Professor of Environment and Society and Chair of the 3S Research Group in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia.
I am a science and technology studies (STS) scholar and geographer concerned with the changing relations between science, innovation and society in contemporary democracies, particularly in environment and sustainability contexts and in response to issues of energy, climate change and emerging technologies.
Within these settings, a key focus of my work has been to reimagine and remake public participation and democracy from a more relational and constructivist STS perspective. This has included bringing forward new ways of theorising and studying participation: as situated participatory experiments and practices in the making (ranging from deliberative, activist, everyday, digital, grassroots community engagements, and so on); as new forms of participation expertise, institutionalisation and innovation that travel and have effects around the world; and as diverse ecologies of participation that interrelate in wider political systems and cultures. This in turn has prompted new paths for remaking participatory practices in more experimental, reflexive and responsible ways, including my work on approaches like Deliberative Mapping and digital methods for mapping participation in wider issues and systems. Much of this work is captured in my 2016 book Remaking Participation: Science, Environment and Emergent Publics (Routledge) co-authored with Matthew Kearnes, which received the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) Amsterdamska Award in 2018 for its “substantive contribution” to the STS field in terms of “originality and impact”.
I have applied these ideas and approaches more widely in studies of the Anthropocene, global environmental expertise, climate change, climate geoengineering, smart technologies, energy transitions, energy democracy, radioactive waste, science governance, reflexive learning, organisational learning, science-policy interfaces, responsible innovation, social innovation, citizen science, interdisciplinarity, and more.
I am currently taking this work forward: as director of the first national Observatory for Societal Engagement with Energy (SEE) and zero carbon transitions which is a new core capability of the £18 million UKRI-funded UK Energy Research Centre (2019-2024), for which I am a Co-Director; as Co-I and work package lead on the interdisciplinary FAB-GGR project (Feasibility of afforestation and biomass energy with carbon capture and storage for greenhouse gas removal) funded by NERC/EPSRC/ESRC (2017-2021); and as Co-I on the Just Public Algorithms project as part of Not Equal, an EPSRC Network+ programme on Social Justice through the Digital Economy (2019-2020). Previously I have led research projects and programmes funded by ESRC, EPSRC, UK Government, Defra, BEIS, and the European Commission.
My scholarship has benefited from and informed two decades of practical experience in intervening in participation experiments and democratic practice in the UK and internationally – ranging from designing and facilitating participatory processes through to expert advisory roles – for organisations such as the Royal Society, the Nuffield Council, Defra, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), Natural England, Sciencewise, the European Commission and UNEP. I currently sit on the Advisory Board for the EU Horizon 2020 ENGAGE project, on the Steering Group for Carbon Connect’s cross parliamentary inquiry on engaging consumers in the low carbon heat transition, and on the Academic Advisory Panel for the UK Parliament’s Climate Change Citizens’ Assembly.
I teach widely across undergraduate degrees in Geography and Environmental Sciences at UEA and also masters programmes, including as module organiser of ‘Science, Society and Sustainability’ a core module on the 3S Pathway in our MSc in Environmental Sciences. I currently serve as the Head of Social Science, overseeing aspects of teaching, research and staffing in this sector of the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA. Since 2016, I have served as an external examiner in the Department of Geography at the University of Manchester.
Observatory for Societal Engagement with Energy (SEE) and zero carbon transitions (UKERC, 2019-2024)