Writeshops successfully mentor young researchers

Researchers at the Anglophone Africa writeshop in Ghana discuss the best way to present their findings in a journal article. (Photo: Lisa Schipper)
 
By David Singh

GENEVA, 19 April 2012 - Yuwan Malakar has good reason to be focused and driven these days. The 30-year old environmental management major from Nepal has just had his first paper on climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) published in one of the highly respected online journals of the Policy Studies Organization.

Six Steps to a Quick Hazards Assessment at Village Level, a focus on a participatory assessment approach in the Nawalparisi District of Nepal, now puts Malakar in the company of other experts whose work is featured in the online journal, Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy.

"Hazards assessment and vulnerability analysis are key steps for DRR and CCA. My paper is about a tool to facilitate those processes. Yes, there are several tools already developed by different professionals, but this one is less time consuming and more effective. I hope I can help professionals to perform effective and efficient assessments for risk reduction strategies," states Malakar.

Malakar's paper, a welcome addition to the growing body of critical knowledge on DRR, was made possible by a 'Writeshop', a five-day writer's workshop organized by the UN Disaster Risk Reduction Office (UNISDR) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in Bangkok.

In February 2011, Hamudi Hamisi of the United Republic of Tanzania also participated in a five-day Writeshop hosted by the UN University-Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNI-INRA) in Accra, Ghana.

After nearly a year of rewriting and revisions, Hamisi's paper, Crisis in the wetlands: Combined stresses in a changing climate -- Experience form Tanzania was accepted for publication in Climate and Development, and appeared in the journal's 28 February issue.

Since 2010, UNISDR and SEI have conducted four Writeshops -- in Thailand, Ghana, Costa Rica and Barbados. To date more than 60 PhD students, young academics and researchers have participated in Writeshops" along with 15 DRR and climate change experts from the host regions. A fifth will be held from 7-11 May 2012 in Dakar Senegal hosted by Environnement et Developpement du Tiers Monde (RNDA): SEI, UNISDR, and RNDA are calling for applications from young scholars, practitioners, policymakers and others from Africa involved in CCA and DRR to participate.

Writeshops bring young researchers working at the intersection of DRR and CCA together with experts. Participants arrive with a paper abstract and an outline or draft. They then work closely with an expert, as well as with other participants in the programme, to develop the paper in preparation for a rigorous peer-to-peer review that follows. The end product is enhanced awareness of the process of writing papers for academia and a publishable quality article that is submitted to a journal.

"It's a wonderful thing being published. I had never even considered writing something academic for publishing until I found out about the Writeshop. But now I can do this. It feels really good to see your work in print and to be able to share it with other people as well.

"The learning, particularly technical skills and knowledge on writing an article for a journal is the most valuable experience that I gained from Writeshop. It also allowed me to build a professional network in the DRR and CCA sections," says Malakar.

Writeshops mentors young researchers and stimulate more peer-reviewed research on DRR and CCA so that findings can be cited in UNISDR's biennial Global Assessment Report (GAR) on DRR and the recent Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). More importantly, Writeshops are helping to bridge research communities and build capacities in developing countries where most disaster risk is concentrated.

"Thousands have lost their lives to disasters in Nepal over the years because the disaster perspective and the government approach is a traditional one -- it's based on relief. And most of the DRR and CCA projects depend on donor interest for implementation.

"Nepal lacks a clear strategy and vision regarding DRR and CCA. And although the Government has prepared a National Adaptation Programme of Action and approved a National Strategy for DRM, implementation now requires acceleration. Nepal is also in a transition phase and is rewriting its constitution. Naturally political attention is on this process. DRR and CCA therefore get less priority", Malakar adds.
The United Nations General Assembly requested UNISDR to facilitate the development of a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction The United Nations General Assembly requested UNISDR to facilitate the development of a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.
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