Science in the trading zone: The School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia (PhD project)

The enduring significance of the sciences of environmental change, and their impact global politics, has increasingly attracted the attention of historians of science (Edwards 2010; Howe 2014). Yet the definition of ‘environmental science’ is often taken for granted. In the post-war period the idea of ‘the environment’, and of a distinctive ‘environmental science’, began to take root across science and public policy. Disciplines were encouraged to work together, new tools and ideas were generated, and a whole new way of doing science was created. Environmental science could be understood as a ‘trading zone’ (Galison 1997), where different scientific cultures interact, building new languages and techniques of cooperation. We can also understand the politics of environmental change as a trading zone where diverse forms of knowledge rub-up against disparate political beliefs and commitments. This project seeks to understand the historical development of environmental science within the wider context of an evolving local, national and global politics of environmental change. 

The School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia provides an ideal case study through which to understand this history. Founded in 1967, the School developed an international reputation for challenging disciplinary boundaries, and for changing the way ‘the environment’ was viewed in science, politics and society more broadly. Working with published and unpublished archives and oral histories, this project is aiming to reconstruct a history of the institution and its interactions with the wider world, while contributing towards developing and maintaining an institutional archive within the School itself. 

The PhD project is situated in the 3S Research Group, and is using an ecologies of co-production framework that draws heavily from ideas in STS and geography of science (Chilvers and Kearnes 2016; Chilvers et al. 2018; Jasanoff 2004; Mahony and Hulme 2018).


Elliot Honeybun-Arnolda


Martin Mahony

Jason Chilvers


3S Strands:

Knowledges and Expertise