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Meet PLOS Climate Academic Editor Kim-Pong Tam

We spoke with PLOS Climate Academic Editor Kim-Pong Tam, Associate Professor in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

How did you end up in your field of research?

I have been deeply concerned about human wellbeing and planetary health since my undergraduate years. As a social scientist now, I am always actively thinking about what I can contribute. I identify myself as an environmental psychologist, even though I was not trained in this area (I was trained in the areas of social psychology and cross-cultural psychology). In the early 2010s, when I was looking for a new research agenda, I decided to switch all of my research attention and effort to the study of the environment and human behavior.

Could you tell us about what you’re currently working on?

I am interested in humans’ connection to nature and their responses to global environmental change. My primary research focus is to understand how people construe their relationship with nature and the emotional and behavioral implications of such construal. Some examples of my output in this direction include my works on anthropomorphism of nature, connectedness to nature, empathy with nature, and, most recently, gratitude to nature. Another research focus of mine is to uncover the cross-national variability of phenomena regarding environmental attitude and pro-environmental behavior. For example, I demonstrated that the relationship between environmental concern and environmental action varies systematically along the cultural orientations and political contexts in different societies. In two recent systematic reviews, I also observed that psychological research regarding climate change specifically and human-environment relationships in general requires an expansion in terms of geographic representation. In my recent projects, I have expanded my interest to the understanding of the socio-political dynamics behind people’s collective responses to environmental problems and also the various psychological processes behind public support for climate change policies and technology.

What do you see as the most pressing priorities for climate research? And for climate action?

To address climate change, we need transformative, systematic change in our society. As a psychologist, I believe that means we need a better understanding of people’s attitudes toward and support for climate-related policy changes and technological developments.

Why did you decide to join the PLOS Climate editorial board?

I am most attracted to the diverse perspectives involved in the journal. When reading the journal, I find myself exposed to innovative ideas from scientists coming from a wide range of scholarly disciplines and personal backgrounds. I want to be a part of this platform.

Why do you see Open Access and Open Science as important?

Recent research findings have confirmed the widely shared assumption that the public’s trust in science hinges on the honesty, openness, and transparency of the scientific process. It is now our responsibility to create an environment that promotes these qualities. Publishing papers with open access and complying with open science practices are two ways to fulfil such responsibility.

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