Co-designing climate change research

October 21, 2021

Co-designed research incorporates the priorities, knowledge, and information needs of those who will use the research. Co-design is currently used across a wide range of research fields and has been shown to result in research outcomes that benefit both the research provider and user.   

That’s why the Climate Systems Hub is taking a co-designed approach to developing and implementing our research plans. Our approach will ensure our research is tailored to the needs of Australian decision makers and researchers so that we can take an integrated and collaborative approach to address Australia’s key climate challenges. 

What is co-design? 

Co-designed research has been planned, designed, developed, and implemented in partnership with research users.

These research users can range from other researchers to decision makers- in essence it’s anyone who will use the information developed by a research project.

Engaging these research users includes meaningful engagement from the outset through to the end of the project when research findings are communicated and synthesised. 

The extent of involvement and participation of a research-user in a co-designed project will vary depending on their availability, interest, and resources. As each research user is different, with different priorities and ideas, co-design is not a one size fits all approach.  

However, there are some common principles for successful co-design of research:

Developing the trust, understanding and respect required to successfully co-design research requires the recognition that professional and practitioner knowledge is just as important as scientific knowledge in the design and implementation of a research project.

Why the Climate Systems Hub is using co-design

Co-designing research takes time, resources, and energy. It can be challenging and even uncomfortable putting ourselves in others’ shoes. However, the reward is research that is readily applied to help solve real-world problems.

Climate change is one of our most complex and far-reaching social and economic challenges. Decision makers worldwide struggle to achieve the required level of action on climate change. In Australia, decision makers look for clear answers to complex questions such as how will the climate change in my region? When will homes be at risk from sea-level rise? Can our regional communities remain sustainable into the future?

By understanding the barriers to making decisions about climate change and working together with research users, the Climate Systems Hub will ensure our research is targeted, meaningful, and adopted.

A co-designed approach to research also allows it to be incorporated into scientific knowledge, leading to innovative approaches and solutions. Most importantly, it can help to translate research into effective action, helping Australia to prepare and respond to the impacts and risks of climate change.

Our co-design approach

The Climate Systems Hub will focus on planning, building partnerships, and beginning the co-design process. In this first phase, we are working with the Australian Government, states and territories, other research bodies, and peak bodies.

Co-design ‘leads’ in each research project, supported by Hub knowledge brokers, will drive an initial 4-step co-design process:

  1. Explore – The Hub gathers information, including who our research users are, and their needs. We identify research gaps and opportunities.
  2. Analyse – The Hub combines user needs with research ideas to identify linkages, connections, and themes, and to prioritise work.
  3. Co-plan – The Hub works with research users to identify outcomes and plan research activities to achieve these outcomes.
  4. Co-design – The Hub works with research users and project partners to co-design and document research project plans.

The Climate Systems Hub will continue to build on this approach in future years to continue co-designing and co-producing our activities.

While co-designing climate change research, or any environmental research, can be challenging, it’s now a widely supported approach to research planning and design – and will be increasingly implemented across all research hubs under the National Environmental Science Program.

For more information

Sarah Boulter, Climate Adaptation Initiative Lead

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