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Harvard announces new research institute in Shanghai

Harvard University announced on Thursday that it will launch a new research institute in Shanghai, funded by a Chinese department store and theme park magnate, that will study climate change in China.

The Harvard Global Institute is designed to encourage professors of different disciplines to collaborate and study global topics such as urbanization, education, water, and migration.

It will provide large grants to teams of faculty and small grants to professors exploring more experimental topics, according to a news release from Harvard.

“In order to fully participate in an ever more connected world, Harvard must leverage its extraordinary intellectual and programmatic strengths with a more intentional strategy of engagement,” Harvard president Drew Faust said in a letter to faculty to announce the news.

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The institute is being funded by a donation from Wang Jianlin, the chairman of the Wanda Group, a Beijing-based company that owns and operates department stores, hotels, movie theaters and theme parks, according to its website.

“Having Harvard faculty, students, researchers on the ground in China, to help address some of the country’s most pressing needs will be immensely beneficial,” Wang said in a statement.

Wang donated millions of dollars to the center, but Harvard would not specify exactly how much.

The center will be at the Harvard Center Shanghai, which opened five years ago. The institute will also host public lectures, conferences and a summer course for undergraduate and graduate students, according to the university.

The institute’s first grant is $3.75 million for a project to investigate climate change, energy security and sustainable development in China, led by atmospheric scientist Michael McElroy and economist Dale Jorgenson, the school said.

A Harvard spokesman said the institute aims to involve Chinese scholars in its work.

Researchers at the institute will also conduct an environmental assessment of Chengdu, a city with 14 million people, and do other work related to social sciences, environmental law and climate policy, the release said.

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The institute will also fund an effort led by a comparative literature professor to understand how Chinese communities have “grappled with environmental challenges, such as pollution-related diseases.”


Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.