A new international interdisciplinary graduate research group is proposed for the 2018-19 academic year to explore research at the nexus of nature, health and the built environment.
The initiative will be led by graduate students, with faculty and staff facilitating, and groups forming at the universities of Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Stanford and Yale. A wide
range of disciplines are encouraged to get involved. Each institution will establish its own semi-autonomous group consisting of 20+ graduate students and approximately 10 faculty
and staff, with most if not all members volunteering to help with the running of the groups.
It is suggested that the wider group be branded Nature, Health and Build Environment, abbreviated to NHBE, with institutional groups using the format NHBEx[Institution name], for
example NHBExCambridge. Whilst this document provides a summary of the activities planned for 2018-19, as this is the first year it is expected that the group will evolve with
experience and time.
The research group aims to provide early-career researchers working on, or interested in issues at the nexus of nature, health and the built environment with:
- The opportunity for interdisciplinary networking with other graduate students and researchers from a wide range of disciplines, both within their own institutions as well as from the wider group
- Exposure to the thinking of experts from a wide range of disciplines, especially in terms of promising areas for future research
- Through 1 and 2, the opportunity to self-organise and form collaborations that will lead to future research
- Opportunities to engage with and influence policy makers, practitioners and the general public and translate research into formats that can be practically applied
- The means to engage in additional opportunities organised by local groups
As an interdisciplinary initiative the scope is purposefully being kept broad to allow a wide range of researchers to engage. We expect to attract an interesting mix of ecologists, zoologists, conservationists, geographers, land economists, architects, engineers, medics, psychologists, those in public health, and other interested parties. The definition proposed for nature, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations”.
The definition for health adopted will be that of the World Health Organisation – the “state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or
infirmity“ (WHO, 1946) – as this allows for the inclusion of mental, physical and social components of health, as well as both a positive (e.g. psychological flourishing) and negative (e.g. disease alleviation) focus.
The built environment shall be defined as “the part of the physical environment that is constructed by human activity” (Saelens & Handy, 2008, p. 2) and “comprises urban design, land use, and the transportation system, and encompasses patterns of human activity within the physical environment” (Handy, Boarnet, Ewing, & Killingsworth, 2002, p. 65). All activity will address all three topics, or at the very least two of the topics.
In the first year the wider group will collectively deliver a series of interdisciplinary lectures and reading groups, and occasional networking sessions, as well as other activities that local
groups deem useful. The minimum contribution requested of each institutional group is therefore to:
- Host a lecture delivered by an expert once every 6 weeks, held at a time accessible to all groups (with consideration of time zones), and stream it for the wider group via the group’s Moodle site
- Run an in-person and online reading group (hosted on Moodle) ahead of each lecture, based on three papers recommended by the expert speakers
- Run at least two interdisciplinary networking sessions throughout the year
Potential Additional Activity
- Additional lectures (e.g. delivered by graduate students), reading groups and networking sessions
- Local or regional conferences and workshops
- Events to engage with policy makers and practitioners
- Mailing lists, social media and blogs
- Member directories
- Inter-institutional networking, either in-person or via video conference
- Social events
- Writing a book based on the material generated by lectures and reading groups
- Blog posts reporting on events of interest
To join the group, please contact Dan Li (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jon Wood: PhD student, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge
Dan Li: PhD student, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge
Sabrina Li: PhD student, University of Oxford
Misha Semenov: March Candidate, Yale School of Architecture
Arushi Gandhi-Kohli: PhD student, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge