There are many collaborative research partnerships between India and Oxford, taking place across all departments and divisions of the University. With the range of work being done, there is a lot to be excited about. For journalists, funders and collaborating institutions we have plenty to share with you.
Research Partnerships - Gardens Libraries and Museums
India Collections at the Ashmolean
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum is the oldest museum in the UK and houses a collection of art and antiquities from all across the world. The Ashmolean has a distinguished collection of objects from the Indian subcontinent (modern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), the most comprehensive of its kind in Britain outside London.
South Asian Collection, Oriental Institute Library
The South Asian Collection housed in the Oriental Institute Library caters essentially for students of Sanskrit in the Honour School and consequently shows greater strength in the classical periods of Indian history and culture, although efforts are made to also maintain an adequate collection of grammars, manuals and dictionaries of the major modern languages of India.
A joint initiative between the Ashmolean Museum, the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, and the American Numismatic Society in New York, the OXUS-INDUS project is working to create a new typology of Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coinage. Produced by rulers in Central and South Asia from the mid third century BCE to the first century CE, these coins are one of the best primary sources for our understanding of this period.
The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The typology includes coins from international collections and is now available online at https://numismatics.org/bigr/. An Open Access catalogue in book format will appear shortly.
Research Partnerships - Humanities
Early Modern South Asia Project
Run by the Faculty of Oriental Studies, to strengthen collaboration with/between scholars whose research work is focussed on South Asia, the Oxford Early Modern South Asia Project facilitates workshops, seminars and publications.
South Asia in general is a great source for researchers to study and explore more about the culture, language and the evolution of traditions from the ancient period to colonisation which in turn shaped the cultural changes in the modern age. As its broad framework of enquiry, this project poses questions of social agency: of the roles of service communities with different skills and expertise in shaping South Asia’s political, commercial and cultural dynamism from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century.
Exploring the Sounds of South Asia
The Faculty of Music's Sounds of South Asia project is a series of concerts, workshops, and lectures on the music of South Asia.
Started as a DPhil project by Des Oliver, Sounds of South Asia involves creating musical works or fusions using South Asian pieces. The first set of events were led by Dr Shruti Jauhari, an Indian Hindustani vocalist, scholar, and teacher, and included a performance of Classical Hindustani music.
Currently, Des Oliver is the curator for the Sounds of South Asia series.
Global Nodes, Global Orders
Funded by a Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant, the Global Nodes, Global Orders: Macro- and Micro-histories of Globalization project attempts to historicize and re-conceptualize globalization, bring the key disciplines together, and better understand its intimate mechanics and implications for the present.
Led by James Belich from the University of Oxford, this project brings together leading scholars from the Universities of Oxford, Princeton, Osaka, Kolkata, Leiden and Konstanz.
Indus-Aegean Bronze Age Research Network (IABARN)
IABARN arose out of the First International Workshop on Relations between the Indus and the Aegean in the Bronze Age, convened by Professor Robert Arnott (Green Templeton College) and Dr Marie Nicole Pareja (University of Pennsylvania) at the University of Oxford on 3-4 December 2022, where all the participants agreed to establish the Indus-Aegean Bronze Age Research Network to continue the dialogue and to promote collaborative research.
The first contacts between India and the Aegean were thought to have occurred at the beginning of the sixth century BC. There is now, however, growing evidence of much earlier but indirect exchange, reaching back through prehistory. Such connections grew from ties between the Indus Civilisation (Meluḫḫa) and the Near East, and then expanded to the societies of the Early and Middle Bronze Age Aegean, including the shores of Western Anatolia, with their slowly emerging palace-based economies and complex social structures.
Led by Professor Arnott and Dr Pareja, IABARN has established an e-mail based information distribution, and will shortly establish a website and a virtual seminar series.
Research Partnerships - Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences
Oxford-India Network in Theoretical Physics
What started as individual research links between Oxford and India developed into a network in theoretical physics that includes, among others, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kolkata and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai.
The Oxford-India Network in Theoretical Physics' collaborative interdisciplinary research spans fields of enormous diversity in scale, ranging from elementary particle and superstring theory, through nanotechnology, complexity and the collective behaviour of matter, to the motion of living organisms and the evolution of the universe as a whole.
Earthquakes without Frontiers
The Earthquakes without Frontiers partnership brings together a group of earth scientists with a long track record in integrated earthquake science, social scientists that have extensive experience in exploring the vulnerability and resilience of communities in disaster-prone regions, and experienced practitioners in the communication of scientific knowledge to policy makers.
This partnership brings together the Universities of Oxford, Durham, Hull, Leeds, Northumbria, Cambridge with institutions across India, Nepal and China. Pioneering institutions like Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Bombay), Indian Institute of Science and Education (Kolkata), Bihar State Disaster Management Authority were involved in this partnership with India.
Global Jet Watch
Linking professional astronomers with schoolchildren around the world to carry out cutting edge research investigating the behaviour of astrophysical black holes. Observatories located in boarding schools in India, Chile, Australia and South Africa are equipped with research-grade instrumentation and bespoke spectrographs providing continuous monitoring of the black hole SS433, the first undertaking of its kind. In January 2017, a solar farm was connected to the observatory near Bangalore, India - it is now powered entirely independently of the local grid from a renewable source.
Breathing-powered Prosthetic Hand
Working in collaboration with clinical partners and patient volunteers in India, researchers at the Department of Engineering Science have developed a revolutionary new hand prosthesis powered and controlled by the user’s breathing. This new approach provides an alternative body-powered device for users in situations where cost, maintenance, comfort and ease of use are primary considerations.
The most widely used functional upper-limb prosthesis remains the cable-driven body-powered system, which can be prohibitively expensive to own and maintain in low-resource settings because of the costs associated with the necessary professional fitting and maintenance. The new breathing-powered device offers an alternative to Bowden cable-driven body-powered prosthetics – particularly for those too young or anatomically unsuited to an uncomfortable harness and cable system – and provides a simple, lightweight, low-maintenance and easy-to-use body-powered prosthetic option for those in low and middle-income countries.
This research represents a step-change in making prosthetics more widely accessible and helping overcome challenges with current options. The full paper demonstrating the findings of this research, ‘Reimagining prosthetic control: A novel body-powered prosthetic system for simultaneous control and actuation,’ is published in the journal Prosthesis (July 2022).
PURAK: Wearable Devices for Distal Arm Functionality Rehabilitation
Researchers from Oxford's Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), in partnership with The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc), were awarded a 4 year project (2014-18; totalling approximately £1 million) from the Wellcome Trust entitled PURAK: Wearable Devices for Distal Arm Functionality Rehabilitation to develop affordable prostheses for the large majority of the Indian population.
The international collaboration took novel prosthetic design prototypes developed at the IISc and readied them for commercial manufacture. The work combined all the advantage from complementary strengths of the two partners- the IISc providing expertise in affordable and appropriate design, and Oxford providing expertise on biomechanics and clinical trials together with experts in commercialisation at both centres.
The IISc has also partnered with The George Institute for Global Health in providing affordable mHealth interventions. This includes a randomised control trial in cardiovascular disease risk reduction in Southern India, and trials of a low cost blood pressure monitor in rural China.
Research Partnerships - Medical Sciences
Research on Cardiovascular Diseases
With support and core funding from British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, and Medical research Council, the Nuffield Department of Population Health conducted two primary studies in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu (Chennai) and Kerala (Trivandrum) between 1998-2002, for insights about the increasing death rate across developing countries due to Cardiovascular diseases.
Chennai Prospective Study: A prospective study of half a million adults living in the city of Chennai arose out of discussions at the 1994 International Cancer Congress in Delhi, about how to assess the effects of tobacco on health in different parts of India.
Trivandrum Tobacco Study: The Trivandrum Tobacco Study is a population-based study of 0.1 million urban men surveyed 2000-2002 and 0.3 million men from the rural areas surrounding Trivandrum surveyed 2002-2006. Follow-up for mortality occurs every 5 years by household visits with cause of death ascertained by verbal autopsy, with a complete re-survey of 40,000 survivors conducted every 5 years.
The International Fetal and Newborn Growth Consortium for the 21st Century, or INTERGROWTH-21st, is an international multidisciplinary consortium of more than 300 researchers and clinicians from 27 institutions in 18 countries worldwide, coordinated from the University of Oxford and launched in 2008. Their 5 year research examined the healthy growth of foetuses and new born babies in eight countries, including India, with the Indian research centre at the INCLEN Trust in New Delhi. In collaboration with the Department of Nutrition of the WHO, the results will be incorporated into national and international maternal and neonatal programmes for monitoring maternal/infant health and nutrition. The results of the study with methodological approach and practice toolkits are published on the website.
The next phase of INTERGROWTH-21st named INTERPRACTICE-21st has also begun with affiliations from centres and institutions across the globe. INTERPRACTICE-21st aims to promote optimal post natal growth in infants up to 6 months. This phase of the project has affiliation with, and study centres in, India from the Government Medical College, Chandigarh and St John's Medical College Hospital, Bangalore.
SMART Health Pregnancy: An opportunity to improve women's lifelong health
A collaborative project with the George Institute for Global Health (India). It aims to strengthen antenatal and postnatal care delivery for women living in rural India. Common complications that develop during pregnancy are well-known to increase risks during pregnancy, with some conditions such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia greatly increasing a woman's risk of type 2 diabetes or hypertension after birth. This program has been designed to try and break this cycle.
Following detailed development work and a pilot study (led by Dr S Nagraj, DPhil 2021), a complex intervention has been developed for women during pregnancy and in the first year after birth targeting the major complications of pregnancy: anaemia, hypertension and diabetes. Current work focusses on integrating a new program to support perinatal mental health into this platform (the PRAMH study).
MaatHRI aims to create a large and diverse platform for academics and scientists to conduct large-scale epidemiological research to improve maternal and perinatal health in a setting with a high burden of mortality and morbidity.
Studies that are critical to informing policies and planning to address new and emerging complications in pregnancy can be quickly and efficiently rolled out through MaatHRI. The resultant new and improved scientific evidence will help policy makers and clinicians in India and globally to develop guidance to improve pregnancy care.
The collaborative platform will also be a training platform for students and early career researchers from the UK and India interested in developing skills in conducting research in maternal and perinatal health in a low-to-middle income country setting. MaatHRI could form the basis of many studies well in to the future.
India-Oxford Cancer Research Network
Cancer is already the second leading cause of death in India. But with an aging population and changes in diet and lifestyle, the incidence of cancer in India is expected to double in the next 10 years to about 2m cases a year. To help address this critical issue, a partnership was established in 2005 between Oxford University and six leading cancer centres in India, the INDOX (INDia-OXford) Cancer Research Network. INDOX has established itself as India’s leading academic oncology network. Though the funding has run out, the established links and projects through the network are still maintained to find further prospects for research areas in oncology.
The Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO)
Coordinated from the University of Oxford Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health, the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO) is a multi-disciplinary data-sharing initiative that brings together members of the global infectious disease community across the research and humanitarian sectors to collaborate in the generation, analysis and application of data to improve outcomes for patients.
IDDO has been working in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), with whom they now have an MoU, on data and skill-sharing, and support capacity development with India’s scientific research community, focusing on emerging infections and three vector-borne diseases in the elimination phase: malaria, visceral leishmaniasis, and filariasis. Together they are also working in collaboration with the National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) to build capacity through the training of young researchers across these same three infectious diseases: Malaria with the ICMR-NIMR in Delhi; Visceral Leishmaniasis with the ICMR and the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (ICMR-RMRIMS) in Patna; and Lymphatic filariasis with the ICMR and the Vector Control Research Centre (ICMR-VCRC) in Puducherry. The researchers have been developing their skills in data collection, storage, and management; modelling; clinical trials; and public health.
Research Partnerships - Social Sciences
Future of Cooling
Cooling is necessary for the quality of life of billions of people living in developing countries and, increasingly, for those developed countries traditionally unprepared for ever more frequent heatwaves due to climate change. The energy needed for air conditioning is likely to triple by 2050, with ten new air conditioning units projected to be sold every second for the next 30 years.
This huge demand has the potential to drive up greenhouse gas emissions and therefore further exacerbate the very problem it is designed to alleviate.
This Oxford Martin School project investigates the future of cooling as a dynamic system, and examines its interlinkages across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the developing and developed world. The aim is to steer the system towards sustainable cooling for all, and to establish cooling as a global priority for the successful implementation of the SDGs.
The methods used include surveys and trend analysis, modelling, experiments, qualitative fieldwork and case studies in fast-growing developing countries (India and South Africa) and developed countries at risk of increased heatwaves (France and the UK).
Coordinated by the University of Oxford, Young Lives started as a longitudinal research study on childhood poverty in 2001 and has been following 12,000 children in four developing countries – India, Ethiopia, Peru and Vietnam. The study has gained a global reputation for its rigour and impact and is currently in its 20th year of implementation.
In India, the Young Lives study has followed a pro-poor sample of 3000 children since 2002 across the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for two cohorts aged 1 year (Younger Cohort, born in 2001-02) and 8 years (Older Cohort, born in 1994-95) in 2002, now aged 19 and 26 years respectively. The longitudinal data has shed light and provided insight into every phase of children growing up in poverty, using a life course perspective.
Young Lives (YL) India has over 200 working and journal papers and have also conducted secondary research using Census as well as NFHS data related to child marriage, teenage pregnancy, migration etc. Their evidence provides policy makers with key findings that provide insight into challenges in implementation and gaps in current policy formulation and jointly work towards bringing systemic reforms to change lives of the most marginalised children. They are the technical partner to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on issues related to child marriage, teenage pregnancy and mental health and have also provided evidence related to queries raised by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Funded by UKRI-GCRF the TalkTogether project looks at oral language development in young children aged 3-6 in urban poor areas. We are using a mixed-methods approach to map the language experiences of young children in multilingual settings. We are also co-developing with cultural actors interventions that draw upon local oral language traditions. New ways of assessing children’s oral language is another aim. Here, we wish to add ideas to a toolkit for teachers and learning assessments that are used at scale. Most recently, we have begun developing a story-based programme to supplement the school curriculum for five- and six-year-olds.
Led by Sonali Nag from University of Oxford’s Department of Education this project has brought together co-investigators in Oxford with co-investigators and research affiliates in India from The Promise Foundation (TPF), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Room to Read (India) and the Language and Learning Foundation (LLF).
Difficult Dialogues 2019
The Difficult Dialogues conference is an annual event examining issues of contemporary relevance in South Asia, organised by Goa University and the International Centre Goa.
In 2019, in partnership with Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies (OxCHEPS), Difficult Dialogues focussed on educational policies and practices in India, and innovative methods which can be imparted to India's educational system. Professor David Mills, Associate Professor of Pedagogy and Social Sciences, and Dr Paul Flather, Supernumerary Fellow at Mansfield College, attended the conference in Goa which took place from 31 January to 2 February. Professor Mills was a panel member for the discussion on "Building a World Class University" which discussed the role of universities in promoting democracy and growth; and from India's point of view, what sort of steps can be taken to bring regional development, growth and inclusiveness. Dr Flather moderated the panel discussion on "New threats to Academic Freedom".
India's Emerging 'Rurbans' (Lives on the Move)
The Lives on the Move project explored the lives of internal migrants in India, shedding light on their motives for migrating as well as examining their social and political rights as they circulate between different locations across the country. The study offers practical solutions to an important policy dilemma that faces one of the world’s fastest growing economies where urbanisation has, nonetheless, remained stunted.
A team led by Dr Roy carried out ethnographic research with selected families in a single village in the State of Bihar, whose 100 million people contribute a significant part of India’s labour migrants. Two researchers circulated with migrant labourers as they moved between different localities for work, while one focussed on family members who remained in the village.
Partners for this project include the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) New Delhi, India; the Asian Development and Research Institute Patna, India; and Praxis New Delhi, India.
Rees Centre for Research in Education
The Rees Centre in Oxford's Department of Education aims to improve educational outcomes, wellbeing and life chance for those who are or have been supported by social care services, through the production of research evidence to improve policy and practice relating to children’s social care and education. The centre's research initiatives are targeted at social care practitioners and managers, carers, adopters, guardians, schools, and policy makers.
The Rees Centre is currently working on setting up a strategic partnership with Udayan Care, New Delhi, India. The focus of the partnership is on supporting care leavers and the cost effectiveness of child welfare services. Udayan Care currently have funding from UNICEF and Tata Trusts, and the Rees Centre also has funding from UNICEF to explore cost effective child welfare systems and the development of an investment case for foster care in Jordan.
Rice in India
Funded by ESRC-DFID, this project aimed to study and research the low-carbon emissions in an informal economy. Professor Barbara Harriss-White, the Oxford School of Global Area Studies, having prior experience and knowledge in the study of green revolution and its impact on Indian economy, lead this pilot project .
The project develops a series of methods for the first-hand study of the materiality of the informal economy. The primary focus was on greenhouse gases (GHGs) (in CO2e), energy and water as indicators of materiality, on labour conditions and on the structure of costs and profits. The field based case studies are rice production-distribution systems (intensive, SRI, rainfed and organic production; plus the partially regulated, private, post-harvest system; supermarket supply chains; and the state’s public distribution system) in three states of India: Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Indian centres including the Institute of Human Development, New Delhi; the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad; the Madras School of Economics, Chennai; Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad; the New Trade Union Initiative, New Delhi; and the Centre for Workers' Management, Bangalore and Chennai partnered with the University of Oxford for this project. This project has also paved the way for a follow up collaborations with other countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh by focussing on other carbon emitting objects.
Education.SouthAsia is a collaborative and interdisciplinary network of researchers and practitioners working on/in South Asia that aims to bring together academic and non-academic perspectives on education in South Asia.
Appreciating education as entwined with social processes that shape and are shaped by people’s visions of the past and future, they pay close attention to popular understandings on education (movies, songs etc.), study academic researches (books and journal articles) and trace policy narratives (key education policies). Education.SouthAsia go beyond the focus on big data on education and examine how people experience education as a part of their social project.
This initiative was started with the financial support from the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) and the University of Oxford's Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund.
Sutra is a knowledge exchange project between academic and non-academic partners with a focus on early childhood education and primary school programmes. Non-academic partners include teacher trainers who are active practitioners and/or policy workers, teachers, local folklorists, story tellers and folk artists. The knowledge exchange outputs are in film and print formats using local cultural and artistic artefacts, and from this is where the project title is derived: Supporting Teachers with Resources and Art. Sutra in Sanskrit means a pithy message and is also the string that holds diverse matters together.
This project was started in March 2019 with funding support from University of Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, and the first phase of the project has seen involvement from local cultural actors, government and policy makers from the Indian state of Karnataka. The team that worked on the outputs were from NGOs, schools and members of the network supporting the curriculum reform.
As a result of the successful first phase, partners from other Indian states gave positive feedback and asked to share the resources more widely.
Helga Todd Fund
The Helga Todd Foundation is a charity set up to advance education for aspiring teachers and students by partnering with other charities and leading institutions.
Since the inception of this foundation, various projects and initiatives are taken up to create better opportunities through innovative teaching methods in India. As a matter of achieving their aim, the foundation has allocated a yearly fund for students or interns to spend summer in India, teaching for schools from rural towns. Under this scheme, the Department of Education, University of Oxford has been sending students who have completed the PGCE to India for internships.
Rural e-Services in India
The University of Oxford Department of International Development's Rural e-Services in India project sought to developing new, sustainable ways to deliver e-services and develop innovation capacity in poverty-stricken communities. By developing a system whereby farmers in rural India could resolve problems with crops using mobile camera phones, the project made it possible for them to discuss their challenges and get rapid responses using modern communication technology.
This was a multi-disciplinary project collaborating with computer engineers and NGOs in India.
PEAK Urban Programme
The PEAK Urban programme aims to build skilled capacity for decision making on urban futures by: i) generating new research grounded in the logic of urban complexity, and ii) fostering new leaders that draw on different disciplinary perspectives to address the challenges found in the 21st century city.
Running from 2017-2021, this project had cross-divisional participation within the University of Oxford, implementing various study methods from each division, including the Centre on Migration, Policy and Diversity (COMPAS); the Mathematical Institute; the Transport Studies Unit; and The George Institute for Global Health. The project also partnered with international institutions, including Peking University, China; the African Centre for Cities (South Africa); the Indian Institute for Human Settlement (India); and EAFIT University (Colombia).
The 1928 Institute: Founded in 2020 by Kiran Kaur Manku FRSA & Dr Nikita Ved MBE, the 1928 Institute is a University of Oxford spin-out that researches and engages British Indians or the Subcontinent’s diaspora, in addition to working on UK-India relations. The Institute is a continuation of the India League established in 1928 by Krishna Menon which was the first platform for the diaspora in the UK.
Led by academics at Oxford, the Institute conducts empirical research on the evolving needs of the diaspora and translates this to policymakers in Local Authorities, the Civil Service, and Parliamentarians. Their research includes mental health, COVID-19, farmers protests, climate change, and political representation.
The Institute also conducts community engagement to showcase the diaspora’s diverse heritage and culture, and provide a platform for the diaspora. In addition, the 1928 Institute are the Secretariat for the APPG India (Trade & Investment) where they coordinate senior Parliamentarians on the UK-India relationship and the diaspora’s role in the living bridge.