Reducing Research Carbon Strategy

Our strategy for reducing research-related CO2 emissions while continuing to support a thriving, diverse, and international community.

In 2019 the University of Edinburgh declared a climate emergency, joining 1,123 organisations in 20 countries, including the Scottish Parliament. The University has committed to becoming zero carbon by 2040, and, as part of this initiative, the University Executive recently decided to prioritise train travel for university business where possible.

The School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures (LLC) is committed to reducing research carbon costs. The School is also fully committed to ensuring safety and equality for all protected characteristics as stipulated in the 2010 Equality Act (hereafter ‘protected characteristics’).

We also recognise that this commitment will affect colleagues differently depending on a range of factors including career stage, personal circumstances, and the nature of their research. There can be particular benefits in face-to-face networking for colleagues at an earlier career stage and for those establishing new collaborations.

Much research in LLC takes place outside the UK, often with international partners who may not have easy access to online facilities. Caring responsibilities, mobility, and mental health issues can all make slower forms of travel difficult (the School furthermore recognises the gendered implications of this). These are illustrative examples, and not intended to be comprehensive.

This strategy sets out the steps LLC will take to reduce research-related CO2 while continuing to support a thriving, diverse, and international research community, in line with our commitment to safeguard all protected characteristics.

Structural change

Reducing our CO2 emissions will require changes to how we make decisions about the carbon-related aspects of project funding. Excellence in research will continue to be our highest priority, and all decisions will be made in consultation with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy in order to ensure equality and inclusivity.

The School recognises that some research activity will inevitably entail high carbon costs; the emphasis will be on seeking reasonable ways to reduce CO2 where possible, without detriment to protected characteristics or reducing the effectiveness of the research.

Administering the research fund

As of 1st October 2020, the University will make train the default mode of UK travel for university business. The working assumption of the LLC research committee will be that all applications for research travel funds will seek to use the lowest carbon forms available. Where this is not possible, applications should include a brief justification of the additional carbon cost. The research committee will assess applications according to criteria in line with the School’s EDI strategy to ensure the safeguarding of all protected characteristics.

Technology and training

The School is already well set-up to support digital networks, seminars, and lectures. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed all of us to these new working environments in one form or another, and this is an opportunity to embed a greater range of networking tools in common practice. Working with the School’s Learning and Information Technology team, LLC will provide staff with training and support in making best use of online tools and methods.

Culture change

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed many aspects of working life in LLC, we must guard against the assumption that these changes are simply ‘covid collateral,’ which risks an eventual return to ‘business as usual.’ Alongside structural changes, we will develop a School culture that puts reflecting on and accounting for research-related carbon costs at the centre of our thinking.


All ethics applications will invite colleagues to consider the CO2 implications of their proposed activities.

Research reviews

All research reviews will invite colleagues to reflect upon the CO2 implications of their research activity.

Showcasing good practice

We will showcase examples of good practice and innovation in reduced-carbon research on the School website.

LLC Conversation

‘What does the climate emergency mean for my discipline?’ We want to see reducing research carbon embedded in the working culture of LLC rather than being a marginal concern. To achieve this, we will run School-wide events, involving staff and students, to discuss how the climate emergency is relevant to each discipline. In the first instance, these conversations with students could address the Year Abroad. Ideally, this will contribute to also embedding the climate emergency in pedagogic practice.


David Farrier

Deputy Director of Research

August 2020