This paper builds on insights from Adaptation Futures 2016: Practices and Solutions – the largest gathering of adaptation experts to date – to identify research priorities at a time when adaptation is scaling up and moving from planning to implementation around the world.

It traces the evolution of adaptation research over time, reflects on how it has evolved, maps what it looks like today, anticipates research directions and gaps, and articulates new research priorities. A historical overview distinguishes between four “generations” of adaptation research: resistance and description, acceptance and norms, progress and policy, and acceleration and implementation. It presents the research questions that define each of these generations.

The paper then proposes research priorities to advance the current, fourth generation of adaptation research, starting from the key messages of Adaptation Futures 2016, supplemented by insights from almost 200 responses to a post-conference questionnaire and more in-depth responses from 18 adaptation “champions” to an online survey.

Descriptive, normative, policy and implementation research priorities are proposed for each of the conference’s five key messages and for cross-cutting considerations. The aim is to inform and inspire adaptation researchers, research users and research funders, and to contribute to the development of the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation.