Informing decision-making and resilience to nexus shocks:
Exploring the findings from the Nexus Shocks Fellowship
Dr Candice Howarth
Background to the project
The Nexus Shocks project explored how to improve decision-making and resilience related to nexus shocks. The work consisted of two phases and was funded in 2015 by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Nexus Network. Phase 1 ran from 2015 to 2016 set up the Nexus Shocks Network and involved a series of workshops to explore key opportunities and challenges to nexus shocks. Phase 2, the Nexus Shocks Fellowship, ran from October 2016 until September 2017 led by Dr Candice Howarth at the University of Surrey with Research Fellows Dr Sian Morse Jones and Dr Katya Brooks, and comprised a desk-based review of the literature (Howarth and Brooks, 2017) and a qualitative study to collect primary data using semi-structured interviews. It took forward the work started in 2015 (Howarth and Monasterolo, 2016 & 2017; Howarth 2016 a & b) by exploring insights from existing evidence and practise on the current picture of decision-making and resilience to nexus shocks in the UK and how this could be improved.
Building on the UK’s Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) 2017, this fellowship focused in particular on heatwaves and flooding, as examples of the two highest risks facing UK. Drawing on findings from Phase 1 of the Nexus Shocks project key areas identified as requiring further investigation included: evidence, communication and co-production, and collaboration.
The fellowship aimed to better understand how decision making processes are informed in response to climate and weather related nexus shocks, and to identify pathways to deliver resilience; with a focus on evidence, collaboration and communication. Data was collected from 27 key stakeholders from policy, practice and academia through semi-structured interviews.
The fellowship found that exploring the transdisciplinary nature of nexus shock decision making is central to contributing to a more resilient society by capturing lessons from social sciences as well as engaging those actually involved in decision making from business, government and not-for-profit organisations right at the start.
Understanding on how decision making processes are informed in response to climate and weather related nexus shocks are found to be improved by:
- Reflecting on the different roles currently played by key stakeholders in decision-making processes in managing and responding to heatwaves and flooding;
- Examining what evidence is used by different stakeholders, how well this meets needs and extent to which the Climate Change Risk Assessment, for example, has contributed to decision making
- Exploring what different stakeholders consider to be good practise in effective dissemination of evidence, the extent to which they are involved in co-production and whether this is perceived to be an effective approach
- Identifying the extent to which stakeholders collaborate, the perceived benefits and challenges, what works well and what doesn’t work well in collaborations.
Pathways to deliver resilience were identified by considering:
- How the use of evidence in decision-making can be made more effective for example: How scientific/academic research could be made more useful to decision-makers, how research funders might best support this; and, what improvements that could be made to CCRA to maximise uptake
- How the communication of evidence can be made more effective and best ways to share lesson learnt
- Ways to harness collaboration to greater effect and practical steps needed to make this happen
- Lessons learnt, how the policy, practitioner and academic/science communities could better evolve to support decision-makers and the role of research funders
- Identified silver bullets and what is needed to make these a reality
- Evidence must inform decision making whilst being focused on and reflecting the needs of different end users. This will enable a stronger evidence base to be constructed based on strong science, accurate modelling, and data and will, as a result, facilitate a stronger focus on end-users, working backwards from decisions made by these users and to understand what is needed to inform choices and decision making process
- Communication of evidence from experts and scientists is considered good and fairly joined up, particularly for operational responses as opposed to preparation and resilience. However information to public and decision-makers needs to be improved, especially when communicating risk, considering the societal context in which these messages are received and implemented. Co-producing approaches with numerous partners can enable a better dissemination of important evidence in a way that is taken up to effectively inform decision making
- More active collaboration should be encouraged between policy/practitioners and academics where all are viewed as partners rather than stakeholders providing a better opportunity to engage, understanding the roles and needs of each partner and ensure a better contextualisation of responses and ability to influence
- Research Councils should explore how to fund more interdisciplinary projects of varying scales and sizes that bring together a range of stakeholders, to critically explore and co-develop responses to societal challenges such as climate impacts and weather extremes. This would require greater exposure to inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary thinking moving beyond short-term portfolios for longer term benefits. More funding for applied projects would build on this, with greater clarity on which policy stakeholders could be involved, and ensuring alignment with the Impact Agenda
- Greater acknowledgement is needed of the time, resources and efforts needed to forge trusted relationships between academics and stakeholders in order to meet the needs of end users when designing research and assessing its societal impacts
- Howarth, C. (in prep) Nexus shocks: Informing decision making and responses. Palgrave Pivot
- Howarth, C. (2017a) Nexus Shocks project: Summary of findings, University of Surrey & Nexus Network Working Paper. September 2017
- Howarth, C. & Monasterolo, I. (2017) Opportunities for knowledge co-production across the energy-food-water nexus: Making interdisciplinary approaches work for better climate decision making. Science & Pol
- Brooks, K. & Howarth, C. (2017) Decision-Making and Building Resilience to Nexus Shocks Locally: Exploring Flooding and Heatwaves in the UK. Sustainability, 9(838)
- Howarth, C. & Monasterolo, I. (2016a) Understanding barriers to decision making in the UK energy-food-water nexus: The added value of interdisciplinary approaches. Science & Policy, 61, 53-60.
- Howarth, C. (2016b) Responding to extreme weather events. ESRC Evidence Briefing
- Howarth, C. (2016c) Informing decision making in response to nexus shocks. LWEC Policy Practice Note
- Howarth, C. (2016d) Introducing the Nexus Shocks Network GSI So What? Issue 7
- Howarth, C. (2016e) What we’ve learnt so far: findings from the Nexus Shocks Network. Nexus Network
- Howarth, C., Jones, A., Philip, G., Hogbin, J-A. (2015) Nexus Shocks network: Decision making on nexus shocks. Summaries of workshop discussions.
For more information please contact Candice.email@example.com