Scientific Capacity Development in Climate Change Related disciplines: Analysis of Barriers, Opportunities and Good practice in Africa

This study investigated the needs and experiences of African researchers working in climate change-related disciplines. It focuses largely on early career researchers based at African institutions (largely universities and national and regional research institutions) who have received support from international donor programmes. The study used mixed methods and had several components: i) the development of a database of previous climate change related scientific capacity development (SCD) activities and initiatives; ii) a review of academic and grey literature on SCD in Africa and for climate change, as well as the broader domain of sustainability science; iii) a desk based analysis of 12 SCD case studies; iv) an online survey of international climate change scientists and practitioners; and v) in-depth interviews with seven organisers and 28 participants of six different African climate SCD activities. An evaluation framework was applied to the in-depth interviews to identify key contexts, mechanisms and outcomes, of the studies activities. The evaluation framework was used to assess the successes, and barriers to success, of the six SCD activities thereby identifying examples of good practice. These components revealed interesting findings on the competencies and skills that researchers in climate change-related fields need, and important contextual and mechanistic factors that help or hinder the development of these, advance a person’s career or contribute towards more robust delivery of SCD interventions. The findings supported literature by showing that a combination of specialist or technical skills together with interdisciplinary competencies are needed in an ideal climate scientist, particularly once their career has progressed to a working researcher or practitioner. The combination of competencies is important to advance knowledge in this multi-faceted field; to communicate and work with peers in order to situate one’s work into the ‘bigger picture’; and to ensure that research findings are relevant, and will be used.