Adrian Bucher and Chantel Jones

The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) is embarking on a new challenge to track climate change and international research investments including from public, private, and philanthropic funders. Our ambition is to develop a brand-new mapping and analysis tracking tool, which will give audiences an overview of international development research in the climate change sphere. 

The UK is committed to being a leader in tackling climate change, protecting nature, and improving global health. This commitment is reflected in key policy documents such as the International Development Strategy and the Integrated Review, which lay out several promises, including to double  the UK’s International Climate Finance (ICF) contribution by 2026. Additionally, we know that UK research funders have a strong history of supporting research on climate change and international development. However, the urgency and complexity of the climate crisis means there’s a need to adopt coordinated approaches at a research funding level.

To that end, we are developing a proof-of-concept for a tracking tool that will act as a live database of funded climate change research projects with a focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).The intention here is to support funders and researchers to deliver a more effective and coherent response to the global challenges presented by climate change. 

This project expands on previous UKCDR work and plays to one of our key strengths: mapping, analysis, and foresight.  In 2021, we published a report examining the strengths, weaknesses, and impacts of UK ODA and Wellcome-funded research in climate change and international development research, which also provided an overview of gaps, opportunities, and research priorities for the future. This work featured an analysis of more than £500m worth of research funding, interviews with in-country stakeholders, as well as a selection of high-impact case studies. 

In addition to complementing our 2021 report, the climate change tracker builds on UKCDR’s extensive experience and expertise in mapping and analysing research investments – as exemplified by our work on COVID CIRCLE and MODARI. To date, our analytical outputs have helped inform the design of key research funding calls and shape international symposia. They’ve also been recognised by intergovernmental organisations such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations as facilitating collaborative activities. 

As such, UKCDR is uniquely well positioned to take on this exciting new project. We’ll do this as part of our ambition to be a generator and repository of knowledge that can enable the development of a transdisciplinary research ecosystem for international development. 

We have recently begun working with a project taskforce to narrow the tool’s scope and develop a proof-of-concept at this initial stage, before any potential upscaling further down the line. The project taskforce comprises of a variety of stakeholders, including representatives from UK research funders, international coordination mechanisms, and multilateral organisations.

But what data will appear on the tracker, and how can it help accelerate climate action? The tracker will provide a comprehensive baseline of the current research funding landscape and will not be limited to any specific discipline. At a higher level, mapping research in this way will allow UKCDR, and those using our database, to identify potential areas of collaboration, avoid the duplication of efforts, and maximise the coherence of the funding response to the climate crisis being faced across the world – particularly by LMICs. Audiences will take away from the database an enhanced understanding of the research landscape – including key funders, prominent research institutions, and trends in research funding at a thematic level. This aligns with UKCDR’s mission to amplify the value and impact of research by promoting coherence, collaboration, and joint action among UK funders.