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Hope, fear and climate scientists

Kai Wan, a first-year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, UK, studies the impact of extreme temperatures on mortality in Scotland and policies to minimize the mortality risk. Her research lies at the intersection of climate and social science.

Wan says that social scientists see her as a climate scientist, while climate scientists tend to view her work in a social science context.

In her everyday working life, this duality is physically manifest, because the climate and social scientists are situated on separate campuses, which she must straddle to do her research. She believes this symbolizes the problems standing in the way of interdisciplinarity in climate science.

“To address climate change, collaboration across disciplines is needed, but there are still large gaps between them,” says Wan.

“These gaps can be as visible as geographical distance between the two campuses, or as invisible as lack of understanding, time, priority, common language, confidence or motivation to participate in interdisciplinary research."

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