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Towards bridging the gap between science and policy: SAEON conducts GIS training at Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres

By Asiphe Sahula, Scientific Programme Officer, SAEON
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SAEON’s Chief Data and Information Officer, Wim Hugo, conducted a GIS training session for the Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres hosted by the University of Fort Hare, supported by colleagues Asiphe Sahula, Leo Chiloane, and Hayden Wilson.

Global change, and specifically climate and other environmental changes, are set to impact many of the economic, social and bio-physical sectors of South African society.

Decision-makers in these sectors need information on the impact and risk of global change to make informed decisions on how to respond to these changes.

In 2008, the DST adopted a Ten-Year Innovation Plan aimed at propelling the country towards a knowledge economy. The Ten-Year Plan is underpinned by five grand challenges, one of which is Science and Technology for Global Change.

The South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas (SARVA) is one of the flagship projects under the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Ten-Year Global Change Grand Challenge. The Atlas is meant to bridge the gap between science and policy by providing information to decision-makers on the risk, vulnerability and impacts associated with global change.

In July 2015, SAEON was appointed by the DST for a three-year period to manage and execute work in relation to SARVA.

Disseminating knowledge on risk and vulnerability

Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres (RVSCs) are a product of the DST mandated to generate and disseminate knowledge on risk and vulnerability and global change challenges to local municipalities and other potential users. These centres are under the stewardship of previously disadvantaged rural-based universities, providing opportunities to enhance their capacities and capabilities in the areas of climate and environmental change and assist local communities in responding to these changes.

The centres are also aimed at enhancing the effective utilisation of the Risk and Vulnerability Atlas. It is therefore important to strengthen the relationship between the RVSCs and SARVA going forward and to understand the needs of the RVSCs and how the centres can contribute to SARVA. Skills transfer and capacity development at the RVSCs is a key objective of the SARVA project.

GIS training

On 31 August, SAEON conducted a GIS training session for the RVSCs, hosted by the University of Fort Hare RVSC. Participants in the training included the RVSC directors, GIS technicians/interns, postdoctoral fellows, researchers and postgraduate students from all three centres. Prior to the training, the participants were asked to complete a geospatial skills analysis survey to assist the SAEON-SARVA team to prepare skills-relevant material for the training.

The training covered the following topics:

  • A general introductory session that highlighted the data infrastructure that SAEON currently has for Spatial Data Management
  • Metadata and spatial data services
  • Using remote-sensed data services in the cloud
  • Conceptual overview - Spatial analysis

The training was supplemented with guidance documentation for the RVSCs that covers topics such as metadata management, software choices, data management and storage/services, persistent identifiers for data, and other aspects of responsible data management.

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