WUN supports a diverse range of research activities across all disciplines and encourages interdisciplinary research in particular. Through joint research collaboration, WUN members are able to pool their resources and intellectual power to achieve collective international objectives that meet the needs of our global society.
As a comprehensive global research organisation, WUN shares many of the same objectives as UCT, fostering international research collaboration through a developed global support framework that can address issues of global concern, affect decision making at the level of policy, and unlock funding opportunities.
WUN research takes place in one of four thematic fields known as Global Challenges, each of which consists of a number of collaborative research projects involving leading researchers of similar fields of interest:
Responding to climate change, focused primarily on food and environment security and encapsulating a number of innovative research projects that address scientific, cultural, health and social issues. Changes to our climate are leading to environmental changes, food and water shortages, and population displacement and migration. Collaborative and multidisciplinary research programs are a crucial component of the WUN response to these emerging problems, and experts from across the globe need to work together to explore sustainable approaches to how we can best adapt to a changing climate.
Public health (non-communicable disease), which emphasises a life-course approach to opportunities for addressing non-communicable diseases, especially in low and middle income countries and transitioning populations, but also in developed societies where there are social disparities in risk.
Global higher education and research, which addresses the sources, mechanisms, and social structures that give rise to today's higher education challenges, and works collaboratively across the network to propose reform policies for international research and education.
Understanding cultures, which facilitates interdisciplinary research for understanding some of the principal consequences of globalisation for cultural identities. The research agenda of this Challenge is shaped by a concern with how profound globalisation trends such as a more integrated transnational economic system, the rise of global communications networks, increasing levels of population mobility, the advent of international consumer brands, and widening social inequalities are challenging national, regional and individual cultural practices. Deeper understanding of these challenges for cultural changes is necessary to inform effective policy-making and implementation.
These Global Challenges consist of a number of collaborative research projects, involving leading researchers of similar fields of interest. Across the network, they comprise more than 90 active initiatives in a portfolio spanning the arts, humanities, social sciences, engineering, science, health and medicine.