Earlier this year, Gaurav Dubey, Somerville student and scholar at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD), launched the Global Climate Research Portal, a unique online platform that aims to aggregate information on climate change research happening across the world.
The aim is simple, yet immensely important – to be a one stop platform for researchers, policymakers and businesses to find out what form of climate change research is happening, where and by whom. Even as researchers have been investigating the causes and impacts of climate change over the past decades, there have been gaps in efforts to connect the research community at the global level, said Gaurav.
This is where the portal aims to make a difference. It will offer a platform for climate change researchers to share information on their ongoing research and make it accessible to all in a meaningful way. Unlike other platforms that aggregate information on published research or researcher profiles, this portal will focus on ongoing research. This will create opportunities for the research community to collaborate in real time on overlapping areas of research interests.
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we’ll face in this century,” said Gaurav. “Climate change research is going to be crucial to finding the solutions we need. To that end, it is imperative that we find ways to enable higher levels of collaboration within the research community but also between them and the wider set of stakeholders, such as governments, businesses and donors.”
Bridging the gap
For the first phase, the platform will create an online directory of PhD researchers working on climate change across the globe. It will be built bottom-up by researchers who can enter their information and edit or delete it anytime later, offering important elements of authenticity and up-to-dateness to the portal.
Through this directory, anyone can look up ongoing climate change research using keywords, researcher name, countries and cities as case study, and more. “The idea is to create a platform whereby within a few clicks, you could find out, at any given moment who all across the world are conducting research on, say, Addis Ababa, as a case study for different climate change research projects”, he explained. Working with a team comprising PhD candidates working on climate change at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, he initially collected information on nearly 170 ongoing climate change research projects at 5 universities to test the idea, and later the Portal was launched with that initial dataset.
The idea for this Portal occurred to Gaurav in the initial months of his PhD research at the School of Geography and the Environment. Gaurav researches at the intersection of electric mobility and climate policy – looking at the political economy of low carbon mobility transitions in emerging economies, focusing on electric mobility in India. While searching for people at other departments in the university working in related areas, such as battery technology, he realised there was no easy way to do so.
“I had to search through each department’s website to find out if anyone was working in an area of my interest,” said Gaurav. “It struck me that this is not how it should be for an issue like climate change where the need for collaboration is much more urgent. Once you realize this issue exists at the global scale, the need for a platform became clear.” Besides helping connect the existing research community, the portal will also enable aspiring researchers to identify gaps in ongoing research and frame impactful research projects.
The portal will be open access. Gaurav feels this is important to help address, in time, issues of information asymmetry between the Global North and South, whereby at present collaboration potential within the research community can often become contingent on privileged access to existing research networks and gated information portals.
With generous development grants from Somerville College and the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, the first phase of Global Climate Research Portal is now on its way.
The team has big future plans for the portal, such as collating information on talks and seminars on climate change happening globally on a single platform. Another long-term aim is to generate meta-data from the portal, such as the percentage of research projects focusing on the Global North and South, on mitigation and adaptation or particular countries or emission sectors. Such metadata could be useful for donors funding climate change research to identify underfunded research areas or geographies. Gaurav said, “The potential for impact is immense once we can bring the world’s climate change research community together onto a platform. We are taking it step by step, starting with creating a directory of doctoral researchers working on climate change – that by itself will be a big success for us.”