A workshop organised by the H2020 project MED-GOLD aims to ensure mutual understanding between climate scientists and farmers to achieve a successful development of climate services for agriculture.

MED-GOLD partners have met last Monday 11 February in Brussels on the occasion of a participatory workshop on user perspectives. The workshop had the objective to develop a user-centred definition for climate concepts that are important in the decision-making context of users from the agriculture sector. However, as such concepts are often not understood in the same way by scientists and users from the agricultural sector, they are often responsible for the lack of understanding between both communities.

The lack of a common and agreed terminology, also faced by other ongoing climate service-related initiatives, was identified at the early stages of the MED-GOLD project, when our partners from the grape and wine sector indicated their willingness to use climate forecasts as long as their reliability was at least 70% for seasonal forecasts and 80% for longer-term predictions. In this context, although the term reliability was clear for users, i.e. a prediction that you can trust, the interpretation by climate scientists was different as they tend to consider a prediction reliable if the predicted percentage probability is correct, on average, the same percentage of times: no more and no less. That is, if the prediction gives 50% probability of rain, such prediction should be correct 50% of the times (in this case reliability is independent from the predicted percentage). Similar disparate interpretations occur with other terms, such as the skill of climate predictions, which despite being a key concept to decide whether or not a particular prediction should be applied for decision-making, it is totally unfamiliar to the user community.

A key conclusion arising from the workshop is that terminology is pivotal to the successful co-development of climate services. However, rather than sticking to the technical concepts used by scientists, it is imperative that such terminology is discussed and co-developed between users and scientists to allow a shared understanding of the key concepts relevant to users’ decision-making. In this sense, MED-GOLD is currently working in the development of a glossary that aims to find a common ground. An effective co-production process of climate services is therefore required to transform climate information into the necessary added value for users from the agriculture sector. It is also important for both communities to understand that what was considered normal in the past is currently changing, and that the traditional knowledge that used to guide agricultural practices is no longer working under the new normal situation brought up by climate change.