new ideas. Scheduling formal or informal meetings, depending on the work culture, amongst researchers can facilitate better work. As researchers it is important to understand that the concept of “hearing all voices” and gender sensitivity should not be limited to talking to more women in a stakeholder workshop. Just like charity begins at home, it is important to apply these principles in the team environment, providing a space that welcomes and actively encourages all voices within the team irrespective of sex, seniority, background and profile.


It is a good practice to acknowledge the support of anyone who has positively contributed to help your work. Academic papers are the core currency of research careers, and authorship should reflect contributions. In DECCMA we follow Vancouver rules, which state that people should only be named as authors when they have contributed substantively to the conceptualisation and research design or execution and at least some part to the writing.  Vancouver rules partly address implicit norms in some research environments, where there is an expectation that being senior in age and position warrants being named as an author, regardless of (lack of) contribution.  It may be good to keep in mind that naming authors in outputs is not akin to signing a greetings card where everybody’s name should be there!  Instead acknowledgements are there to appreciate efforts that enabled the work to happen without direct inputs – for example funders are usually (gratefully) acknowledged.

Publications are the end of a research process in which acknowledgement is also important, and often overlooked. For example it is good practice to acknowledge the support of people who enabled fieldwork and research to take place – which includes those involved in organisation as well as those interviewees and survey participants that provided the data to analyse.  It is also important to understand the difference between support and contribution.

Dealing with disappointment

Working in teams often involves many members applying to the same conferences but not all who applied get selected. In such cases, researchers should put aside any individual disappointment and rather be glad for the recognition that comes from being part of the team whose research is profiled.

Addressing Differences

Teams are composed of people with different backgrounds and, increasingly, from different countries – such that interdisciplinary teams are often an eclectic mix. This creates exciting opportunities for appreciating different worldviews and expertise.  However, the flip side of this is that conflicts can arise relating to the respective norms and behaviours that are constructed in different contexts. It should always be kept in mind that everybody has something to offer and the more we try to learn from the positives, the more we grow as individuals. If a conflict over an issue carries on, it is best to let it rest for a while and then come back to it with a fresh perspective.

Without this getting too preachy, I would like to end this on a positive note. Thanos had concerns which echo the reality of our current world, but what made him the bad guy was his proposed way of implementing his vision, not the vision itself. The thought of killing half the universe just because he acquired the power was not only autocratic and heinous also the easiest thing to do. How I wish Peter Parker could tell him – “With great power comes great responsibilities.” In research teams we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to come up with more effective implementation plans for the same vision of a better world.

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Come and hear more about DECCMA research at Adaptation Futures 2018

DECCMA researchers will be participating in the following sessions at Adaptation Futures 2018 in Cape Town:

Monday 18th June

Robert Nicholls will participate in S80 on “Adaptive coastal planning-sharing techniques, tools and experiences”, run by Deltares (parallel session 2, 1500-1700, room 2.64).

Tuesday 19th June

Ricardo Safra de Campos will participate S39 on “Early experiences with managed retreat”, run by Stanford University (parallel session 4, 1415-1600, room 1.43).

Wednesday 20th June

Shouvik Das will participate in S92 on “Multidimensional Framework and Response Matrix for Migration”, run by Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)(early session, 0800-0900, room 2.63)

Katharine Vincent will give a presentation “Gendered adaptation in deltas: Who decides, who benefits, and who loses?” in S64 “What enables adaptation of women in climate hotspots?”, run by IDRC (parallel session 6, 0915-1100, room 1.63).

Katharine Vincent will give a presentation “The process of developing adaptation policy trajectories in the DECCMA project” in S200 “Evidence-based guiding principles for developing adaptation pathways to inform adaptation policy and practice in the context of development”, run by Wageningen University  (parallel session 7, 1415-1600, room 2.41).

Katharine Vincent will give a presentation “Changing attitudes and behaviours among members of a consortium” in S195 “Research for Impact: Dynamic approaches, experiences and lessons on research uptake” (parallel session 8, 1630-1815, room 1.42).

Thursday 21st June

Kwasi Appeaning-Addo will give a presentation on the DECCMA project in Ghana in S180 “Towards an adaptive climate proof freshwater supply in salinising deltas and possible solutions for deltas worldwide: examples from The Netherlands, Ghana, Vietnam and Bangladesh”, run by Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management  (parallel session 11, 1415-1600, room 1.62).

Robert Nicholls, Katharine Vincent and Ricardo Safra de Campos will participate in a joint DECCMA-Western Indian Ocean Deltas Exchange Network (WIODER)-Delta Alliance session “Adaptation practice and experience in deltas in the global south”. Robert will chair the session, Katharine will make a presentation “Documenting observed adaptations in deltaic Ghana, India and Bangladesh” and Ricardo will make a presentation “Migration as an adaptation” (parallel session 11, 1415-1600, room 1.64).