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Leaving a Legacy

Case Study - Ensuring a Programme's Legacy is Secure

Research initiatives will more easily maximise their impact if KE processes can continue after the research phase has been completed – and perhaps even after the whole initiative has drawn to an end. Dr Jo House of the University of Bristol describes how the QUEST (Quantifying and Understanding the Earth System) programme made sure it left an influential legacy following its conclusion in autumn 2011.    

The fundamental aim of QUEST was to pull together many different strands of science and so aid understanding of global environmental change. Starting in 2006, it ran for five years and supported a multitude of mostly UK-based research projects, with a focus on three principal areas: modelling into the future, interpreting palaeoclimatic data, and understanding human impacts on the global environment.

As with many major research programmes, some of the projects ran literally right up to the very end of QUEST. It was essential to set up mechanisms that would allow us to feed relevant outputs through into Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, for example. Other key post-programme aims included organising the ‘finale’ event and producing a book that would bring all of QUEST’s primary findings together in one, accessible place.  

In fact, so much activity was needed that QUEST’s resource for KE had to be ramped up towards the end of the programme, continuing after it ended.

This included taking on an additional liaison officer within the core QUEST team. As well as supplementing staffing levels, though, it was also critical to keep existing team members together. For instance, my five-year contract as Science and Policy Officer, which included stakeholder liaison as one of its main functions, was extended by a year beyond the life of the programme. 

This continuity of personnel was vital to maximising the impact and value of QUEST’s research.

Unless we’d been able to maintain the experience and expertise we’d built up, plus of course the relationships we’d developed with researchers and research users alike, it would have been much harder for QUEST to achieve its KE goals. In particular, we’re delighted that the book ‘Understanding the Earth System’ ( was published in August 2012. We believe it will be of huge help to policy-makers and students, as well as to scientists not directly involved in the field of climate change.

Gearing up KE activities towards the official end of QUEST and continuing them afterwards hasn’t just proved useful – it’s been crucial to securing the programme’s legacy.