Research Fellow: ‘Exploring the Development and Implementation of Co-Produced Water Management Infrastructure Solutions to Adapt to Climate Change-Related Risk: The Intersection of Rural-Urban Areas in Medellin, Colombia’

University of Edinburgh

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Job Purpose

ESALA wishes to appoint a Research Fellow for a period of 20 months to support the project titled ‘Exploring the Development and Implementation of Co-Produced Water Management Infrastructure Solutions to Adapt to Climate Change-Related Risk: The Intersection of Rural-Urban Areas in Medellin, Colombia’ funded by British Academy Infrastructures of Well-being Programme. This project will be developed in collaboration with the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin.

The Research Fellow is an integral part of the project to offer a consistent level of research throughout. The nature and extent of the project spanning researchers in two continents, makes consistent assistance essential. Initial research will be dedicated to review primary and secondary literature and data sources identifying policy and institutional approaches to water management as well as, community-based and government initiated, resilience strategies in Medellin, Colombia.

The review will also require interviews with key Colombian actors and local stakeholders. Following this stage, the RF will contribute to work on the specific area of study and data collection, which will require knowledge and experience in developing and implementing qualitative research methods including semi-structure interviews, other forms of data collection and qualitative data analysis including using the software Nvivo. This work will be coordinated with Colombian-based researchers and project partners. The RF will also contribute to the organisation of international team meetings, to which she/he will be attending in the UK and in Colombia, assist with analysis and report writing and support ongoing dissemination activities. Impact is a key aspect of this project and the RF is expected to contribute to gathering evidence and writing up of any impact-related information. Consistent development and recording of fieldnotes, communication, field plans, interaction etc. is thus essential. It is fundamental that any activities undertaken by the RF and the project team are engendered and take place in collaboration with Colombian partners.

The post holder will require research experience, preferably in development, urban studies, urban design, planning, housing, and sociology in relation to climate change, resilience and smart city solutions. The RF also needs to demonstrate thet he/she has experience in successful project management independently and as part of a team. Tasks will also include coordinating activities between UK and Colombia, keep track of progress, and assisting with organisation and planning, supporting the PI, Co-Is and Management Group in the management and leadership activities of the project. Specific activities will include organisation of international team meetings, assisting with report writing, supporting ongoing dissemination activities, and developing and maintaining the project blog. An MPhil/ PhD in a relevant area of research such as the ones above or a related discipline is desirable.

The research fellow will need to be able to work independently, finishing assigned work to deadlines and able to implement the ideas and guidelines of the project investigators.

Main Responsibilities (Approx. % of time)

  1. Literature Review – Contribute to identifying policy, institutional and socio economic advantages as well as constraints in the context of infrastructure systems for water management in vulnerable urban settings. This review should have an international focus and will be coordinated with a local literature review, carried out by researchers based in Medellin, Colombia. This work will be initially carried out through literature reviews and surveys of primary and secondary sources (40%)

  2. Planning Policy Review – Contribute to the review of the planning legislation and instruments in international urban settings, similar to Medellin, in collaboration with Colombia-based researchers, who will undertake a local policy review. The approach is to understand strategies and solutions for water management that have potential for developing community-based knowledge. (10%)

  3. Research data collection – Contribute as part of an interdisciplinary team to identify data related to the selected case studies in the project, in collaboration with Colombian partners. This will include the writing up of workshops, focus groups, interviews, as well as the analysis of data obtained though qualitative data management systems such as Nvivo. (20%)

  4. Research development – Contribute to compiling and organising research material in relation to the topics of the project. Contribute to presenting research results through preparation of material for publication as research papers, book publications and other outputs of the project, in collaboration with the lead researchers. (10%)

  5. Establishment of procedures and planning of meetings –Support coordination of the work of the various researchers and partners associated with the study, including liaison with the project’s Management Group(PIs and Co-Is in the UK and in Colombia), to ensure adherence to study milestones and work plan, including progress reports, etc. (10%)

  6. Project Organisation and Workshops – Overall efficient day-to-day management of logistical aspects of the research project to support the Principal Investigator’s project management role so that the study meets its targets, adheres to the planned programme and produces meaningful outputs. Contribute to the preparation and organisation of fieldtrips and data collection. Contribute to the general running of the project aiding the preparation and outcomes of each project meeting. This should also include dissemination and findings sharing across academic communities and through social media. (10%)

Planning & Organising

It is essential that the Research Fellow is able to contribute to the regular organisation of the project as well as in assisting with the communication within the team and across partners, through the planned organised meetings and informal contact points. Therefore, and due to the nature of this international research spanning two continents, organisational skills, as well as excellwnt time and project management skills are a key aspect of this role.

The Research Fellow will agree a general plan of research with the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators and progress will be monitored at pre-scheduled meetings.

• Help plan and organise all meetings of the various researchers and partners associated with the study, including the Management Group, and any associated stakeholder groups.
• Manage all arrangements associated with setting up work around the proposed fieldtrips for this project including preparation of materials, arranging accommodation, briefing and obtaining informed consent from participants, arranging for note-takers and/or interpreters where necessary, managing any workshop assistants and their contributions, and producing high quality outputs that record the process and address the aims of the project.
• Manage and maintain records of all thematic components data, and secure storage of all project data.
• Draft research reports and publications for internal and external reporting to a professional level.
• Preparation and publication of research papers, exhibitions and other outputs for dissemination of findings using a range of media.

Problem Solving

Problem solving will be required to ensure the effective running and completion of the study. The Research Fellow will work in close collaboration with the Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators of this project. Any problems to be faced with regards to organisation of the workshops or progress of the research programme will be discussed, and solutions will be achieved under instruction by, and advice from the Principal Investigator and other support staff.

Problems may include such aspects as:
a) variability in the format, content and style of outputs obtained in different workshops
b) difficulty in maintaining contact with different participants and partners over the course of the study
c) changes and delays in the timing and sequence of different elements of the thematic components of the research.

The job-holder will be expected to think independently, however all decisions will be made in consultation with the Principal and Co-Investigators.

Some problem-solving will require careful reference to protocols and procedures (e.g. over University of Edinburgh ethical approval), and some will require exploration of good practice and precedent (e.g. in measures to maintain good contact with study participants).

Decision Making

All decisions will take place in discussion with Principal Investigator, who will agree and discuss scope of the work in terms of all research activities.

In general, the job-holder will be expected to make day-to-day decisions that support the good progress of the study and do not have scientific or budgetary implications that might be problematic. Such regular decision-making is likely to include: drafting of formats for reports and other progress documents and outputs; establishment of protocols for recording and storing all study data, in accordance with data protection legislation; preparing and updating a library of relevant literature to inform contextual understanding, data analysis and interpretation of results; responding to queries about the study.

Where decisions are needed that might result in significant changes to the study plan, funding or timing, these must be resolved in discussion with Principal Investigator to ensure that any implications are predicted and planned for appropriately.

Key Contacts/Relationships

The Research Fellow will interact with the Principal Investigators of this project as well as Co-Investigators and associates to the project at Universidad Nacional and Universidad Antioquia in Medellin, as well as other support staff in ESALA, Business School and ECA. External partners in Medellin are expected to include government departments, public enterprises, community organisations, consultants, etc.

Knowledge, Skills & Experience


  • First or upper second class Honours degree.
  • A bachelors or masters qualification in urban studies, urban development, planning, housing, sociology, or a relevant related discipline.
  • Ability to communicate fluently in Spanish and English, both in writing and verbally
  • Successful involvement in a research project (solo or as Research Associate)
  • Experience in qualitative research methods such as compilation of information and data, literature and policy review, survey of primary and secondary sources (interviews, etc.), and reporting on these.
  • Experience in writing research publications and in completing journal submissions.
  • Experience in successful project management and working as part of a team.
  • Experience in communication to different audiences, including academic and non-academic.
  • Ability to communicate clearly with a range of stakeholders as evidenced by excellent oral and written communication skills


  • An MPhil/ PhD in a relevant area of research as identified above.
  • Evidence of sole or co-authored, peer-reviewed journal publications or equivalent level exhibitions outputs.
  • Experience of preparing professional research consultancy reports
  • Experience in the preparation and running of research and knowledge exchange workshops
  • Experience of working with policymakers or practitioners in public agencies and consultancies
  • Experience of working and supporting a project split across diverse geographical locations


The project builds on a series of research activities that took place between 2015 and 2019 aimed to building research collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and a range of institutions in Colombia. These activities generated the development of the proposed project, as well as initial partnership with associated institutions. The project also builds on ongoing research around risk and resilience taking place in Medellin, Colombia and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

This project will continue engage with partners in Medellin, as well as in other countries sharing similar challenges, such as Mexico and Brazil, aiming to share findings and learn from this international network.

Job Context & Other Relevant Information

Increasing urbanisation along the edge of Medellin, characterised by informal growth influenced by (internal) conflict- and environmentally-based displacement, has produced vulnerable peri-urban areas that are exposed to risks, increasing with climate change. Understanding ‘habitat’ as ‘socially constructed’, where each individual’s input forms the collective ‘state of being’ within which they live (Latour 2005), this project aims to develop transdisciplinary knowledge and build capacity for policy implementation, through identifying and testing water management infrastructure solutions that are at the intersection of technical, social and environmental knowledge, to reduce environmental risks. This proposal’s innovative approach is rooted in the co-production of infrastructure solutions through climate-change participatory methodologies that engage local community knowledge, technical appraisals and institutional policy design and implementation. This will include identifying and scoping joint decision-making between communities and government agencies around neighbourhood planning in the rural-urban edge, aimed at reducing structural inequalities and risk, increasing social equity and wellbeing.

Research by Universities in Colombia and the UK around risk monitoring and mitigation at the household level, with a focus on landslides, has demonstrated that working directly with communities can lead to increased awareness and knowledge (UNAL, HWU, UoE). This indicates that communities are willing to interact and negotiate with institutions in setting up strategic approaches to minimize risks. Universidad de Antioquia (UA) and Universidad Nacional (UNAL) have also led diagnostic research on the broader NE sector of the city around water management infrastructures, which is providing knowledge to the Municipal government when managing risk. This work has identified the different threatening factors, for the guarantee of the citizens’ right to water, such as: mass movement, earthquakes, flooding, torrential avenue, forest fires, agrochemicals, fuel spills, deforestation and sewage collection. In addition, this work has established the levels of social fragility and marginalisation of the population, and finally, it has evaluated the state of the infrastructures of all the aqueducts in the NE sector of the city. This research has also led to identifying the role and nature of government institutions for management and monitoring the territory in line with the Municipal Risk Management Plan and the Municipal Emergency Strategy, and in articulation with the organisation that manages satellite data for early warning in Medellin and the Aburra Valley (SIATA).

Such previous research projects are generating overarching technical knowledge but leave a research gap around community-based knowledge and how water management risk reduction solutions can be implemented based on such knowledge, through communities and government organisations alike. Although initial management mechanisms have been identified through dialogue between local community boards and government organisations, ongoing research has not been able to develop and test appropriate water management infrastructure solutions, that engage with national and local investment programmes for neighbourhood improvement, which this project aims to contribute to. It is from these established negotiation channels that the infrastructure solutions this project seeks to explore will emerge. Solutions to develop would entail blurring the distinction between formal and informal infrastructures when ensuring wellbeing and the right to water in vulnerable areas. This will be achieved through gaining a better understanding of the different scales of infrastructures networks in relation to levels of responsibility, i.e. family/household, groups of neighbouring houses, community network at the neighbourhood level, and public network with institutional responsibility.

Although increasing risk awareness has generated significant national and local policy changes in Colombia, there has been little development in relation to the implementation of these policies nor the provision of suitable and inclusive infrastructures. An appropriate interaction across government organisations and between these government organisations and communities, in order to ensure that sustained change is achieved, is lacking. This project is therefore aligned with the increasing need for focused negotiation platforms in Medellin, where local government agencies and communities work collaboratively, combining resources and creating joined efforts. Drawing on the above ongoing research, this project will also build on community analysis, training programmes and community-readable representations of risk and hazards, that have been the focus of research at UA.

The overarching aim of this project is to develop transdisciplinary knowledge and build capacity for policy implementation, through identifying and testing water management infrastructure solutions that are at the intersection of technical, social and environmental knowledge, to reduce environmental risk in informal, vulnerable areas.

The project will thus develop and test three pilot infrastructure solutions in peri-urban areas that address a range of water-related challenges, contributing to current debates, as well as knowledge and policy development in the city around risk reduction. The problem-focused nature of this proposal builds on ongoing research involving the partners in this study around water-related risks, and broadens the research team to additional Colombian academic organisations (UA) as well as local government institutions (DAGRD and the Planning Department), community representatives, residents and NGOs (Convivamos and Corporación Penca) in order to achieve a range of negotiated risk reduction strategies in the intersection of rural and urban conditions. The proposed programme will work across scales and urban sectors developing and testing affordable water management infrastructure solutions, linking formal and informal knowledge, and their implementation, in line with government policy.

Application Procedure

All applicants should apply online by clicking the apply link at the bottom of this page and submitting an up to date CV. The application process is quick and easy to follow, and you will receive email confirmation of safe receipt of your application. The online system allows you to submit a CV and other attachments.

You will be notified by email whether you have been shortlisted for interview or not.
The closing date is 5pm on 13th Feburary 2020.

Right to Work

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To do so, the University requires to see original documents evidencing right to work in the UK before commencement of employment and this is normally carried out at interview. Details will be provided in any letter of invitation to interview.

For further information on right to work please visit our right to work webpage

If you are from outside the EEA and not currently eligible to work in the UK, there are visa routes that may be available to you, for example:

  1. Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): If you are an academic in the field of sciences; humanities; engineering; medicine; digital technology; or the arts, it may be possible for you to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. This route requires you to apply to be endorsed as an internationally recognised leader or emerging leader in your particular field by a designated competent body (Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, Tech City UK). However, if you are applying for a senior academic role, e.g. Professor/Reader there is an accelerated route to endorsement. Further information can be found on the UKVI website
  2. Tier 2: The University is a UKVI licensed sponsor and is able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to successful candidates who are offered highly skilled roles and meet the eligibility criteria. The CoS enables candidates to apply for a Tier 2 (general visa).

Please note if you were last granted leave to stay in the UK in any Tier 2 category in the 12 months immediately preceding an application and the leave has
• ended or expired.
• the CoS which led to that grant of leave was issued for more than 3 months, and
• you are either:
o applying for entry clearance from outside the UK, or
o you are in the UK and had a previous period of Tier 2 leave, but then changed (‘switched’) into a different immigration category and now wishes to apply again under Tier 2.
You must wait 12 months before applying again.

Further information about whether you require a visa and other visa routes can be found at:

Conditions of Employment

Pension Scheme

This role is grade UE07 and therefore the post holder is automatically included in membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), subject to the USS membership criteria, unless they indicate that they choose not to join the Scheme.

For further information please visit our Pensions website.


The role is grade UE07 and attracts an annual salary of £33,797 to £40,322, pro rata, for 35 hours each week. Salary is paid monthly by direct transfer to your Bank or Building Society account, normally on the 28th of the month. Salaries for part-time staff are calculated on the full-time scales, pro-rata to the Standard Working Week.







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