e-Research Approaches to Historic Weather Data: Sources, Collaborations, and Methodologies for Researching Environmental Change

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Information Services and Systems



This Network will bring together stakeholders from disparate research communities to investigate, discuss and document the key historical source materials for weather reporting, and to explore ways in which these materials can be represented and accessed digitally in order to create new knowledge. The Network will invite researchers from the arts, humanities and scientific disciplines, representatives from archives, libraries and museums, and the climate scientists from the Met Office to scope and uncover historic weather source materials through articulating a series of key research questions. It will then review ways in which greater engagement and interaction with these materials can be encouraged via digitisation and representation online. The Network will also explore ways in which primary source materials related to climate change enable new research in the sciences and the humanities. Based on this, the Network will make recommendations for the development of a technological infrastructure to facilitate international, inter-disciplinary access to this material by the broadest community of users, taking a collective intelligence approach.

This work will be situated in the Centre for e-Research (CeRch), King's College London, working with the ACRE (Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth) initiative at the Met Office Hadley Centre. This approach will enable broadest input from researchers across the disciplines to identify source materials that can contribute to an understanding of environmental change, and situate this work at the cutting edge of e-Research. Climate researchers at ACRE have already begun a process of identifying and digitising key historic materials to uncover historic weather data from a variety of sources and collections, and document both instrumental and documentary meteorological conditions and weather data (for example, ships logs). This Network will continue this process, by identifying other historic sources that can enhance and augment existing material and develop a comprehensive research base for scholars. The next step will then be to explore digital representation and analysis of these materials in order to promote new research.

This Network will therefore bring together both social and climate histories with climate science to form a more complete picture of environmental, economic, and social developments and changes. It will also bring those working with and maintaining various repositories of historical and environmental collections - museums, libraries and archives - fully into the environmental change agenda. The Network will broaden the engagement beyond the usual, purely scientific realm of climate, climate variability, and climate change.

Planned Impact

Impact summary

This Network will address several of the key aims of the AHRC Networks call, 'Arts and Humanities Approaches to Researching Environmental Change'. The Network will adopt an innovative approach to link arts and humanities researchers, the custodians of historic weather data, and the climate change scientific community in an initiative to discuss and document the key humanities research questions that will enable us to uncover historic records that contain information relevant to environmental change. The Network will therefore exploit and reveal the important contribution to made by arts and humanities research to researching environmental change. The Network discussions will be configured around two key points of intersection: the historic records that contain information about weather and climate, and taking an e-Research approach to digitizing and representing these materials in new and innovative ways so that they form the basis for transformative research that will create new knowledge about research both in the arts and humanities and in the scientific disciplines related to environmental change.

Our Network will develop collaborations and conversations, and foster research partnerships, between key stakeholders in the communities of practice engaged in this topic at this time. These communities are:

Researchers and academics in the arts and humanities
Scientists, and researchers in the scientific community
Earth Scientists
Archives, Museums and Libraries
Civil Service/Public Sector Organizations, including the Met Office
e-Research (and e-Science) community
Students, educators and the public

This list shows that the impact of this Network will extend far beyond the academy, and have key knowledge transfer component. It will have social, political and economic value, and by putting the UK's Met Office at the core of our network will ensure broadest visibility for UK research and public engagement with research.

There have, of course, been many initiatives and collaborations between science and the arts and humanities. This Network, however, is well grounded in historic records and archives, research practice, and e-Research methods. This will ensure the broadest international impact for the Network's activities and publications.


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Description The network concluded that much was to be gained through these kind of collaborations. The co-I Lorna Hughes has subsequently taken this work forward in new role of Professor of Digital Collections at the National Library of Wales
Exploitation Route As an example of cross-disciplinary working.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

Description This was a network grant that led to further discussions and explorations of use of crowd-sourcing for humanities collections, and the use of humanities data for scientific purposes.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Cultural,Societal