FEATURE: In conversation… with Natasha Grist, CDKN Head of Research
Simon Maxwell: Natasha you’re leading the research programme in the Climate and Development Knowledge Network and you’re a researcher yourself, so you know about why it’s important for research to be available to contribute to policy. Tell us a little bit about your experience in that area?
Natasha Grist: There’s clearly a very big gap still between academic research and how that gets to policy makers, both in terms of accessible briefings but also in terms of having a person next to a policy maker or a decision maker who really knows what they’re talking about and can help them make robust decisions relating to climate change and development.
Simon: I mean the corollary of that is that all too often we fear policy makers make decisions without having the course to good quality research, but the research has to be of the right standard doesn’t it in order to be useful and presented in the right way?
Natasha: Yeah that’s right. The way that we’ve designed the research element in the network is to be primarily high quality research that means it will be internationally robust, pier reviewed, by both leading academic experts, but also by policy users in country. We’re looking at scoping out demand from developing country policy makers over the course of the year and also we must remember that this demand needs to be flexible, so demand today will be different to the demands that come in, in a year or two’s time.
Simon: I’ve been talking to some of the other leaders of the regional programmes for example about how they’re going to set up country based processes of engagement around climate compatible development with policy makers and researchers and the private sector, as they work they’re going to suddenly find they need information and research findings on a topic. Are we going to be able to help solve that problem?
Natasha: We’re going to design the research so there’s two streams, one is a short term very applied direct response to demand that comes up through, for example, the technical assistance side, when we’re helping to design the medium term development plan incorporating climate change, so how to apply climate change into development planning. The other side of that is we’re going to be doing demand scoping and looking at the broader research questions which are still very applied, but using an open call tendering process to do a much more in depth piece of research which will then be useful, beyond one developing country.
Simon: You’ve been working in one or two countries I know, putting together our initials plans for this, tell us a little bit about Ghana, for example?
Natasha: We had a two or three day meeting with government, policy planners, with civil society organisations, and other development organisations and through that we’ve identified a number of short term research projects that need to be fulfilled through the next three months, and that includes synthesising existing climate research data that’s available in Ghana, creating a database of those things which is openly available for other people to access and also looking at key sectors and impacts on climate change, and that will all feed into the next three to four months worth of planning up to Cancun, and then there are other broader research questions such as how a developing country might structure their climate change institutions in order to help integrate that into development planning.
Simon: And do we have a capacity building objective?
Natasha: Yes we’ll be doing applied research but part of that is looking at how we capacity build with some of the research institutions in different developing countries.
Simon: Does every country need to have a climate modeller or a climate compatible development planner or can we find some way to link up across national borders?
Natasha: I think we need to do the linking up across national borders and already there are many regional institutions, for example, in West Africa we have ENDA, which services much of West Africa for certain areas of climate change development.
Simon: Let’s step forward five years and look back, at five years of research funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. What will make you really happy at the end of five years when you look back?
Natasha: I think what will be really good at the end of five years is that we’ll look back and see that many developing countries have been assisted exactly where they need to be helped, at a specific time, through very responsive network and that’s what we’re planning to be, through providing really good quality research, which they can take to international levels and which is really going to stand up to scrutiny and really helps them to prepare for climate change which is inevitable.
Simon: Natasha, thank you very much.
Natasha: Thank you.