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Embedding scientific research in the Caribbean with funding from NWO

On January 7th Minister van Engelshoven of Education, Culture and Science of The Netherlands announced that the project Island(er)s at the Helm: Co-creating sustainable and inclusive solutions for social adaptation to climate challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean is one of two projects awarded with funding from the NWO Caribbean Research programme.

Immediate action

Since the first occupation of the islands, hurricanes and the devastation of coastal areas have significant ecological and social implications for the (Dutch) Caribbean. These are deeply impacting the basic living conditions (water, food, shelter) and heritage of the island inhabitants. A group of scholars so the need for immediate action. 

Island(er)s at the Helm brings together researchers and societal partners to combine technical, traditional, and contemporary knowledge practices to co-create sustainable and inclusive strategies for social adaptation to these climatic challenges. A trans-Atlantic academic platform will be developed fostering research-based education on climate challenges for the six islands. Moreover, a regional expertise center on climate challenges, where the Dutch Caribbean researchers can find employ, is one of the end objectives of this programme. This center will be jointly managed by the University of St. Martin, University of Curacao, University of Aruba (Dr. Eric Mijts of the SISSTEM project), and the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute. These institutions have committed to working towards this integration by offering joint courses in cooperation with institutes in the region and the wider Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A large part of the Island(er)s at the Helm group at the National Archaeological Museum Aruba. Fltr top: Liliane de Geus (UNESCO workgroup Bonaire), Antonio Carmona Báez (USM), Francio Guadeloupe (UvA, KITLV), Corinne Hofman (LU, KITLV), Ergün Erkoçu (UoC), Ellen van Bueren (TU Delft). Fltr bottom: Harold Kelly (NAMA), Menno Hoogland (KITLV), Sharelly Emanuelson (Uniarte), Tibisay Sankatsing Nava (KITLV) (photo: Tibisay Sankatsing Nava).

Common goals

From 2 to 13 March 2020, a team of researchers and societal partners travelled to the six Dutch Caribbean islands to organize outreach seminars and bring together researchers and local stakeholders to discuss the initial ideas and set-up of the NWO programme Island(er)s at the Helm. The main objective of the seminars was to discuss the climate change challenges that face the Caribbean island(er)s; to define common goals of interest towards social adaptation to climate change; to broaden and consolidate the prospective network of partnerships; and to start off discussions to co-create questions and approaches to shape the full proposal. These conversations contributed to the final Island(er)s at the Helm programme.

One of many co-development meetings organized in March 2020, this one at St. John’s School in Saba. During these meetings, ideas were presented to, and discussed with, local stakeholders and community members in preparation of the full scientific proposal of Island(er)s at the Helm for NWO (photo: Menno Hoogland).

Transfer of knowledge

The emphasis within this NWO programme is on the structural strengthening of the knowledge system and the embedding of scientific research in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. NWO wants to achieve this goal by means of two large multidisciplinary research programmes that are carried out and anchored in the region itself.

The research programmes focus on issues of great social and scientific importance to the Caribbean region and promote the transfer of knowledge through education and outreach. Never before has NWO funded programs of this size in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. 

Project team

The Island(er)s at the Helm project is chaired by Dr. Francio Guadeloupe (University of Amsterdam/KITLV), with co-applicants Prof. dr. Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University/KITLV), Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez (University of St. Martin), and Prof. dr. ir. Filomeno A. (Boey) Marchena (University of Curaçao). 

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