Science shows that humans have had an unequivocal influence on the climate, warming our atmosphere, oceans and land. The need for widespread and well-informed climate action has never been greater. Such action is needed across all parts of society, including within and outside of academia. Moving towards open climate research within academia encourages maximum impact outside academia, including in most affected communities.   

At March’s Open Lunch event, we heard from three speakers about their open research practices in climate spaces: Dr Desy Ayu Pirmasari, Research Fellow, Dr Chris Smith, NERC-IIASA Collaborative Research Fellow, Dr Bianca van Bavel, Research Fellow in Climate Change and Health. 

You can see a recording of their talks on YouTube

Participatory Action Research in Indonesia  

Desy Ayu Pirmasari leads the Indonesian workstream of the Gender, Generation and Climate Change (GENERATE) project. Desy discussed the importance of participatory action research (PAR) in climate change research. Her project focuses on urban communities in Indonesia and Uganda where the project engages with stakeholders and marginalised communities, and embeds gender and social inclusion in urban climate action. Their research methodologies include ethnography and participatory data collection and analysis. 

Desy works with a wide range of young people, indigenous communities, LGBTQI+ people, organisations concerned with tackling violence against women, and communities, disabled people, informal workers, women who are the head of households, single parents, ex-migrant workers for whom they provide support with caring responsibilities by allowing the children to join the workshops. Discussing participatory action research, Desy quoted from her co-authored paper, “Being an Indonesian feminist in the North”:  

“… the fact that most of the experiences of women in the South are written through the eyes of scholars in the North makes her feel like she does not know herself, that she needs other people to write the history of her own people”   

Participatory action research allows people like Desy to tell their own story in their own language. She highlighted that transformation is needed to ensure any climate action and planning focuses on climate adaptation or mitigation and improves the lives of the most vulnerable and oppressed or marginalised groups. 

One way to embed PAR is by using the arts to engage with participants to tell their experiences. Desy showed comics co-created with a person with disabilities in which she draws an experience of flooding, which is very common in Banjarmasin. The participants were asked in workshops to speak of climate change in their language and experience with flooding. 

Desy’s team co-created the book Being Queer in an Island of thousand mosques, a collection of stories from LGBTQI+ people from Lombok in Indonesia. The book will be launched at event at the end of March. Desy said the participants and writers of this book were quite touched since their experience was that foreign scholars come to them and give them training; they listen and are not being listened to. They felt the book is an achievement for them. Desy also worked with women interested in gender justice and climate change in an ideal future, and they co-wrote a poetry collection, The Women’s Life: Earth’s Climate. Her team also worked with local artists who described the experience of household workers to explain how difficult their life is. Desy also mentioned a board game they named Gender Jeopardy: A Game of Trans Resilience, developed with trans communities in Jakarta. These initiatives give opportunities for the participant to have ownership of their own stories. 

Sharing data and code to enhance climate science 

Chris Smith, from the Priestley International Centre for Climate at Leeds and a member of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) from Austria. Chris highlighted that many publishers and funders require open scientific research methods and mandate publishing research data and code. According to Chris, for researchers, having open access to data, software, code, and other tools is often more helpful than the publication itself. However, when you publish codes, you have to consider what license to give them.  

Chris talked about some of the tools he uses to make his research open. The website Choose a License has several licensing options when you want to create an open-source project. He said there are different issues to consider depending on whether you are licensing data or code; for data, we often see Creative Commons-BY 4.0 or Creative Commons-BY Share alike licenses, which allow people to reuse your data as long as they attribute you as the creator. Creative Commons licenses are not necessarily appropriate for code: there are about fifteen different licenses covering software code, such as MIT, GNU, and Apache 2.0.   

Chris discussed the FAIR principles, which apply to both data and code:

Findable means easy to find; it’s indexed or catalogued in a searchable resource. Chris highlighted that you could assign your dataset a digital object identifier (DOI), which makes it easier to find. Many journals already do this when publishing datasets.

Accessible means that the data is easy to access, whether fully open, or with controlled access

Interoperable represents that the data is easy to use and interpret, for which you need to need it to be in a widely used open format, such as a CSV file, and have good detail of metadata. 

“If you want to write your papers, you may want to use version-control and make your source code open and reusable. GitHub is great for code and small data files, it’s not useful for large data files because it creates a history of everything that you create. You can also make your repositories private if you are writing a paper, and you don’t want to release your results before submission or acceptance.”   

For depositing open data, Chris uses Zenodo, which gives the dataset a DOI and supports big datasets. It assigns every dataset a unique DOI and fulfils the FAIR requirements. Zenodo is also easy to integrate with GitHub, allowing the automatic creation of new versions of datasets. Chris demonstrated how Zenodo work by showing his dataset “FaIR calibration data”: there are seven versions of this dataset, each with its DOI and the date of creation. Chris highlighted that Zenodo is also great for getting feedback: people can come along and say they have used version 1.1 on the FaIR calibration data with a DOI, and he can get the citation credit. 

“My goal is to create a project for users to pick up my codes and be able to reproduce my results from start to finish. I tend to do this for every paper, even if I’m just writing a commentary piece of carbon brief, and I do some analysis. I’ll even put the code for that on GitHub, so people can see where I’ve done and everything. I’d always have a readme file, including the installation instructions and how to reproduce the results and any data considerations.”   

Public engagement for engaged decision-making in climate actions 

Our final speaker was Bianca van Bavel, whose work focuses on evaluating adaptation and mitigation actions that respond to the risks and impacts of climate change on health. She has partnered directly with decision-makers in government National Health Services, community-based organisations and NGOs to conduct research in the UK, Ireland, Uganda, Kenya and Indonesia.   

Bianca discussed examples of how her work uses open research practices to support and motivate climate equity and climate action. Her research is about how we connect research methodologies and evidence that are often embedded or rooted within an academic space with decision-making and or information that are often outside of that space. It is essential to partner directly with people throughout the research process and ensure that those outputs are accessible and useful. 

Bianca is interested in interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary ways of working and how that translates to open research practices. She highlighted that even within academic spaces, jargon can be exclusive, which is even more difficult when you try to connect with people beyond academia. Open and accessible research outputs are beneficial for informing individual decisions or collective actions outside of academia, embedding a sense of equity in the project, and research integrity within the entire research process. 

Bianca also reflected on Desy’s presentation on participatory action research, where people are involved in the entire research process, and the importance of sharing research outputs, data, and code so that people can use it much to what Chris was saying. According to Bianca, researchers have to consider an ongoing relationship with academic and non-academic partners throughout the process as part of the commitment to open research.  

Bianca introduced a project she has been working on with academics at the University of Leeds and collaboration with the Met Office and the Centre for Environmental Modelling and Computation. Their team had to consider licensing and understand those issues related to it. The tool is called the COBENEFITS: it is based on a systematic assessment of available scientific literature, looking at co-benefits and trade-offs of different adaptation and mitigation options. The tool aims to communicate the benefits associated with actions across many contexts. It also allows users to navigate or explore in detail. Furthermore, users can see if there are any equity implications of the particular decision or action. 

“In terms of thinking of what Chris was saying about the FAIR principles, we have undertaken some initial user testing with policy analysts and researchers outside of the project as well as people in media and communication to gauge and understand how the tool develops, as it goes on so.”   

Bianca also has been working with a colleague Paloma Trascasa Castro to develop an independent climate science information platform called The Climate Press. The project was born out of a motivation to improve how researchers communicate their work and make information about climate change more accessible and inclusive to a broader audience. They were inspired by the youth-led climate strikes in which young people were articulating not only the desire for change but the desire for information to participate in that change. The Climate Press produces and shares evidence-based podcasts and blogs. They also showcase climate experts, artists, activists and community-led initiatives who are doing ground-breaking work. Topics range from the impact of extreme heat on professional athletes at the Olympics to the future of coral reefs to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the NHS. 

Their research aired on BBC Radio as a part of the Bradford Science Festival. They have also showcased the work across the University of Leeds at research nights and Be Curious festival. Bianca’s takeaway from her research projects was that open and accessible information can promote understanding of climate change, where people can situate themselves in discussions and negotiations. Therefore, they can make informed decision-making, which empowers people and communities.