Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 123–136 | Cite as

Frontiers of solution-oriented adaptation research

  • Alexander BisaroEmail author
  • Rob Swart
  • Jochen Hinkel
Original Article


Adaptation is heterogeneous and relevant for a range of sectors and levels of decision-making. As adaptation moves up the policy agenda, solution-oriented adaptation research requires addressing questions that are salient to stakeholders and decision-makers at various scales and involves applying a wide range of different methods. Yet while solution-oriented adaptation research is being increasingly undertaken, there is to date a lack of synthesis of these experiences in the literature. In this paper, we aim to address this gap by synthesising findings in nine cases from the MEDIATION project (Methodology for Effective Decision-making on Impacts and AdaptaTION), an EC-funded solution-oriented adaptation research project. We do so by, first, describing methods applied for solution-oriented research in Europe and sequences of methods carried out in individual cases. Second, we assess strengths and weaknesses of individual methods in given empirical situations. Third, we analyse patterns observed in the sequences of methods and reflect on their implications for adaptation research. A strength of our approach is that detailed data on choices of research questions and methods were collected through in-depth and iterative interaction with the case study teams. We find that there is no standard recipe for adaptation; that even though social science methods are often indicated, they are often not applied; and that robust decision-making methods, while available, are often constrained because of their resource intensity. Reflecting on the implications of these findings, we argue that greater flexibility and transdisciplinarity are needed in adaptation research and that social science methods should be further supported. Finally, we find that stakeholder engagement is not a panacea and that engagement requires a more differentiated understanding of stakeholders and careful design in order to be effective.


Adaptation Climate change Robust decision-making Institutions Impact assessment Social science Europe 



This research has received funding from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant agreement No. 244012. We thank two anonymous reviews for comments on previous versions of this paper. The work would not have been possible without the constructive inputs of all members of the MEDIATION project team.

Supplementary material

10113_2015_766_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (240 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 240 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Adaptation and Social LearningGlobal Climate Forum (GCF)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Alterra Wageningen URWageningenThe Netherlands

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