Thursday, 13 November 2014

ASSAR Annual Meeting: Notes on collaborative, interdisciplinary research

On my first day as a postdoctoral researcher on the ASSAR (Adaptation at Scale in Semi-arid Regions) project, I was hurled into a week-long ASSAR Annual Meeting held at IIHS, Bangalore. A wonderful mix between workshop, project meeting, networking event and academic brainstorming session, the week was the best possible induction I could get into the goings on of ASSAR. It also helped me understand how large collaborative projects spanning several continents work and how do highly motivated and skilled researchers work together to explore big questions of development in the context of climate change.

Oscars or Emmys? Round tables always work well
One of the days of the annual meeting was a national stakeholder consultation which attracted academicians, civil society actors and policymakers to a common platform. This day-long event was designed to facilitate multiple stakeholders to deliberate on the challenges and opportunities of adaptation at scale in India and Africa. I wrote a blog on it here.

The key things that stood out for me from the ASSAR annual meeting were:
  • Collaborative research, especially spanning several disciplines is tough. However, it is important to get people talking to each other so that we slowly understand the strengths and weaknesses of our disciplinary boundaries (theoretically and methodologically).
  • Academicians are also people and though our research speaks, in the end, we connect as humans to one another. My most interesting conversations happened in the innovative breakout sessions ('What are your expectations of ASSAR in 2018? How would you explain what ASSAR is trying to do to a 10 year old?') where I got to talk to people about how they felt, what they thought about the research project. 
  • A project as large as this requires frequent face-to-face events such as this one to build networks and establish linkages that can then be continued through online discussions.
  • Finally, having dedicated, skilled project managers is of utmost importance. You can have the smartest people in the room but without someone to steer it and glue it together, we are just the sum of its parts. 


Looking forward to the next annual meeting!
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