On March 16-17, 2023 PPIA will host desert and dryland researchers from around the world at the 6th Oxford Interdisciplinary Desert Conference (OIDC). Held at the School of Geography, University of Oxford, the event brings together academics and non-academics who research, work and live across the world’s desert and semi-desert regions for two days of vibrant talks, presentations, panels and networking opportunities. The interdisciplinary event encourages social and physical scientists to exchange views, develop lasting collaborations and work towards a positive global impact. The conference is an excellent opportunity for the PPIA team from four countries to meet, talk and plan our group research and outcomes.
The desert conference series started in 2010. Growing out of dryland research at Oxford, we realised that desert researchers rarely had the opportunity or forum to interact with each other. Without explanation or reason, physical scientists, social researchers and geographers had few occasions to collaborate, too often working apart and funded separately. Yet rich discussion showed there were many shared interests and new ways to cooperate in addressing global topics and dryland challenges. Talking with other fields – anthropology, earth science, development, zoology, archaeology etc. – showed there was a wealth of desert information that could strengthen our research and influence. In creating the Oxford Interdisciplinary Desert Conference series we originated a new format to bridge academic disciplines and bring together stakeholders, practitioners and researchers.
The 6th OIDC recognises that deserts and drylands encompass 40% of the globe and shelter two billion people. These arid regions are home to major religions, valued natural resources, scarcity, wealth and poverty, and face issues that dominate our time. Geopolitics, climate change, development, land degradation, population growth, conflict and energy are issues that have relevance beyond any singular department or perspective. The success of the conference series reflects its unique ability to bring together ideas, people and perspectives from around the world.
Our 2023 event is hosted by the Post Pandemic Societies in Inner Asia (PPIA) project. The PPIA team comes from four countries – UK, Japan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. Team members represent Mongolia National University; University of Central Asia; Kagoshima University, Meiji University, Rakuno Gauken University, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Kobe University, Saitama University and Hokkaido University in Japan; and the University of Oxford. Funding from the ESRC – JSPS enables us to organise the Oxford International Desert Conference with the full participation of our international researchers. This enhances project goals of international cooperation, developing early career training and presentation skills and documenting post-pandemic changes in Inner Asia.
The conference will feature a closing session at Merton College followed by a special reception bringing together desert researchers, diplomats and university representatives to close the event. Whilst in the UK the international team will also visit Cambridge University and appreciate the unique academic environment of Oxford.
A strength of the Desert Conferences has been the continued interest and participation by participants at several or all of the conferences. This reflects the welcoming atmosphere, dynamic engagement and positive outcomes from time together. The Bedouin coffee tent, the St Cross College dinner and the Merton College reception encourage platforms for sharing ideas and research dreams, new friendships and ground-breaking collaborations.
The 6th Oxford Interdisciplinary Desert Conference will take place on 16-17 March 2023.