GLP Member Research in the News

Purdue research team works to meet the United Nations sustainable development goals

Related GLP Member: Thomas Hertel

Time management can sometimes be difficult, but managing the global commons is a bit of a bigger challenge.

Thomas W. Hertel, Purdue University professor of agricultural economics, and his team aim to develop a multidisciplinary approach for managing the earth’s unowned natural resources such as the oceans, atmosphere, and space, also known as the global commons, in order to establish an applied research consortium which will analyze scenarios and explore policy alternatives. These alternatives will promote responsible public and private investment, sustainable management of critical, shared natural resources, and collective action toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Hertel’s team was awarded funding for their proposal, Managing Global Commons: Sustainable Agriculture and Use of the World’s Land and Water Resources in the 21st Century.

The project is relevant to nine of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals: no poverty, zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, and life on land.

“The idea is that this is a transparent project in the sense that everything is on the GeoHub and others can participate” Hertel said.

The Managing the Global Commons team offers an opportunity for student engagement.

“We have a textbook that ties in with a class that we teach each year in the spring,” Hertel said. “So, most of the people on the project have taught in this class.”

Research in sustainability issues has been conducted in the past, but Hertel says it lacks shared resources, a clear approach, and long-term research. This team will approach the Sustainable Development Goals by focusing on a three-step approach: establish flagship examples, produce policy briefs, and create infrastructure and open-source tools. By combining multiple disciplines across Purdue, the team aims to attract a range of board members from the public and private spheres, domestic and international.

Purdue University’s Discovery Park has launched its Big Idea Challenge, which provides funding and resources to teams made up of Purdue students and faculty who will conduct interdisciplinary research on global challenges and life-changing innovations.

“There are lots of different directions this could go; it is a big idea!” he said.

Within the multidisciplinary approach, the team’s strategies include meeting bi-weekly with sub-groups to tackle different obstacles such as contacting stakeholders, meeting deadlines, writing two-page proposals, or contacting different networks of interest.

Thomas Hertel and Matthew Huber from Purdue University will host a workshop on University Engagement with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals on Oct. 13, part of the Potsdam Institute for Climate, Impact World 2017 Conference, held in Germany that week. This workshop is designed to maximize discussion about how universities can engage more effectively in the analysis and implementation of SDG policies through open source, community-building approaches at local, national and global levels. More information can be found at:

The Maintaining the Global Commons team includes professors from several different disciplines at Purdue.

* Thomas W. Hertel, distinguished professor of agricultural economics and executive director for the Center for Global Trade Analysis.

* Uris L.C. Baldos, research assistant professor of agricultural economics.

* Laura Bowling, professor of agronomy.

* Keith Cherkauer, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

* Matthew Huber, professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences.

* David Johnson, assistant professor of industrial engineering and political science.

* Carol X. Song, director of Scientific Solutions and ITaP Researching Computing.

* Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, research professor and director of the Center for Global Trade Analysis and Department of Agricultural Economics.