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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Interdisciplinary research in climate and energy sciences

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Due to the complex nature of climate change, interdisciplinary research approaches involving knowledge and skills from a broad range of disciplines have been adopted for studying changes in the climate system as well as strategies for mitigating climate change (i.e., greenhouse gas emissions reductions) and adapting to its impacts on society and natural systems. Harnessing of renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels is widely regarded as a long‐term mitigation strategy that requires the synthesis of knowledge from engineering, technology, and natural and social sciences. In this study, we examine how the adoption of interdisciplinary approaches has evolved over time and in different geographic regions. We conducted a comprehensive literature survey using an evaluation matrix of keywords, in combination with a word cloud analysis, to evaluate the spatiotemporal dynamics of scholarly discourse about interdisciplinary approaches to climate change and renewable energy research and development (R&D). Publications that discuss interdisciplinary approaches to climate change and renewable energy have substantially increased over the last 60 years; it appears, however, that the nature, timing, and focus of these publications vary across countries and through time. Over the most recent three decades, the country‐level contribution to interdisciplinary research for climate change has become more evenly distributed, but this was not true for renewable energy research, which remained dominated by the United Sates and a few other major economies. The research topics have also evolved: Water resource management was emphasized from 1990s to 2000s, policy and adaptation were emphasized from the 2000s to 2010–2013, while vulnerability became prominent during the most recent years (2010–2013). Our analysis indicates that the rate of growth of interdisciplinary research for renewable energy lags behind that for climate change, possibly because knowledge emanating from climate change science has motivated the subsequent upswing in renewable energy R&D. WIREs Energy Environ 2016, 5:49–56. doi: 10.1002/wene.180 This article is categorized under: Bioenergy > Climate and Environment Energy and Climate > Climate and Environment
Word cloud analysis showing changes in the focus of interdisciplinary R&D in climate change from (a) the 1990s, (b) the 2000s, to (c) 2000–2013, and in renewable energy research from (d) the 1990s (e), the 2000s, to (f) 2000–2013. The top 100 words are shown for each analysis; the same color indicates same frequency.
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Continental‐level contributions to international research in climate change (green bars represent the number of publications for climate change research, while the gray bars represents renewable energy research in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010–2013, respectively; the unit of the insets is number of publications per year; the values above the bar charts represent number of publications per year in one decade).
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Country‐level contribution to interdisciplinary R&D on (a) climate change and (b) renewable energy research (source of information: Web of Science, June 29, 2014; the number of publication for renewable energy with interdisciplinary approach in the 1990s is too few for robust country‐level analysis).
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Historical trends of climate change research and renewable energy R&D as general and as interdisciplinary shown as the number of publications in Web of Science (a: climate change research; b: renewable energy research).
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