Topic modelling exposes disciplinary divergence in research on the nexus between human mobility and the environment

Kerstin Zander (Corresponding author), Stephen Garnett, Harald Sterly, Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Barbora Šedová, Hermann Lotze-Campen, Carmen Richerzhagen, Hunter Baggen

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Human mobility is increasingly associated with environmental and climatic factors. One way to explore how mobility and the environment are linked is to review the research on different aspects of the topic. However, so many relevant articles are published that analysis of the literature using conventional techniques is becoming prohibitively arduous. To overcome this constraint, we have applied automated textual analysis. Using unsupervised topic modelling on 3197 peer-reviewed articles on the nexus between mobility and the environment published over the last 30 years, we identify 37 major topics. Based on their language use, the topics were deeply branched into two categories of focus: Impact and Adaptation. The Impact theme is further clustered into sub-themes on vulnerability and residential mobility, while articles within the Adaptation theme are clustered into governance, disaster management and farming. The analysis revealed opportunities for greater collaboration within environmental mobility research, particularly improved integration of adaptation and impact research. The topic analysis also revealed that, in the last 30 years, very little research appears to have been undertaken in migration destinations or on the fate of environmentally influenced migrants during their migration process and after arriving in a new location. There are also research gaps in gender and Indigenous issues within the Impact theme, as well as on adaptive capacity and capacity-building.
Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Number of pages9
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 105205 Climate change
  • 504021 Migration research
  • 102035 Data science
  • 509023 Development research



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