“The bridge between science and practice”: embedded researchers share experiences and insights
May 2, 2018

Tackling climate change in cities involves a wide array of coordinated and sustained actions across a range of sectors and scales, requiring collaboration and shared knowledge.

Embedded research is one approach to address this complexity – it involves co-producing robust and actionable knowledge, thereby strengthening the governance of climate change in cities.

In the context of the Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands (FRACTAL) project, universities and city government agencies work together on a joint research agenda. Embedded researchers work with city officials, policy-makers and scientists to translate existing knowledge from research into policy and practice and vice versa, and to develop new knowledge around shared urban development and climate change questions.

This article shares experiences and insights from embedded researchers operating in five southern African cities involved in FRACTAL, as well as the embedded researchers coordinator.

To learn more about the embedded research approach within FRACTAL, read the interview with Anna Taylor, embedded researchers coordinator, published in ProSus Magazine.

FRACTAL is a four year project within the multi-consortia Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) programme – jointly funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Embedded researchers in action

Watch FRACTAL’s embedded researchers in action – from interviewing city residents to moderating Learning Labs, and read about their experiences:


Ten tips to beginner embedded researchers

Embedded research is a challenging but rewarding experience. FRACTAL’s embedded researchers and embedded researchers coordinator share their advice to young people embarking on this path.

  1. Do not work in isolation. Prepare to be a bridge between different organizations, and continue building communication and interpersonal skills in order to fulfill your role of ‘neutral’ go-between. 
  2. Build trust with colleagues. Always thrive to build and maintain trust, as the embedded researcher role is a process of continuous learning and engagement.
  3. Don’t feel anxious when progress seems slow. Solid products and relationships take time to develop.
  4. Always be ready to try new approaches. Be proactive, dynamic, ambitious and bold.
  5. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open because sometimes valuable information and opportunities come from unexpected places and people.
  6. Do not be afraid to ask for help with tasks that you do not fully understand.
  7. Do not panic when you feel overwhelmed with new information and new demands, take your time, read and learn more … this is when the biggest learning happen.
  8. Learn to say “no” (nicely). Do not overload and overcommit yourself – learn to say “no” when colleagues ask too much of you.
  9. Keep a journal. Start keeping a journal as soon as you start because reflecting on what you see, hear and do helps to make sense of it.  
  10. Go for it! It will seem daunting and unfamiliar, but you will learn so much and become a more skilled, knowledgeable and networked researcher and/or practitioner.

Thanks to Anna Taylor, embedded researchers coordinator, and to the embedded researchers who contributed to this article: Brenda Mwalukanga (Lusaka), Hécralito Mucavele (Maputo), Kornelia Iipinge (Windhoek), Lulu van Rooyen (Durban), Rudo Mamombe (Harare) and Sandra Zenda (Harare).

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