Wednesday 17 July 2019

Renewed support for strengthening climate change research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa

By George Lakey, CIRCLE Programme Officer

Through renewed funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is continuing its commitment to supporting climate change research across sub-Saharan Africa through its Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme.

Since 2015, the ACU-led CIRCLE programme has been working to strengthen the capacity of African researchers and research institutions to undertake research into the impacts of climate change on local development. Numerous reports have indicated the success of the programme in building the capacity of both individual researchers to undertake quality research and institutions to better support the career development of their researchers.

DFID has been a long-standing supporter of programmes designed to build the research capacity of individuals and organisations, with a report in 2010 noting this as one of their four key priorities. We are therefore delighted that DFID will continue to support this capacity building programme on both an individual and institutional level. On an individual level, the programme will continue to support the Alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship (CVF) through two funds; the CIRCLE Publication Fund and the CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund.

CIRCLE Publication Fund

The CIRCLE Publication Fund supports CVF Alumni in paying article processing charges (APCs) to enable them to publish their work open access and contribute more fully to the body of knowledge on the impacts of climate change. To date, CIRCLE has used close to £50,000 GBP to support the publication of over 50 articles. The additional funding provided by DFID will substantially increase this number, contributing further to the impact of CIRCLE.

All publications supported through this fund must be in journals deemed to be prestigious. The majority of journals published in are ranked on Scimajo Journal & Country Rank (SJR), with a large proportion ranked in Quartile 1. The remaining journals have been deemed to be prestigious, with many found on African Journals Online (AJOL), the largest online library of peer-reviewed, African-published scholarly journals. AJOL works to change the flow of scholarly information from North to South and West to East, as well as allowing African researchers to access the work of other African academics to ensure that research produced in Africa is readily available to Africans.

CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund

Research uptake – the process through which research reaches its users – is another DFID priority area as it enhances the impact of programmes and contributes to real change. To this end, CIRCLE implemented a Research Uptake Fund to support CVF Alumni in activities that will contribute to their CIRCLE research being put into use. Three separate calls have distributed 65 awards, totalling over £125,000 GBP. An impressive 3,400 stakeholders have been engaged through these funded activities.

The ACU has extensive experience in delivering programmes aimed at supporting research uptake processes. As a facilitator of research uptake activities, the ACU seeks to ensure that key stakeholders are engaging with important research that can have real-world impact. The research conducted by CVF Alumni, with its focus on the impacts of climate change on local development, is vital in mitigating against a changing environment for communities across sub-Saharan Africa. We are therefore delighted that DFID’s additional funding will allow CIRCLE to continue to support its CVF Alumni in ensuring their research is reaching those who need it most.

Image from Dr Abimbola Oluwaranti's CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund activity

CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund

As well as supporting individuals, CIRCLE sought to strengthen the capacity of institutions to support the career development of their researchers. 31 research institutions across 9 African countries were supported through the CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP). The CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund was designed to provide small amounts of seed funding to institutions to enable them to conduct activities related to their ISP Action Plan. Two rounds of Implementation Funding have been taken place to-date, with approximately £65,000 GBP being dispersed. In round 1, 18 institutions conducted 31 activities, while in round 2 16 institutions conducted 27 activities. A further two rounds of this fund will allow CIRCLE-participating institutions continued access to small grants to fund activities to help embed the ISP within their institution.

Inauguration of the Mentoring Handbook at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria. Funded through the CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund.

Non-CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund

The learning developed through the CIRCLE programme in how to strengthen capacity building processes at African research institutions has been captured in a series of six CIRCLE ISP Good Practice Guides which outline how to design, deliver and monitor an ISP at any institution.

In order to assess the effectiveness and suitability of the guides for wider use, a small grants scheme will be launched for non-CIRCLE institutions. As with the main CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund, universities would use the funding to support the organisation of workshops, training sessions or developing support materials such as in-house mentoring or training guides. This process allows the sharing of learning from CIRCLE beyond the scope of the programme; extending and enhancing its impact.

The Guides will also be widely promoted, and the first grants scheme will be launched during our 2020 Developing the Next Generation of Researchers workshop, which will be expanded to further disseminate the learning and expertise produced by CIRCLE.

The Climate and Resilience Framework Programme (CLARE)

As well as allowing us to continue to support our participants, the 2-year extension will allow CIRCLE to use its experience and expertise in capacity strengthening to inform the design of the capacity strengthening aspect of DFID’s new Climate and Resilience Framework Programme (CLARE). CIRCLE will carry out several scoping exercises to identify good practice across programmes within the DFID network, and contribute to recommendations on how to expand on successes to date.

For more information about CIRCLE, please email

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