For seven years now, the Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET) has worked to build knowledge, strengthen policy processes, and foster collaborations among diverse organizations committed to the sustainable development of the Mekong Region.

SEI Asia serves as the SUMERNET Secretariat, working with the more than 40 partner organizations and 100 researchers in the region with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).

Now SUMERNET network partners are preparing to publish a book, Livelihoods, ecosystem services and the challenges of regional integration in the Mekong region, drawing on research from the 10 projects that SUMERNET has been conducting across the Greater Mekong Sub-Region.

To help the researchers write their chapters – and also prepare articles for journals – SUMERNET has organized two “writeshops”: the first on 15-17 August, the second on 16-18 October, each covering five projects, with two representatives per project.

The first writeshop, chaired by key SUMERNET mentor and SEI Associate Dr. Louis Lebel, of the Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Chiang Mai University, covered the assessment of the vulnerability of livelihoods, payment for forest environmental services (PFES), contract farming, urbanization, and the trans-boundary fish trade.

Expert advice

Each team received support from expert mentors working in the region: Dr. Peter Degen from the Mekong River Commission in Laos supported the team working on the trans-boundary fish trade; Dr. Timothy Boyle from the United Nations REDD project advised the team researching PFES; Dr. Malin Beckman from SEI Asia worked with the vulnerability assessment team.

The urbanization team was supported by Dr. Carl Middleton from Chulalongkorn University, and Dr. Hu Tao, lead author from China of the SUMERNET book, outlined his plans to analyze the environmental impacts of Chinese Investment in the sub-region.

Further support and facilitation was provided by staff members from SEI Asia led by Dr. Chayanis Krittasudthacheewa, the SUMERNET programme manager.

The first of these research projects began in December 2010. At this point, all five teams have completed their fieldwork and are either analyzing their data or beginning to write their chapters. While the authors are all experts in their topics, however, they are not necessarily experienced in this type of writing – much less in English. The writeshops aim to help fill this gap.

The mentors at the first writeshop provided advice and guidance to the teams as they worked hard to fine-tune their conceptual frameworks and develop detailed plans for their chapters and journal articles. Dr. Lebel shared his experience on the writing process, offering insights on why we write, how to distinguish between different types of papers, writing extended outlines, and more.

A positive outlook
All five teams made significant progress over the five days and were enthusiastic about returning to work with their colleagues to complete the writing process. A participant from Cambodia remarked: “I learnt a lot of ideas about how to write scientific reports, book chapters and journal articles. I will share what I learnt and keep in touch with my mentor by email.”

A Vietnamese researcher commented that the experience was “good for our project writing and will be good for my students”. The participants all rated their overall satisfaction with the writeshop between 8 and 10 out of 10, and many provided useful feedback to help in future planning.