Links with Faculty Research

Research related to climate change can be conducted in any discipline, and is limited only by the imagination of the researcher and the availability of funds. Despite the failure of the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, significant funds are available for a wide range of research through the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.3 Many of the subelements of the program emphasize interdisciplinary research.

There is also funding available from some state agencies, private foundations, and corporations.

Articles related to climate change are appearing in a wide range of peer-reviewed journals, and journals focusing specifically on climate change are fast emerging. Perusing the reports of the IPCC provides an excellent overview of past and current peer-reviewed research and many ideas for further work. This is an area in which serious academic inquiry is emerging rapidly. Although traditional faculty research may address a nearly unlimited number of questions related to climate change, it is our sense that faculty work that informs climate action is still in its infancy.

Adjusting the scale of projects to accommodate the constellation of faculty interests, sponsoring-agency requirements, and campus climate actions may be a challenge. For example, a group of faculty at Tufts were successful in landing an early competitive grant to assess the impacts of climate change on the metropolitan Boston area.4 The results of this fascinating project were presented to decision makers in several forums and were extremely well received. But the funded research stops short of being useful to inform the types of decisions faced by people who can take action to mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change. For instance, decision makers are left not knowing what the implications might be for their campuses or communities, given significant differences in proximity to the shoreline, age of infrastructure, proximity to rivers and lakes, source of water supply, transportation features, source of energy supply, and many other considerations. A strategy to overcome this gap from knowledge to action is to have students focus senior projects or master's theses on follow-up questions, many of which may examine implications for campus action. We have had two graduate students use this project as a point of departure in examining effects on specific communities in the Boston area.

The faculty members who conduct the original research for a project may not have the time or inclination to move from their basic research to its application at a community or campus level. This is where good collaborative working relationships across campus are invaluable. Handing projects along to different groups of researchers and students as the core questions change and the research becomes more applied can be an exciting way of building a sense of community on a campus at the same time that individuals pursue projects they find most rewarding.

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