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Meet our Experts: Mathias James Venning

Mathias is a PhD candidate working in work package 1 in CONFER. He is a social scientist and his work focuses on understanding the “value chain” of climate services.

Tell me a bit about your role at NORCE

I began at NORCE in 2020 working as a research assistant for Work Package 1 in the CONFER project, in what was meant to only be a 3-month internship as part of my Master’s programme! Fast forward 18 months and I have recently started my PhD, luckily finding myself a part of the growing contingent of scientists at NORCE interested in both inter- and transdisciplinary research in the development of climate services in sub-Saharan Africa. I am very interested in how we can produce useable and useful information that connects with real people, in a sustainable way. My own research project aims to improve our understanding of how, what, why and by whom climate information is produced and disseminated – unpacking this concept of a climate services ‘value chain’.

Why are you excited about the CONFER project and what do you think it could achieve?

I think CONFER is so special as it has a strong focus on connecting the science with real people, and perhaps more importantly a focus on doing it sustainably by engaging with regional and national stakeholders in East Africa. This has often not been the case in past climate services projects! Being able to help produce tangible services that will have an impact is hugely exciting. As a social scientist, how the concept of co-production has been embedded within CONFER is also important. I think CONFER can really pave the way for not just improved climate services but improved relationships and shared understandings for future research.

What is your specific role in CONFER?

I work as a part of Work Package 1, which is focused on the co-production component of CONFER. Primarily for me, this has meant working with others in the group on an extensive literature review and systematic mapping of the current landscape of climate services in East Africa. We need to understand the current landscape of climate services to help us not only prioritise which services we want to enhance but also identify current gaps in climate services provision across the target sectors. It has also been essential to learn from past projects to adopt those learnings into our own work. We have also been undertaking an ongoing stakeholder mapping and user needs assessment.