Building Resilience event highlights the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration

13 March 2018

Researchers from across the UK, the globe and from a wide variety of disciplines gathered last week to address the building of resilience to environmental hazards, both natural and man-made, in developing countries.

AHRC GCRF Resilience workshop

The Building Resilience event took place on 9 March to share the impacts of interdisciplinary projects funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

Held at the Wellcome Trust, it was an opportunity for principle investigators (PIs) and other project collaborators to highlight successes, challenges and insights from their projects; these had all been financed by the Building Resilience funding call, which was led jointly by three research councils: NERC, the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The call was launched in 2016 and acknowledged that complex challenges require a broad range of disciplines as well as in-depth knowledge of the communities affected. Each of the funded projects drew together experts working in environmental science with those working in social science and the arts and humanities; this generated a series of multi-faceted, innovative approaches to tackling complex issues.

The presentations at the Wellcome Trust event revealed a range of interdisciplinary collaborations between scientists and experts in fields as diverse as landscape architecture, medicine, philosophy, history and the arts.

Professor Angie HartProject outcomes were equally wide-ranging, including the development of an app to make data collection and learning more accessible in earthquake-prone Nepal and the creation of a new word, vumo, to allow unambiguous community discussion in Nicaragua about the dangers of volcanic smoke.

Professor Angie Hart of the University of Brighton was the PI on one of the projects and co-organised the Building Resilience event with Susanne Sargeant from the British Geological Survey. Used to taking an interdisciplinary approach, Professor Hart was inspired by the successes of the projects.

Professor Hart said:

It's been fascinating to see how much energy and commitment people have demonstrated today. It's also been great to hear that some of the projects have had interesting policy impact too. Working across different disciplines on shorter projects is a challenge so I'm really impressed by what has been achieved.

Helen Jeans, Resilience & Climate Adaptation Lead at Oxfam, said:

Being involved in the GCRF Building Resilience programme, from the brokering event, to being on the assessment panel and involved in a project, has deepened how Oxfam engages with research, science and researchers. Science helps Oxfam to convene informed spaces where decision-makers and communities come together to work on complex issues in new ways. And we have heard from our research partners that they learn a lot from us too - particularly about achieving development impact. These are important partnerships for Oxfam.

A 'lessons learned' session revealed the importance of winning the trust of the local community, while the opportunity to build in time for mentoring in order to increase capacity building was a desire for the future among some delegates. Both keynote speakers, Kimaren Stanley Riamet and Richard Robertson, provided valuable insights from a project partner perspective.

Kimaren Riamet, the Director for Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners in Kenya, underlined the importance of action-orientated research so that knowledge gained does not merely linger in European institutions. In his address, Richard Robertson, the Director of the University of West Indies Seismic Research Centre in Trinidad & Tobago, provided a 'checklist for good collaboration'. This included engaging with potential partners ahead of applying for funding and seeking out the insights of local communities to enhance experts' own knowledge.

Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC News & Media Officer
01793 411939
07710 147485

Toby Shergold
AHRC Communications Manager
01793 416082


1. The value of the Global Challenges Research Fund: Building Resilience call was up to £3·3 million of funding, with each award not exceeding £200,000 (at 100% full economic cost). The successful projects ranged from 3-12 months and were required to start no later than 1 November 2016.

2. The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a five-year £1·5 billion fund that forms a key component in the delivery of the UK Aid Strategy and tackles global challenges in the national interest. The fund aims to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries through challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, by strengthening capacity for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries and by providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

3. See more insights from the event on Twitter: #GCRFBuildingResilience - external link