News from the START Secretariat

Thank you for Giving Back to START

START is kicking off its first ever fundraising campaign to provide flexible funds for our innovative programs. You can help us train the next generation of climate scientists and policy-makers in Africa and Asia.

Please consider making a donation to help us meet our "Giving Back" goal to raise $10,000 (U.S. dollars) by 31 December.  If you've benefited from a START program or timely announcement, please consider "giving back" to START.  Even gifts of $20 make a big difference.

Click here to learn more about Giving Back.

Thank you to our wonderful alumni who have already contributed! 

START's Board of Directors Meets in Paris

START's Board of Directors (left to right): Khotso Mokhele, Mohamed Hassan, Roland Fuchs, Gordon McBean (Board Chair), Heide Hackmann, Hassan Virji (ex officio member), and Ghassem Asrar (A.H. Zakri was absent with regrets)

The 6th Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors of START International, Inc. was held 21-23 September 2014 in Paris, France. The meeting was hosted by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and brought together START Board members, staff, regional representatives and invited guests. Discussion was fruitful; highlights include:

  • Approval of a new Operational Business Plan for START that prioritizes actions for 2015-2017;

  • Endorsement of changes to START regional structure in Africa and Asia-Pacific that will include the addition of “START Regional Affiliates” – actions-based partnerships that focus on joint implementation of activities to advance common goals;

  • The Board’s overwhelming approval of the Secretariat’s recent pilot of “START Regional Fellow” posts, acknowledgement of the productive contributions that current Fellows are providing to START program and outreach and discussion of how to sustain these posts in coming years;

  • Collaborative brainstorming to identify potential new entry points for START’s engagement with regional and international initiatives like Future Earth, IPBES and PROVIA; and

  • In-depth discussion of START development needs that produced a series of recommendations for the coming year, including approval of funds to organize a small GEC Education strategy meeting to re-ignite START action on this front in Africa.


START presents at the WASCAL/ZEF Conference

START staffer Senay Habtezion carried the START flag while attending the conference “Climate Change in Africa: Negotiations, Translations, and Socio-political Implications,” hosted by the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) and Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn, Germany on September 10-12, 2014. Numerous papers were presented on topics such as:

  • Political aspects of climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction/management (DRR/M), 

  • Risk perception and social response; 

  • Role of education, research and capacity development in emergency preparedness and DRM and livelihoods and aspirations.

Senay presented a paper on the institutional and political context of DRR/M in African cities. Lively discussions, group deliberations, and working groups followed. Parallel to presentations, there was also a 3-day poster session. START featured posters explaining our vision/mission and capacity development framework. Recommendations from the conference highlighted the need for more research on political dimensions of DRR and CCA in African countries and more effort to narrow the science - policy - practice gap.

START maintains a collaborative agreement with WASCAL and the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS) at University of Ghana (a START affiliate). The collaboration focuses on implementing science communication curriculum in tertiary education.



START Staff Travels

Other START Secretariat Staff have also been representing START around the world: 

  • Katie Dietrich presented at the African Climate for Development strategy meeting in October in Marrakech on capacity development for the climate sciences in Africa. 

  • Clark Seipt represented START and its capacity building goals at the 2014 Meeting of the International Group of Funding Agencies (IGFA) and Belmont Forum in Beijing, China in early October.  

  • Katie Dietrich also presented about capacity development for climate risk management and resilience at an FAO-sponsored side event at an international symposium in Washington DC. 

  • Executive Director Hassan Virji is representing START throughout Asia during his month as a visiting professor at Kyoto University. Read more about his time in Asia here.

September Training Event on Robust Decision Making


In September, START, in collaboration with RAND Corporation, held a workshop in Shanghai to train a select group of planners and decision makers in "Integration of Social Vulnerability into Robust Decision Making (RDM)." The training used game theory to help participants them frame and ask the right analytical questions, and introduce them to the technical tools that can help answer these questions. Some participants received follow-on fellowships to work closely with RAND researchers, spending 4 weeks at RAND offices in Santa Monica, California to apply RDM to their planning challenges.

The workshop program and presentations are available on START's website.   Read more or download materials about the RDM training here.



 News from START Regions


International Training at TEA-START

The 2014 APN-START International Training on Ecosystem-Climate Interactions was held from September 8-20, 2014 at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) in Beijing. This training provided young researchers and practitioners from Asian countries with advanced knowledge and skills in this fast-moving field. The training course is sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), and organized by the START Regional Center for East Asia (TEA-START). 16 international young scholars from 14 Asian countries attended. Experts from China, Australia, and USA gave state-of-art lectures in their fields.


Accolades for TEA-START

In a recently completed international evaluation carried out by a high level panel from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, TEA-START was recognized as "an excellent example of an important international achievement that has received worldwide attention."  All of us at START commend TEA Director Prof. Gensuo Jia and his staff at TEA-START on their commitment to advancing global change science and capacity in Temperate East Asia. Well done!

SEA-START Launches an Inter-disciplinary Research Program on Climate Change Adaptation

TheSoutheast Asia Regional Center for START (SEA-START) and Thailand Research Fund (TRF) are collaboratively launching one of the first inter-disciplinary research programs on climate change adaptation in Thailand. The purpose is to initiate holistic climate change adaptation strategies that will be mainstreamed into provincial and watershed development plans.  The program aims to increase resilience of various sectors, cities and communities and also increase the robustness of development plans in the future.

Supervised and designed by SEA-START, the program will be primarily based in the Thai Northeastern province of Udon Thani where 10 research teams from various academic institutes will conduct their studies to assess multiple aspects of climate adaptation issues. The researchers shall address both physical, climate-driven threats, as well as socioeconomic changes which may have impacts across multiple sectors (agriculture, water resource, and human settlement) and scales (provincial, watershed, and community).  Researchers will identify strategies, options, and recommendations for provincial strategy and development planning.


Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Upasna Sharma

Dr. Upasna Sharma was a PhD student in India when START sponsored her participation in the 2003 Young Scientist Conference in Trieste, Italy.  She remembers how exciting it was to be part of the conference with other PhD students from around the world.  She credits that international exposure as a turning point in her career. 

The following year, Upasna participated in a 3-week START Advanced Institute on Vulnerability to GEC at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. She was trained on analytic tools to conduct research on vulnerability to GEC, and called it an "amazing experience." Her experience at IIASA led her to accept a post-doctoral position there.

Upasna says START intersected with her career path at just the right moment.  She views START as unique in its focus on supporting young scientists.  Upasna knows of no other organization that has such an impressive scale of helping early career scientists.

Dr. Sharma is currently an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi where she teaches courses on environmental development and policy. Her research began in extreme weather events like early warning systems for cyclones. As her career has advanced, her research has examined microinsurance, governance structures for disaster management, and adaptation issues. Currently, she is working on assessing the economic value of agronomic advisories--seeking to answer questions like: do farmers use these advisories and do they impact farming processes and success indicators? 

We at START are delighted to have played a role in Dr. Sharma's career success and can't wait to see where she goes next.




Program Highlight: Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX)

There is a concerted push to enhance the uptake of downscaled climate model information in adaptation planning and related decision making. However, an oversupply of questionable climate data and an under-capacity to distinguish information content creates the potential for maladapted decisions and actions that impede societal efforts to respond effectively to climate change.

In response to the need for enhanced climate data literacy, START is partnering with the University of Cape Town’s Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG), under the the CORDEX-Africa program, to promote a ‘co-exploration’ approach to using climate data. Successful co-exploration entails engaging a full complement of user groups (from modelers to policy makers) in defining the decision making space into which climate model data is required, and evaluating the relevance of that data in the context of actual decisions to be made in a multi-stressor context. 

In 2013-14, the co-exploration approach was piloted across two workshops with urban decision makers in six African cities (Accra, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Lusaka, and Maputo) involving a cross-section of participants from academia, government, and civil society. Read more about the workshops and the step-wise co-exploration process here.
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