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Refocusing the climate services lens: Introducing a framework for co-designing “transdisciplinary knowledge integration processes” to build climate resilience

This paper seeks to reconceptualize climate services in light of the prevailing inability of existing climate information to spur needed policy and action. It focusses on the transdisciplinary knowledge co-production process rather than the output of a climate services product.
Multiple Authors
Constituent elements of the Tandem framework, from p.11 of the publication.


Climate change adaptation research has been slow to impact policy and practice. Meeting the global challenge of our key international agendas requires decisions and actions underpinned by climate (and other) sciences. Facilitating the increased integration and use of decision-relevant climate and non-climate information (hereafterintegrated climate information) for decision-making is critical, particularly given the level and urgency of action needed to effectively limit and adapt to climate variability and extremes. Despite the tremendous potential to integrate climate and other types of information into decision-making, few products and services are well designed and/or well used.

This paper seeks to reconceptualize climate services to spur needed policy and action for climate change adaptation. It introduces the Tandem framework, which aims to guide co-exploration and co-production processes. The Tandem framework consists of structured elements, and practical, guiding questions informed by empirical analysis (see online Tandem guidance).

*Download the full article from the right hand column. The key messages from the report are provided below. See the full text for much more detail.


To explore the challenges and opportunities for improving the use of climate services, we distributed a survey to recipients of the news-letters of the Climate Services Partnership (CSP) and the online climate adaptation platform, weADAPT in April 2017. Out of the 30 respondents, 17 (57%) identified as providers, 23 (77%) as intermediaries and 17 (57%) as users, representing a range of sectors. 19 respondents (63%) self-identified across more than one “type” – provider, intermediary or user – recognizing the limiting nature of categorizing traditional roles.

To identify the most prevalent perceived barriers and responses, we posed the following research questions: “What barriers exist to the effective use of climate information?” and “What potential responses exist to increase the use of climate information?

In Lusaka, Zambia, a series of Learning Labs sought to enhance the use of climate information in medium- and long-term urban planning using transdisciplinary co-production and co-exploration processes. We selected 19 documents from the Lusaka process (March 2016 – November 2018) as material for analysis. Following review of all documents for text relevant to the process (Outcomes, Elements and Characteristics), we inductively developed nodes under these categories that shaped the design of the Tandem framework.


A wide range of perceived barriers to the effective use of climate information emerge, as expected, from survey responses. Frequently cited examples include the following:

  • Weak or ad hoc relationships and interaction between traditional “provider” and “user” groups.
  • Incomplete understanding on the part of scientists regarding broader decision contexts beyond climate.
  • A mismatch in spatial, institutional and temporal scales of research and those of decision-making and policy.
  • Underestimation of the value of integrating different knowledge types (scientific, practical, local).
  • Narrow perceptions of types of decision-makers and stakeholders; and,
  • Confusion among decision-makers from fragmented information, inconsistencies in results and varying formats from multiple sources of information, and the use of technical language and terminology.

Potential responses to increase the use of climate information cited by respondents include:

  • Create decision-relevant information.
  • Integrate different knowledge types.
  • Build relationships and engagement between actors.
  • Strengthen the capacity of climate scientists to work with decision-makers.
  • Improve data translation and risk communication.
  • Strengthen the capacity of decision-makers to interpret and use data.
  • Employ approaches to improve data accessibility.
  • Build and maintain credibility.
  • Share good practices.

From our documentation analysis of the climate information co-production process in Lusaka, we found short-term “outcomes” and positive markers of early change that suggest potentially wide-reaching benefits:

  • A deeper understanding of climate change and local impacts;
  • Increased awareness of the urgency of action required to adapt to these impacts;
  • Increased ability and confidence among participants to ask deeper, more informed questions of each other, and to co-explore assumptions in producing climate information;
  • Increased awareness of other stakeholders and the need for, and development of, collaborative relationships between partners and networks;
  • Shifts in personal behaviour choices;
  • The integration of climate information into ongoing plans and projects.

A proposed framework: Tandem

Based on our analyses, we introduce a framework (Tandem) that consists of a structured set of elements (see figure at the top right of this page and practical guiding questions.

The Tandem elements are not linear. Indeed, elements are iterative and interrelated, and, in practice, they require revisiting, as actors deepen their awareness, understanding and capacity. While a continuity of process is important, so, too, are flexibility and adaptability in designing engagements.

The guiding questions of the Tandem framework emphasize iterative stakeholder identification and engagement, and the co-exploration of issues and context to better understand not only climate and non-climate drivers but also local governance and decision-making landscapes.

Tandem emphasizes the participation of a diversity of stakeholders from across disciplines, science and society, socio-economic strata, and the policy and practice interface.

Tandem offers guidance to achieve three goals:

  1. To improve the ways in which all participants work togetherto purposefully design transdisciplinary knowledge integration processes(co-exploration and co-production processes that bring together different knowledge types across the science-society interface);
  2. To co-explore decision-relevant needs for the co-production of integrated climate information(i.e., decision-relevant climate and non-climate information); and
  3. To increase individual and institutional capacities, collaboration, communication and networks that can translate this information into climate-resilient decision-making and action.

Limitations and areas for further work

The Lusaka case, while exploring many differentiated vulnerabilities and solutions, does not address all situations.

Need for further research into the design and implementation of effective and accountable monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) of long-term outcomes and intangible benefits of such processes.

Further work is required to understand what is needed within processes to support sustainable, long-term use of integrated climate information in decision-making and related partnerships.


Climate scientists (traditionally called “providers”) and decision-makers and stakeholders (traditionally called “users”) must both “provide” and “use” information.

There is a need to build human and institutional capacities, and to establish critical networks and relationships that set the stage for both science-informed policy and for policy-informed science.

Tandem shifts the existing paradigm in two ways. First, it makes the collaboration process itself a focal point. Second, it expands the aims beyond climate per se, to purposefully seek broader benefits (e.g. increased capacity and new relationships) that provide the foundation for science-informed policies and decisions of any nature to gain traction in a complex world.

Suggested citation

Daniels, E., Bharwani, S., Gerger Swartling, Å., Vulturius, G. and Brandon, K. (2020). Refocusing the climate services lens: Introducing a framework for co-designing “transdisciplinary knowledge integration processes” to build climate resilience. Climate Services, 19. 100181. DOI: 10.1016/j.cliser.2020.100181

Further reading

Tandem case studies:

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