Is accepting an ASSAR PhD scholarship the best decision I have taken for my career?
11 Apr 2019 - 12:45
By Alcade Segnon
I don’t know! What I can say, however, is that having been a PhD student working in ASSAR has had a positive impact on me, how I think about research impact, and what I want to do in the future. Through ASSAR, I have had many valuable learning experiences and opportunities that have greatly improved and strengthened my capacity as a researcher.
Technical skill development
Thanks to ASSAR’s training course on understanding climate information, I learnt the complexity of climate systems modelling, the skills and resources required to do this modelling, and how challenging it can be to communicate this information to decision makers. This training course greatly contributed to shaping the path of my PhD research and saved me a lot of time. Although I considered myself fluent in R (software used for statistical computing and graphics) before joining ASSAR, the Capacity Building and Data Analysis Workshop organised by ATREE offered me the opportunity to learn how to manipulate, visualise and analyse earth observation data in R, greatly strengthening and extending my skills and expertise. Now, I can confidently handle spatial data in R.
Transformative Scenario Planning training
Given that the challenges of climate change are experienced differently by various social groups and at different scales, adaptation needs to take into consideration all these complex and sometimes conflicting contexts to be effective. This is where scenario building can be helpful in envisaging a range of possible futures which can assist in decision-making and strategic planning. Through ASSAR, I attended the Transformative Scenario Planning training and I was lucky to have the opportunity to apply the newly-acquired knowledge in one of the two Transformative Scenario Planning workshops in Mali. TSP provides a space for stakeholders from different perspectives to think critically about a set of problems and what could happen if different paths are taken for dealing with the issues.
Exposure to diverse colleagues
Addressing challenges of climate change requires thinking outside the box. Having people from different backgrounds and contexts, and with different experience, both in research and practice, in the same project, helps to have a holistic insight and perspective on the issue at stake, which I think is one of the strengths of the ASSAR consortium. Learning to always think about an issue from diverse perspectives and angles is something I value in ASSAR and will certainly apply in my future research and career.
Understanding research impact
Thanks to the RiU thinking I have been exposed to through ASSAR, I now have a different perspective on research impact. Citation count alone is not enough! Other equally important aspects may include the number of policy processes and practices influenced, the extent to which technology has been developed and actually adopted by users, the number of varietals released and adopted by farmers, etc. For this to happen, one must engage with the concerned stakeholders right at the beginning and throughout the research cycle, to get a better idea of what their priorities are!
What I value the most in ASSAR is the vast networking opportunity provided by the consortium, which has allowed me to meet, get to know, and learn from many people, from the busy PI or Co-PIs to early career researchers. ASSAR has helped to connect researchers within and among three regions in Africa, and between Africa and Asia, providing critical exposure and potential future openings for ECRs. What I also learnt from being part of ASSAR is how to deal with the lack of timely feedback from other researchers, who may be working part-time in the project:
You just have to keep calm and survive your frustration!