Title: Understanding recent precipitation variability: from a scientific to a policy and development lens
Abstract: “Science policy” is a buzz phrase without a common definition, and it is often hard to pinpoint where science has been infused in the policy-making process. It can also be difficult to determine how one can effectively engage in the policy realm as a scientist. In this talk, I hope to demystify some of these challenges, drawing from recent experiences. First, I will present a high level overview of a recent study seeking to untangle the precipitation signal in the West African Sahel during recent El Niño years. Prior research has shown that dry conditions tend to persist in the Sahel when El Niño develops. Yet, during the historic 2015 El Niño, Sahel summer precipitation was anomalously high, particularly in the second half of the season. This seeming inconsistency motivates a reexamination of the variability of precipitation during recent El Niño years. Results show that nuance exists in the precipitation signal and must be effectively communicated for societal relevance of the research. Additionally, I will highlight how lessons learned as a researcher during this study provided a strong foundation for a transition to science policy work, including with a legislative and development lens.