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Earth Day 2022: Sustainability in academia

Dr Erica Thompson and Alexandra Gomes discuss the sustainability of research to mark Earth Day

Creating an impact that goes beyond academia is becoming more and more important

Alexandra Gomes

The LSE Data Science Institute (DSI) forms the institutional cornerstone of data science activity at LSE, working with academic departments to foster the study of data science and new forms of data.

The DSI also acts as a hub for researchers, connecting individuals from across the School in order to promote their work and facilitate exchange and collaboration.

To mark Earth Day 2022 the DSI brought together Dr Erica Thompson and DSI Affiliate Alexandra Gomes for a conversation on the topic of sustainability within research. Erica and Alex discuss how academics should take action on climate, including the responsibility to not only work on important topics but to also act in ways commensurate with this.

Earth Day 2022: Sustainability within academia Earth Day 2022: Sustainability within academia
The DSI connects Dr Erica Thompson and Alexandra Gomes for a discussion to mark Earth Day

The conversation is based loosely on the Earth Day themes of acting (boldly), innovating (broadly), and implementing (equitably). Within this the researchers share their individual efforts to live sustainable lifestyles, such as Erica's decision to have not flown for the past fourteen years, and discuss the importance of influencing government policies.

Erica and Alex also explore the climate impact of doing research, which is an issue of significance within the academic community. They share the successful efforts made at LSE including Sustainable LSE, the LSE Bicycle User Group (LSE BUG) and the walking and cycling initiative, and suggest further innovative changes that could be made to reduce the climate impact of academia.

One of these suggestions is for the establishment of 'emissions budgets' that would act in a similar way to financial budgets. From this arises a discussion of the potential for unequal application and proposals for how to ensure that early career researchers are not disproportionately impeded by such innovations.

The conversation also covers the role of data science and new forms of data as this becomes increasingly important to the study of climate. Alex is a Research Fellow at LSE Cities and is responsible for coordinating spatial analysis across a range of projects. Alex shares LSE Cities and LSE Middle East projects such as Resource Urbanisms, the Kuwaitscapes card game and the Roads as Tools socio-spatial study of Abu Dhabi.

Alex also outlines how LSE Cities research into climate change makes use of data, with this topic is further explored by Erica who, as Senior Policy Fellow in Ethics of Modelling and Simulation, shares her experience of using data to clearly communicate climate research. 


Find information on DSI research themes here. If you would like to become involved with DSI research, please get in touch via email.