An Edge Hill University psychologist is helping UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to set out a plan to deliver carbon-neutral computing by 2040 or sooner.
The UKRI has provided £1.8milllion to a consortium of some of the country’s top researchers and computer scientists, including Dr Laura McGuire from Edge Hill’s psychology department, to deliver the project.
As the only psychologist on the team, Dr McGuire will focus on the motivators and barriers to sustainable behaviour, looking at how researchers use technology and whether they understand the carbon footprint attached to it.
Dr McGuire said: “Unbeknownst to most academics and researchers, their actions can have a huge environmental impact. From storing data on power-hungry servers to holding conferences over zoom requiring multiple computers, all these things require electricity and power and can have a significant carbon footprint.”
To aid the project, Dr McGuire is asking anyone involved in research and innovation in the UK to fill in a survey asking how they use digital resources. The survey will investigate the willingness to change behaviour and how it relates to their ‘implicit attitudes’ towards sustainability, the underlying attitudes everyone has but are unaware of.
Dr McGuire added: “We want to know people’s willingness to change how they use digital resources in several domains, including research, data storage, and digital technology use and more general behaviour at work or while studying. We’ll also use people’s responses to the survey to investigate their general attitudes towards sustainability and net zero targets.”
While the project focuses on digital research infrastructure, the survey has a broader scope because research relies on digital tools, including using personal computers to connect to supercomputing facilities, hosting virtual meetings, and cloud storage options.
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