Prof. Tally Palmer of Rhodes University joined in Cardiff University virtual event on “AU-EU-UK collaborations: emerging opportunities and prior learning for water and resilience research”

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Prof. Tally Palmer, Director of the ARUA Water CoE presenting during the event.
Prof. Tally Palmer, Director of the ARUA Water CoE presenting during the event.

Tally Palmer, from Rhodes University, Institute for Water Research (IWR) and the Director of the ARUA Water Centre of Excellence (CoE), was involved as a contributor in an event that shared emerging lessons on themes of resilience, water security and multinational interdisciplinary research partnerships in the context of UK and EU funding programmes on 6th July. The event was organized by Dr Adrian Healy, a Future Leaders Fellow at Cardiff University. The event included presentations from existing projects in order to learn from previous programmes promoting resilience under UK funding. With a focus on practical examples of AU-EU-UK collaborations the event shared knowledge of past activities, future potentials and the opportunities emerging from national and European Union funding programmes. The event raised awareness and built prospective research communities.

The programme included presentations from representatives of European Commission and Welsh Government and on-going collaborations under Horizon 2020.  Fadila Boughanemi (European Commission) introduced the Horizon Europe programme and highlighted the opportunities for cooperation with partners in Africa. Calum White (Welsh Government) introduced the new International Learning Exchange (ILE) that has been launched by Welsh Government. Amongst other things this can support the development of new collaborations through staff mobility (including the development of projects with international partners and strategic partnerships).

Mark Pelling (Kings College London), Tally Palmer (Rhodes University) and Esther Diez Cebollero (Water JPI) provided insights based on their own experience. Tally Palmer highlighted how research funding tends to be relatively short-term (3 years or less) and asked whether a different approach is needed to help develop sustainable impacts. Building relationships and working collaboratively takes time. Mark Pelling outlined some key principles for collaborative working that have emerged from the experience of Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded projects in the construction of co-production and interdisciplinarity, namely: communication, sharing values and language; being problem-focused and focus-led (helps to organise multiple view points and to avoid assumptions about role/contribution); be flexible and be prepared to fail and learn (and know when to change direction) – how do we build monitoring and evaluation systems so that we know when to change direction and perhaps partner in ways that are not destructive; ownership of incentives and framing of incentives (recognise value of publications as an incentive don’t dismiss them); relationships take time, understanding and empathy (and we must think differently about remote working).

Mark and Tally both also highlighted the moral and ethical elements to sustaining partnerships and relationships, as the GCRF cuts have brought to the fore. We should also not overlook the significance of transdisciplinarity (respecting different knowledges) – the opportunity to engage in participatory actions involving a range of actors (boundary spanning). Who has the skillset to connect and combine the networks of knowledge that are needed to shift problems? A common theme was the importance of spending time to build shared expectations of the roles everyone has, to ensure equity and to lay the foundations for open and transparent working practices (including open (and devolved) budgets). A valuable approach is to not assume that English will be the default language (with translation to English).

Looking to the future, there is likely to be a push for a global shift towards adaptation approaches in response to climate change. Speakers noted their expectation that this will promote research agendas (and funding) and include connections to social and economic justice.

Source:  Dr Sukh Mantel