Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement

Africa is particularly vulnerable to the environmental, social and economic impact of changes in climate, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggesting that Africa is likely to emerge as the most vulnerable region to climate change by 2100 (IPCC, 2007).

Despite consensus on the current and future impacts of climate change on Africa, there are significant uncertainties on the exact nature of future climatic changes. A better understanding is critical to developing sustainable and cost-effective responses. However, sufficient support and resources to build a solid research-base are lacking. Between 1981 and 2009, African scientists contributed less than 2% of global climate change publications. There are a number of initiatives in Africa helping to address Africa’s climate change problems, but the research community remains in need of a boost.

The Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement in Sub-Saharan Africa (CIRCLE) programme is an initiative of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), and aims to address the above issues. The project adopted the dual approach of supporting individual academics to undertake research while also working with their institutions to develop better professional development systems for their researchers.

CIRCLE has been allocated GBP 4.85 million over 5 years (2014-2019). The programme will seek to facilitate the capacity of African researchers to develop relevant local solutions and improve uptake and use in local, national and regional policy and implementation. It will also enhance the output of African researchers by increased training and publications.

The programme does not work in isolation, and seeks to contribute to local, national and regional policy agendas and the initiatives of organisations already working in climate change in Africa, as well as those yet to come. It is important that the individual researchers and academic institutions benefitting from this programme work in conjunction with existing frameworks to maximise their impact. The aim of the programme is not simply to produce a body of research, but to strengthen the mechanisms of research uptake and support institutions to develop and realise a clearly defined strategic approach to climate change research. 

The structure of CIRCLE

CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship (CVF)

Between 2014-2017, 100 CIRCLE Visiting Fellowships (CVF) were awarded to support research proposals on the impact of climate change across Africa. 39 Masters-qualified researchers and 61 PhD-qualified researchers received awards and spent 12 months at a host institution within Africa to further develop their research and expertise. For this element of the programme, the ACU partnered with The African Academy of Sciences (AAS), who managed the fellows for the duration of their fellowship year.

Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP)

Alongside the fellowships, an Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP) was developed, which aimed to strengthen the capacity of institutions involved in the programme and improve support for early career researchers. The ISP was managed by the ACU in partnership with Vitae.

The position of researchers and their institutions within global academia will be further strengthened through guidance from the Quality Support Component (QSC), a consortium of internationally renowned institutions, led by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at the University of Greenwich, UK. The consortium advises on developing and disseminating CIRCLE research that contributes to international discourse in the field.

CIRCLE organogramCVFs host and home institutions, and their involvement in the ISP

Circle Logo


ACUAfrican Academy of Sciences UK AID - Department for International Development

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