Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research at the School of Geography and the Environment
Along with the rest of the University of Oxford, the School of Geography and the Environment is currently closed during the coronavirus pandemic. The School is carrying on its work remotely during these difficult times and has joined many other researchers around the university in working to understand COVID-19 and its implications.
Although some of the most important research into COVID-19 is looking for a vaccine for the virus, there is still lots of work to be done in understanding the implications that this pandemic will have around the world for people, businesses, the economy and the environment.
There are numerous research projects being undertaken across the School that are working towards finding answers to some of the huge variety of questions which surround COVID-19. For example we are: looking at how the virus responds to the weather; analyzing the effects of the lockdown and social distancing on mobility; studying the changes in UK energy use during and after the pandemic; exploring how recovery packages could boost economic growth and stop climate change; and analysing the response to COVID-19 in the black community.
Current research includes:
Access to healthy living for women in low-income households in peripheral neighbourhoods in the Medellin metropolitan area, Colombia
This project studies accessibility to healthy living among low-income women in Itagüí, a municipality in the Medellin metropolitan area (Colombia). Under a strongly collaborative framework we incorporate environmental, spatial, and temporal variables to develop a space-time accessibility model of healthy living during and after the COVID-19 social distancing measures. We deploy a mixed-methods approach in which we combine qualitative storytelling from women's testimonies on access to healthcare and food, with quantitative geolocation, physical activity, and air pollution exposure data, to identify how they access healthy living in their everyday life and how this is affected by the covid-19 pandemic. We work with strong network of collaborators including a group of 40 local women, people working in three levels of government (local, metropolitan and national), and Colombian academics which allows us to produce research with the potential to generate significant societal impacts. The project will communicate its findings with different audiences through art exhibitions, online technical tools, academic papers, and briefs.
Brazil-UK Centre for Arbovirus Discovery, Diagnosis, Genomics and Epidemiology (CADDE)
Making drinking water affordable for rural people has always been challenging. COVID19 places urgent pressures on government, service providers and rural water users with priority needs for water for handwashing at home, in schools and at healthcare facilities. On the 9th June, the REACH programme and UNICEF organised a webinar hosted by RWSN with over 480 participants to examine new evidence of changes in water demand and revenue, and explore how to measure affordability of water supply to help improve policy and programmatic responses.
Changes in UK energy use during and after the pandemic
The COVID-19 Hygiene Hub is a free service funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) that supports actors in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to rapidly design evidence-based hygiene interventions to combat the coronavirus. Dr Katrina Charles, Prof Rob Hope and Dr Li Ann Ong are providing expert advice on public health, behaviour change, and implementation science.
ECI METER project assesses the effects of the lockdown on household life and energy use
The ECI METER project collects activity patterns with the JoyMeter app and assesses changes to life and electricity use in response to the lockdown. We link our activity records with smart meter data via the UCL Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL).
An analysis of possible COVID-19 economic recovery packages shows the potential for strong alignment between the economy and the environment. Research published by the Smith School reveals that climate-friendly policies can deliver a better result for the economy - and the environment. Led by Prof Cameron Hepburn, the team included Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and well-known climate economist Nicholas Stern.
Dr Won Do Lee and Lucas Kruitwagen are involved in a collaborative research project across multiple departments entitled Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor. It is developing an online interactive digital dashboard showing changes in people's everyday mobility during the COVID-19 outbreak, which aims to shed light on the relationships between mobility, infection and demand for hospital beds and ventilators. The dashboard is publicly accessible and updated daily using anonymised and aggregated mobile phone location data. Won Do Lee is responsible for the collection and development of the geographical datasets, including data about essential premises that have remained open during the UK's lockdown, such as supermarkets, parks, and hospitals. Lucas is responsible for the analysis of inter-regional mobility. This project has so far revealed the profound reduction of population movement in response to the Government's social distancing rules and is beginning to provide important insights to relevant stakeholders who are developing their strategies for dealing with COVID-19.
Jasper Verschuur, Jim Hall and Elco Koks have been using real-time shipping data to monitor the effect that COVID-19 has had on international trade. The group, which forms part of the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), has been processing AIS ship monitoring data to help understand the potential effects of climatic extremes on ports, shipping and supply chains. When COVID-19 broke out, they quickly switched their analysis to understand how the pandemic's impacts were hitting global trade. The impacts are dramatic but complex. Imports and exports from China have been most obviously impacted, but the effects have propagated all over the world. Small island developing states do not show up if one looks at the volume of trade, but proportionately they have been massively impacted and are under-reported victims of COVID-19's impact on global trade.
Social Media and Digital Citizenship: Remaking Italians through COVID-19
Current DPhil student Raffaele Ippolito and Prof Anna Lora-Wainwright have been creating a digital ethnography of social media exchanges and tracking changes in Italians' reaction to the pandemic as their country's lockdown progressed. They have found that a defiant mood in the early stages of the lockdown gave way to a rise in patriotic feeling as the pandemic became more serious and mortality increased. A darker mood has been in evidence more recently as the lockdown has taken its toll on communities and the economy. The researchers' observations, coupled with interviews with people directly affected, have highlighted some broader themes, such as the role of collective action and citizenship co-ordinated through social media, and the increasing calls for national cohesion and solidarity in a country which is normally organised regionally.
Three charts that show where the coronavirus death rate is heading
Prof Danny Dorling has been analysing weekly mortality data, working with a group of epidemiologists from across Europe studying death rates during the pandemic in different countries (and presenting the data in interesting ways!) They are now beginning to think about when a second peak might occur or whether it is very unlikely given the unprecedented levels of surveillance and fear in comparison to what occurred during the pandemics of 1918, 1951, 1957 and 1968. It was during the 1957 influenza pandemic that Harold Macmillan, the prime minster, told the population they had never had it is good. Back then we knew so much less and received information so much more slowly.
Data released by ONS on May 12th showed the following geographical pattern in the distribution of mortality by region and week.
Tom Russell has contributed to data analysis and visualisation for a UK vulnerability index, working with researchers at UCL, Oxford, Queens Belfast and the British Red Cross. The COVID-19 vulnerability index combines multiple sources of (mostly) open data to identify vulnerable areas and groups within Local Authorities and neighbourhoods (wards and Middle Layer Super Output Areas). The Index currently maps clinical vulnerability (underlying health conditions), health/wellbeing vulnerability (including mental health and loneliness), economic vulnerability, and social vulnerability (including barriers to housing and services, poor living environment). More information about the approach, current indicators and data sources, and forthcoming vulnerabilities is in this open document.
Using the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium's models and hardware to help model the pandemic
Prof Jim Hall and his research colleagues in the ITRC-MISTRAL research programme have made two submissions to the Royal Society RAMP initiative: first, an offer to use the ITRC's national infrastructure system-of-systems modelling platform NISMOD to look at the impacts of COVID-19 lockdown on demand for infrastructure services, and second, an offer to use the DAFNI computer hardware for pandemic modelling.
read more + When will life return to normal after the pandemic? No one can ever know for sure when life will return to normal after a particular event, not least because what's normal keeps on changing, even in normal times. Nevertheless, it's a question we can't help pondering - particularly when new COVID developments, such as the emergence of the omicron variant, keep on shifting the pandemic's goalposts - Prof Danny Dorling writes in The Conversation.
27/05/2127 May 2021 -
read more + Pastoralist-to-Pastoralist discussion on Covid-19 Pastoralists from Asia and Africa led a unique international discussion on April 19, 2021. This inspiring event brought together pastoralists from Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Mongolia and Tanzania to talk about their lives, herding and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 'Covid-19 and Pastoralists - International Virtual Forum' was the first effort to foster pastoral debate and engagement across continents, and was organised by Drs Troy Sternberg and Ariell Ahearn.
read more + Documenting everyday life as a key worker during the COVID-19 pandemic A new public engagement project led by TSU's Dr Anna Plyushteva aiming to broaden the conversation about the challenges of everyday life in 2020-21 is documenting the daily lives of key workers who, during the COVID-19 pandemic, perform essential work that cannot be done from home. With the difficulties of working from home receiving much more extensive coverage, the project aims to contribute to the appropriate planning for the public transport needs of key workers in future crises.
read more + COVID slowdown makes action on gas-guzzlers even more important Phasing out the most polluting vehicles now could save 97million tonnes CO2 by 2050, new research published by the UK Energy Research Centre finds. Co-Directed by Christian Brand the Centre looked at the impacts of COVID-19 on the energy system, and the role that energy policy could play in the UK's economic recovery. Discover their recommendations.
read more + Heatwaves caused record deaths as Britain struggled with coronavirus Heatwaves caused a record 2,556 excess deaths in Britain this summer as the country was struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new government estimate. Increasingly frequent and severe heatwaves are among the deadliest impacts of climate change, writes Reuters. Extensive media coverage includes comment and research from Friederike Otto on climate change attribution.
08/10/2008 October 2020 -
read more + Analysis shows Australia still lags behind on a renewable recovery Analysis conducted by WWF in partnership with Brian O'Callaghan and Cameron Hepburn at the Oxford Smith School shows Australia's stimulus investments in renewable industries lag behind other markets and key trading partners. Based on recent Federal Government announcements, Australia will spend approximately AUD $96 per capita on clean recovery stimulus - almost nine times less than the global leader, EU ($897 per capita).
read more + Shaping a brighter world of work A new report from Zurich Insurance and the Oxford Smith School, co-directed by researcher Sarah McGill, outlines the case for a new social contract to address issues facing working people worldwide due to Covid-19. The report calls on insurers, employers, governments, and communities to work together and ensure that the future of social protection is more flexible.
read more + Why Working From Home Makes More Sense Than Ever: Lessons From The Lockdown Philipp Grünewald, ECI's deputy director of energy research, contributes to this article from Forbes. His research has found that during the UK's COVID-19 lockdown, more people working from home reduced the large peaks in electricity usage seen in the evenings, pre-lockdown. Read on to find out why this change is good news from the energy perspective.
read more + What's in a name? Belonging! Dr Juan Pablo Orjuela has been working with low-income women in Itagüí, part of the Medellin metropolitan area (Colombia), but COVID-19 has brought new challenges on how to engage with communities in the midst of lockdown measures. Read his blog entry on the PEAKUrban website on how the co-creation of a group name and image has helped in the process.
29/07/2029 July 2020 -
read more + Cold chains can help mitigate the COVID-19 food crisis: key lessons from Uganda COVID-19 has disrupted food supply chains around the world, doubling the number of people at risk of acute food shortages and insecurity. However, certain supply chain characteristics - including the use of cold storage - can help mitigate this and future crises. Preliminary research from the University of Oxford and Makerere University contrasts the milk and fish supply chains in Uganda and finds key lessons for supply chain resilience worldwide.
22/07/2022 July 2020 -
read more + We still don't know if warmer weather slows down the spread of COVID-19 In a new analysis, a team of researchers from Oxford's Smith School, Environmental Change Institute, Institute for New Economic Thinking and Martin School highlight key limitations of available data, concluding that it is currently impossible to know whether more people contract COVID-19 in hot or cold weather. [Extensive media coverage including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and the Independent]
read more + Carbon pricing, offsetting needed to tackle climate change Two articles in the Economist's May 23 2020 edition include comment from Ben Caldecott, Director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme and Associate Professor at the Smith School. New technology can enable better carbon offsetting - for example the use of high-resolution satellite imagery means that it is possible to know exactly when a tree is cut down. The edition also features Smith School research on the green economic recovery from COVID19.
read more + Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor Dr Won Do Lee has been involved in a research project entitled Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor. It seeks to develop an online interactive digital dashboard and involves collaboration with Oxford University researchers across several departments.
read more + Build back better: Green COVID-19 recovery packages can boost economic growth and stop climate change An analysis of possible COVID-19 economic recovery packages shows the potential for strong alignment between the economy and the environment. Research from Oxford's Smith School reveals that climate-friendly policies can deliver a better result for the economy - and the environment. Led by Cameron Hepburn, the team included Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and well-known climate economist Nicholas Stern. Extensive international media coverage included Guardian, FT, Telegraph, Reuters, Bloomberg, O Globo, Times of India, La Repubblica, Sydney Morning Herald.
read more + Destination: green airline bailouts The impacts of COVID-19 on aviation are only just beginning to be felt. In this article for The Conversation, Professor Cameron Hepburn and Brian Callaghan look at how governments could use bailouts to encourage innovation and get something for all of us, and the climate, in return.
read more + Hackathon - Bogota, Colombia As the COVID-19 epidemic reached Colombia and the possibility of a national lockdown was being proposed, Dr Juan Pablo Orjuela took part in a hackathon organised by NUMO, in alliance with Despacio and Datasketch. The main aim was to analyse available data on COVID-19 and Bogota's mobility systems to contribute to solutions aimed at improving transport during the pandemic.
read more + Resilience post Covid-19 After the coronavirus we need to review how to increase capacity and adaptability across the economy. Ben Caldecott, Director of Oxford's Sustainable Finance Programme, reflects on how short-run cost optimisation has resulted in systems that are not sufficiently resilient to shocks. This article first appeared on BusinessGreen.com on 26 March 2020.
read more + Coronavirus may slow long-term climate action There has been a short-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as a consequence of measures aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19. However, after recovery from the current crisis we will still be facing the same policy challenges for meeting our climate targets, and there is real danger that climate action might be delayed, explains Dr Linus Mattauch to Argus media.
read more + Covid-19 bailouts, then what? Dr Ben Caldecott argues the clamour for green strings to be attached to bailout packages could be misguided - could government take a long term stake in struggling companies instead and demand bolder climate strategies as a shareholder? This article first appeared on BusinessGreen.com on 31st March 2020.