Why countries like Bangladesh must invest in climate change research

23rd February 2015
Saleemul Huq and Clare Stott discuss why research from national Bangladesh institutions is under-represented in the recent IPCC report and what can be done about this.

June 2014

The recent publication of the fifth assessment report from the three Working Groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has brought the science of climate change up-to-date. The report of Working Group 2 focuses on ‘Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation’ - the impacts of climate change, the probable effects of these impacts and the current status, challenges and future directions for adaptation for Bangladesh, South Asia, the Least Developed Countries and the rest of the world. It verifies without doubt that climate change impacts are already occurring and will become more severe over the next two decades. It also emphasises the need to accelerate research and share learning across the globe on how best to tackle climate change impacts.

Institutional affiliation of Bangladesh research authors in 2014 IPCC report

 

Climate change research in and on Bangladesh

Based on a preliminary authorship analysis of the report produced by Working Group 2, we have developed an understanding of the status of current climate change research in and on Bangladesh. There are around 150 references to Bangladesh in the report and, of the associated citations, there are over 80 different papers that have a specific focus on climate change in Bangladesh. Just shy of 250 authors have contributed to these papers, including over 70 different first authors. Our analysis found that the majority of these first authors are from international institutes (most of which are based abroad), while only a minority are from Bangladeshi institutes.

We conclude from this that, although much research on climate change is taking place in Bangladesh by researchers working within Bangladeshi institutions, national institutes are less often publishing research in international scientific peer reviewed journals. It is these journals that are relied upon by the authors of the IPCC reports. As such, the findings of national institutions are less often recognised by the IPCC and so have less chance of being used by national and international policy makers. We interpret these publication constraints to be, in part, a result of limitations in the quality of research being produced.

Gobeshona

In order to address this issue of research quality, a new initiative, called ‘Gobeshona’ (Bangla for ‘research’) is being set up by a consortium of universities in the public and private sectors alongside national and international research institutes, government and non-government agencies, based in Bangladesh. We have already identified over a hundred universities and research institutes around the country that are doing research on climate change and are excited to come together through Gobeshona to address this issue and seek support through collaboration.

To achieve its aims, Gobeshona is involved in several activities. Firstly, a web portal is being launched which will detail completed publications and ongoing research specifically focusing on Bangladesh and climate change. It will also list upcoming events to and opportunities available for interested researchers. In addition, the Gobeshona initiative will provide mentoring for young scientists on how to do good research and publish in international peer reviewed scientific journals.

From 2015, an annual ‘Climate Change Research Conference’ will be convened every January, offering the opportunity for new and experienced, national and international researchers to present their research, engage in critical discussion and push for positive action in response to climate issues in Bangladesh. Through these activities, Gobeshona ultimately seeks to ensure that research being conducted on climate change in Bangladesh is more effective.

Invest in national research capacity

Tackling climate change is a long-term issue for a country like Bangladesh. It is also a knowledge intensive issue where new knowledge on impacts, vulnerability and especially adaptation, needs to be continuously generated and fed into decision making at both policy as well as practice levels. Bangladesh needs to invest more strategically and with a higher emphasis on the quality rather than the quantity of relevant research on climate change impacts and effectiveness of different adaptation actions for the coming decades. One of the significant findings in the development literature based on experience over many decades is that investment in appropriate research capacities at the national scale is one of the best long-term investments that a nation can make.

Find out more about the International Centre for Climate Change and Development on its website here.

This article is adapted from an original that appeared here in the Bangladesh Daily Star.

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