Using research to address global challenges

September 25, 2015 Helen Eassom

Global challenges require a global response. Climate change, energy security, scarcity of water resources, global health and disease, and food supply and nutrition are among the biggest challenges facing humanity today. Tackling such huge challenges requires collaboration on an international scale, sharing resources and knowledge across communities. It is only through working together that we can even begin to hope to address these global problems.

global challenges.PNGglobal challenges.PNGThat is why Wiley is excited to announce the launch of Global Challenges, a new, premium open access journal. Global Challenges is a unique journal that will cross disciplines and international borders, bringing science, technology and the social sciences together to mobilize debate and create a platform for directing and setting research and policy agendas. The journal will initially focus on five major challenges, with each area overseen by Chief Editors: Climate Change (Georg Feulner, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research), Energy (Peter Lund, Aalto University), Water (David Butler is Professor of Water Engineering and a Director of the Centre for Water Systems at the University of Exeter), Global Health (Steven J. Hoffman, University of Ottowa and John-Arne Røttingen, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Harvard University and University of Oslo) and Food, Agriculture & Nutrition (Spencer Henson, University of Guelph). We’ve spoken to some of the Chief Editors about why they decided to get involved in the journal, and why a collaborative approach is so important.

Q. What made you decide to get involved with Global Challenges?

Georg Feulner, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Chief Editor- Climate Change:

Traditionally, research on global challenges such as climate change or food security is published in specialized disciplinary journals. I find the approach to include several challenges in one journal fascinating and important, because it allows us to take a truly global look at the most pressing issues and to identify cross-connections between different challenges. And I do like the idea of detailing the relevance of each paper for policy makers as this could help to translate the relevant research findings into policy.


David Butler, Professor of Water Engineering and a Director of the Centre for Water Systems at the University of Exeter, Chief Editor- Water: My interest in the journal was piqued because I saw the opportunity of cross-fertilization and impact.  We live in our little disciplinary silos and independently try and tackle these global challenges, when if we talked to each other we might well find common solutions.  The journal also has a clear policy/impact agenda, which again is refreshing and quite different for an international journal of this type.

Peter Lund, Aalto University, Chief Editor- Energy: Global Challenges is a highly relevant and timely effort. The publishing world is increasingly filled with highly specialized journals, but seldom do we see efforts to tackle global challenges as a whole. In energy, which is my specialization, looking beyond one’s own discipline is a must to understand how we could solve the global energy challenges. When the opportunity to join Global Challenges was offered to me, it was just a perfect fit to the on-going discourse in energy. For me, getting involved with the journal is to be part of the solution to the grave global problems.


Q. How important do you think it is to take a collaborative approach when attempting to solve the kind of challenges the world faces today?

Spencer Henson, University of Guelph, Chief Editor- Food, Agriculture and Nutrition: The complexity of many of the challenges faced by the world today requires collaborative thinking across the natural and social sciences and humanities.  No discipline alone can provide effective, practical and sustainable solutions to these challenges, reflecting the multitude of technical, economic, social and political issues that need to be addressed.  The persistence of disciplinary boundaries, that dictate where researchers are housed, who they engage with and where they publish, has stood in the way of this needed collaboration for too long.  The availability of high-impact journals that publish cutting-edge collaborative research will play a substantive part in overcoming these boundaries.


David Butler: I think a collaborative approach is key.  No one discipline can possibly hope to solve the many challenges the world faces.  Currently there are rather few practical ways of working together across disciplines and indeed between academics, policy makers and practitioners.


Georg Feulner: A collaborative approach is clearly very important, in particular for a topic like climate change which is connected to each and every one of the other challenges covered by the journal. As I write in the editorial  to the climate change section of Global Challenges: "Climate change has the potential to impact global water supplies, agricultural production, human health, and our energy infrastructure. In turn, the way in which we produce our energy and food has a profound effect on the Earth’s climate system."

Q. How do you think researchers can best organize themselves to tackle global challenges, and how will the journal feed into that overarching goal?

Peter Lund: Organizing collaborative efforts starts by someone taking the initiative and showing the way how to proceed. The Global Challenges journal is such an initiative which helps to create an international platform for multidisciplinary thinking to tackle global problems. Importantly, the journal will help to gather together different stakeholders of the global problems such as scientists, practitioners, and policy makers, among others.

Spencer Henson: Most critically, there is a need for researchers across the natural and social sciences and humanities to engage with one another in order to understand the complexity of factors underlying the challenges facing the world today and to identify effective and practical policy solutions.  While there is a broader need for disciplinary boundaries to be lowered and incentives put for interdisciplinary and policy-focused research, there is a more immediate need for high-ranking journals that publish such research.


Want to learn more about this exciting new journal? Watch the Global Challenges video and visit

About the Author

Helen Eassom

Author Marketing, Wiley // Helen is a Marketing Coordinator working within the Author Marketing team for Wiley's Global Research division.

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