A scoping study of UK user needs for managing climate futures. Part 1 of the pilot-phase interactive integrated assessment process (Aurion Project)

TitleA scoping study of UK user needs for managing climate futures. Part 1 of the pilot-phase interactive integrated assessment process (Aurion Project)
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 31
AuthorsTurnpenny, J., T. O'Riordan, and A. Haxeltine
Year of Publication2003

This paper presents the results of a survey of the needs of UK organisations for information about climate change. The purpose of the survey was to inform the development of our research programme by helping us to better understand how research on climate change can most effectively be of use. Many organisations are affected by climate change - whether by direct impacts, indirect impacts (e.g. through climate change policies) or by the need to include climate change in policy making or planning for the future of the organisation. Analysing the complex implications of such impacts for individuals, organisations and even countries requires the bringing together (or integration) of insights from a broad range of academic disciplines including climate science, economics, social sciences and engineering. We are involved in creating an integrated research framework to bring these disciplines together; fundamental to this is the development of a process of interactions with key external stakeholders. This should be a two-way 'learning' process where stakeholder knowledge and expectations inform and contribute to development and execution of the research, and timely, relevant research results can be effectively communicated to stakeholders. Stakeholders can then respond to the research outputs, continuing a process of dialogue yielding insights into climate change which could not have been achieved through research alone, or even through a one-off input of stakeholder needs. The survey consisted of 40 interviews with a wide range of organisations drawn government, NGOs and the private sector (users of climate change-related information) over the period November 2002 - February 2003. In the interviews we discussed with users their current use of climate change-related information, where knowledge gaps exist, and what kinds of questions now need addressing. A number of important findings and implications for our research emerged from analysis of the interviews: 1) There is less need for information on climate change per se than on information to support decisions on responses to climate change; often this relates to the political process rather than to scientific research. 2) Information on climate change is used for a range of differing purposes (policy-making, organisational planning, media, and advocacy) and this has implications for the nature of the information required. 3) Many users operate at the local scale, below the resolution of the best current climate models. 4) Users regarded a clear treatment of uncertainty as vital (also implying that it is important for scientists to give honest assessments of the level of confidence to which particular questions might be answered). 5) Information about adaptation to the impacts of climate change, placed in a wider context of social and economic change, is a key element of many users information needs. 6) The trust and confidence of users in research products or tools is not a given. It must be developed or maintained through the process of interaction with the research. For this reason, and to ensure relevance, it is vital to communicate with users on the co-design of tools. A key issue for many users is the importance of being able to understand the working of computer models in lay terms. The value of simple models should therefore not be underestimated. 7) Different users want different types of interaction with the research, from deep interaction with model development to a general confidence that the right questions are being addressed in the right way. 8) Some users need numerical models, some need a synthesis of current research results, some need more confidence from researchers, some need scenarios and some need analysis of human behaviour. There is a need to use models, scenarios and other tools (such as visual images of futures) assembled in the most appropriate way for each user question. We call such an approach 'strategic guidance'. The information gathered through this scoping study has proved valuable in informing our work. Over the next 18 months we intend to use these insights in working with a subset of users to address specific questions about climate change. The work will be organised through case studies, and will pioneer a set of tools for use in the interactive research process.

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