Priority Water Research Questions for South Africa Developed Through Participatory Processes

Siebrits et al. (2014) full text summary PDF

For which topic were research priorities identified?


In which location was the research priority setting conducted?

Africa - South Africa

Why was it conducted at all?

Few coun tries have had the opportunity to radically transform water resource legislation and research in order to address fundamen tal socio-economic needs, and enable equity and social justice. Many of the principles in the Act represent a mix of modernist and postmodernist paradigms, and Funke (2007, p. 66) states that ‘in many ways this shift in water policy mimics the shift in thinking in certain progressive research circles: from one which focuses on the physical laws of nature and the principles that drive society and what we are capable of doing through technological intervention, toward one which is driven by a strong set of values and the question of what ought we to do?' This paper considers this question further in suggesting that one way of contributing to the ‘ought' is to develop a series of water research questions that demand priority attention.

What was the objective?

to identify and prioritize current and future water research questions

What was the outcome?

a ranking list of 59 research questions

How long did the research prioritization take?

May 2012 - December 2012

Which methods were used to identify research priorities?

survey; workshop

How were the priorities for research identified exactly?

Step 1: survey: participants were asked for research questions and also asked to state how long they thought each proposed question would take to answer, what keywords or categories the question related to, and to comment on their question, 1674 questions submitted. Step 2: data processing: submitted question reviewed and refined, check against evidence, questions categorized into six main topics, resulting in 401 questions. Step 3: workshop: in small group sessions participants were asked to reduce longlist of 401 questions, resulting in 90 questions, small groups then asked to reduce list further, resulting in 59 priority water research questions across the 6 themes

Which stakeholders took part?

Water specialists. Survey: 641 participants. Workshop: 34 participants.

How were stakeholders recruited?

Specialist participants, chosen for their experience in their field or within water-related research, were identified from amongst the respondents by using their profile of answers provided in the survey and through consultation with the project manager and the WRC. Water specialists were also selected based on their organizational involvement, disciplinary interests and experience. Overall, 1.075 stakeholders were contacted and spoken to directly via individual telephone calls during May and June 2012 to be alerted to the survey. Along with these, 503 more were contacted via e-mail only.

Were stakeholders actively involved or did they just participate?

Stakeholders were mere participants of the research prioritization process; they were not actively involved in the process.