16 December 2020
By Prof Ruth Garside and Dr Jacqui Eales, University of Exeter 

With the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Communities Project 1 team has been busy, ensuring that the team (which comprises the UK partners and dedicated teams in each partner country) has all the tools it needs to progress with the evidence syntheses.

Travels, trainings and workshops
At the start of 2020, Prof Ruth Garside and Dr Jacqui Eales travelled to Indonesia to deliver evidence synthesis methodology training to our partners. We were kindly hosted by our colleagues at CSERM - Indonesia, (particular thanks to Radisti, Wulan and Carya for arranging our visit) and were joined by some of our Malaysian partners (Aizat and Iqbal).

We also took this opportunity to expand the capacity building workshop to include other researchers, staff and academics at Universitas Nasional (UNAS), as well as other colleagues working in the field, via the GESI network. Jacqui was honoured to deliver a public lecture at UNAS, which was fronted by a traditional performance from the University’s student performing arts society. One the visit had concluded, Ruth and Jacqui made it back to the UK just in time, as Covid-19 events began to gather speed.

Blue communities partner systematic reviews progress
Later in the year, Dr Nguyen Phuong Thao joined the Project 1 team, leading the production of the Vietnamese systematic review: “What is the influence on socio-economic well-being of UNESCO biosphere reserves in Southeast Asia?” Dr Thao has published her systematic review protocol using the online repository Zenodo and is well into the searching and screening phase of her review.

Dr Aizat Zain is finalising the Malaysian systematic review protocol: “What are the impacts of marine protection site implementation towards poverty reduction in terms of material and economic living standards of coastal communities in South East Asia?”

Both these systematic reviews springboard from the systematic map, using the already available evidence and will supplement the evidence with newly retrieved primary evidence.

Publishing and publicising our Project 1 work
The interactive systematic map has been available online for several months and has been supporting researchers by providing an easily accessible database of research on the interaction between marine conservation interventions and human health and well-being in Southeast Asia. The manuscript for the peer-reviewed paper to present the systematic map is in the final stages of review and is on track for online publication in early 2021.

We presented at an online conference, the “1st International Symposium on Human Health & the Ocean in a Changing World" (2-3 December, 2020), where a bite-size presentation on the systematic map was given. Prof. Lora Fleming, one of the Blue Communities PIs, was a member of the scientific committee and led the programme for the conference.

Opportunities and challenges this year
As a desk-based project, Project 1 is one of the Blue Communities projects least directly affected by the pandemic. However, our challenges have been in the difficulties our colleagues in the UK and partner countries face when working from home. These include having limited access to resources and internet capabilities, difficulties in juggling work and life and the increased demands of other projects, which have had to transition to desk based activities.

On the other hand, colleagues have reduced or eliminated the time and health pressures of commuting to offices (we think specifically of the traffic congestion in Jakarta!), and become adept at remote communications. We hope some of the positives to emerge from the pandemic may continue to benefit the Project 1 team as we move towards the latter stage of the programme.

To return to Blue Communities News December 2020, please click here.
  • Prof. Ruth Garside gives a presentation in Indonesia
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