Science, Politics and Government
Geographers have long sought to understand the role of nature and the natural environment in social and political life. The work of the cluster develops from this core geographical concern, but takes it in new directions. On the one hand, the cluster’s research is concerned not just with environmental politics, but also with the government and biopolitics of population, health and everyday life; the politics of material artefacts, natural resources and living organisms; and the phenomenological and sensory realms of modernity. On the other hand, the cluster is committed to methodological innovation, in visualisation and the analysis of big data, in archival research, as well as through collaborations with natural scientists, artists, and other practitioners. Reflecting these conceptual, political and methodological concerns, the current research of the cluster is focused on four main areas of interest: the practice of everyday life; political events and materials; environment, politics and expertise; geodemographics and big data.
Our research falls under the following main themes:
This AHRC funded project reconsiders British diplomacy from the perspective of the everyday interactions with other diplomatic entities that are prior to, and shape, foreign policy formation. It does so through a series of historical snapshots of moments when new 'outside' elements were incorporated into the British diplomatic apparatus. Produced through archival research and interviews, these snapshots together provide a different picture of the way foreign policy is produced than is usually presented. This theoretical shift towards everyday diplomacy is important because it hints at the possibility that a loose group of states (often referred to as the ‘Anglosphere’ or ‘the West') have enmeshed their foreign policy apparatuses in ways that predispose them to (but do not require) collective action. Just as a group of people can congeal into a crowd, with their micro-scaled interactions resonating to create collective actions (like a crowd becoming a mob) without each individual losing the sense of their own agency, we might imagine everyday diplomatic interactions as productive of just such a collective.
Marine protected area governance (MPAG) – Peter Jones
This research explores questions relating to the effective and equitable governance of marine protected areas (MPAs) and options for addressing them. A key theme is that MPA governance needs to combine participative, legal and economic approaches. Building on ideas concerning the governance of common-pool resources, this research employs a more holistic and less prescriptive theoretical and empirical framework for analysing case studies on the governance of MPAs. This trans-disciplinary approach is aimed at supporting the development of MPA governance approaches that build social-ecological resilience through both institutional and biological diversity. This builds on the argument that diversity is the key to resilience, both of species in ecosystems and incentives in governance systems. This research involves 20 case studies from around the world, funded by UNEP, and recently culminated in the publication of the book Governing Marine Protected Areas: resilience through diversity. Previous special issue of the journal Marine Policy and related outputs available at MPAG website.
Zoöpolis: cultural and historical aspects of urban wastelands – Matthew Gandy
During his time as Senior Research Fellow of the Gerda Henkel Foundation, based at the Universität der Künste in Berlin, Matthew Gandy will be writing a book about urban nature. A starting point for this work is uncertainty over the analytical scope of urban ecology in relation to the specific cultural, historical and material dimensions of urbanization. As a consequence the emerging tension between urban ecology, as a branch of the biological sciences, and urban political ecology, as a development within critical social science, remains a key analytical challenge for rethinking the concept of nature in an urban context.
Monitoring and evaluation of spatially managed marine areas (MESMA) – Peter Jones
Dr Peter Jones was part of this consortium of researchers around the EU that was awarded a € 6.6 million (UCL € 0.67 million) grant under the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme. This major study will play a key role in the development and implementation of European policies on marine ecosystem-based management, particularly through marine spatial planning and marine protected area initiatives under the Marine Strategy Directive, the Habitats Directive and the proposed Maritime Spatial Planning Directive. It will also lead to major contributions to relevant theories/literatures on implementing ecosystem-based marine spatial planning. Dr Jones led the overarching work programme on governance issues, that analysed different approaches to implementing marine spatial planning. The project was led by the Institute for Marine Resources & Ecosystem Studies (IMARES, The Netherlands) and involved 21 research organisations from 12 EU and related countries. The reports of the MESMA governance analyses are now available, based on 13 case studies in and around the EU on marine spatial planning, the links to and key points from which can be found here (see transcript of online discussion on these findings). Also available, slides of the MESMA Lisbon workshop MSP: who is at the helm?
The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) - Paul Longley, James Cheshire, Muhammad Adnan, Guy Lansley
The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) is a new, strategically important and unique partnership between the academic and business sectors. Its mission is to create a safe and secure environment to link, analyse and store Big Data that are routinely collected by business about consumers. Working with the Universities of Leeds, Liverpool and Oxford, our objective is to: (a) position the UK in the vanguard of high quality research using consumer data; and (b) deploy the best available consumer data to cognate research areas such as health, planning, technological change, transport and public policy.
The CDRC is funded for 5 years (2014-2019) by a £10 million grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is a core element of ESRC’s Big Data investments and, in this context, will facilitate linkage of consumer data with survey, administrative and social media sources, generated and held by government and research organisations.
Through creation of consumer data infrastructures, the CDRC seeks to systematize collaborative research between the academic sector and industry and enable businesses to access the skills and analytical expertise of academic staff. Conversely, it also addresses capacity needs for analysis of Big Data by working in partnership with retailers to develop new analytical capacity. It hosts a national collaborative programme of M.Sc. dissertation projects focusing on retailing (see www.retailresearchdata.org), participates in Doctoral Training Centre schemes for Ph.D.s, organises conference events with the retail sector, and works alongside the UCL Q-Step Centre for quantitative methods (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1310/241013-Q-step-centre).
Drink, Medicine and life assurance, c.1840-1930 - James Kneale
This project explores the links between medicine and life assurance in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Anglophone world, suggesting that life assurance became a significant site for the production of knowledge and evidence about the risks of drinking through its links with temperance and medicine. It also allows us to see temperance as a social movement, as Virginia Berridge has recently argued, one that was only partly concerned with prohibition, and reminds us that civil society has played a key role in the formation of both alcohol policy and everyday understandings of drinking. Some of this work has been conducted in collaboration with Dr Shaun French of the University of Nottingham.
BODMAS – Future Research Leaders - James Cheshire, Oliver O’Brien
“Big Open Data: Mining and Synthesis” (BODMAS) is an ESRC Future Research Leaders project that seeks to get to grips with the latest developments in geographic data for the social sciences. James Cheshire and Ollie O’Brien are working with a range of Big and Open datasets and are creating a number of tools and visualisations to aid in spatial analysis. The work is being undertaken in association with researchers at the University of Zurich and the Univerity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Weather and climate related insurance in Britain, c.1840-1920, James Kneale and Sam Randalls
The project explores the development of weather and climate related insurance in the UK, particularly, hail insurance for agriculture and life assurance for people travelling overseas. The research draws on insurance archival records from this period and investigates the ways insurance companies collected, collated and synthesized data to examine the effects of weather and climate on their business.
The People of the British Isles (POBI) (Paul Longley, Jens Kandt)
UCL is a partner to this project, which is based at the University of Oxford. Jens Kandt <link> is exploring the linkage between genotypes and family names.
The geography of family names and the uncertainty of identity - Paul Longley, Muhammad Adnan, Alistair Leak, Kira Kowalska
The Uncertainty of Identity project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sicences Research Council (EPSRC) and is run in association with Birmingham University and London City University: it is led by Muhammad Adnan and Paul Longley, with inputs from Kira Kowalska. The work is developing geo-temporal analysis of family names, and linking indicators of identity between the observable and virtual worlds. The other funded projects under this initiative are Imprints and SuperIdentity.
DSTL-funded research is looking at the creation of spatial data infrastructures using diverse social media and address register information. This work is being undertaken by Alistair Leak.
Citizens, Policing and Community - Paul Longley, Chris Gale
This project is run from UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. The Geography inputs to the project centre upon the profiling of satisfaction with the police service, including work undertaken by Chris Gale. The work is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The Hackney Biodiversity Action Plan, Matthew Gandy
Matthew Gandy’s work on bio-diversity and urban landscapes in east London has involved my participation since 2010 in the Hackney Environment Network (now Sustainable Hackney) and the Hackney Biodiversity Partnership, involving public outreach work, scientific monitoring and collaboration over the preparation of reports including Hackney’s Biodiversity Action Plan published in 2012. It forms part of a wider body of work on bio-diversity and urban landscapes in east London
Marine Protected Areas Governance Research – Peter Jones
Whilst there is currently a range of guidance available on how to manage marine protected areas (MPAs), there is less guidance available that considers MPAs from a governance perspective. This perspective poses a key question – how do we combine top-down, bottom-up and market approaches for reaching and implementing decisions in order to achieve effective and equitable MPAs? It is widely accepted that all three approaches are important, but how might they be combined in different MPA contexts? To tackle this question a new partnership amongst a group of governance experts, led by Dr Peter JS Jones and MPA planners and managers has been initiated to analyse MPA case studies and develop guidance on governing MPAs in seas under national jurisdiction.
Since 2008, cluster members have attained nationally and internationally competitive research funding from the European Research Council (Matthew Gandy), British Academy (Alan Ingram), ESRC (James Cheshire, Paul Longley), Gerda Henkel Foundation (Matthew Gandy), Humboldt Foundation (Matthew Gandy), EPSRC (Paul Longley), the European Commission (Peter Jones), Nuffield Foundation (Russell Hitchings), RGS-IBG (Sam Randalls) and The Wellcome Trust (Paul Longley).
Geography and public policy
In addition to the geocomputational contributions to public policy analysis in health, education, policing, migration and data, further quantitative and qualitative research in this research group brings out the centrality of space in informing social, scientific and environmental policy. An attention to context often underlines the links between health, well-being and sustainability. James Kneale’s work reconsiders drink as a spatial problem in both alcohol licensing and public health decision-making. Mark Maslin’s work informs debate on the geographically disparate health risks arising from climate change. Russell Hitchings’s research on the everyday practice and management of local climate informs policies supporting sustainable and healthy modes of living amongst older people during winter and office workers in the city. Jurgen Essletzbichler explores implications of the lack of a geographic dimension to energy transition research and UK energy policy. Peter Jones’s work develops and applies a framework for analysing and improving governance in the context of marine spatial planning initiatives.
The group has strong links to the wider community, with a range of activities include network building (James Kneale, Paul Longley), knowledge transfer (James Cheshire, Paul Densham, Russell Hitchings, Paul Longley), natural resource governance (Peter Jones) and collaborations with artists and designers (Alan Ingram, Andrew Barry, Matthew Gandy) that seek to enact, as well as understand, the interrelated geographies of science, policy and politics. Contributions to policy are facilitated by participation in initiatives at: Chatham House (Alan Ingram); the Corporation of London (Russell Hitchings); the Department of Health (James Kneale); Global Health Watch (Alan Ingram); FAO, UNEP, Westminster Forum (Peter Jones); and the British Film Institute (Andrew Barry) central government’s Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (Paul Longley); and the ESRC UK Data Service Governing Board (Paul Longley). Locally, the cluster is associated with university initiatives including UCL Grand Challenges of Global Health and Human Wellbeing and the UCL Environment Institute.
Jin-ho Chung: Political ecology and community based adaptation to climate change in Ethiopia
Hannah Fair: Grassroots responses to climate change in the Pacific
Matthew Fortnam: Transformations of marine governance: an analysis of processes that change the trajectories of social-ecological systems, with a particular focus on coral reefs in the Philippines
Bharath Ganesh: Hip-hop and Countering Islamophobia
Sam Halvorsen. Subverting space: territorial practices and territoriality in the Occupy London movement.
Jens Kandt: Towards a holistic understanding of health inequalities
Lara Kennedy: Community gardens and sociality in London
Matthew Kimberley: Mapping the Marvel Universe: the role of imagined geographical communities and landscapes in American national identity formation
Amil Mohanan: The biopolitics of internet governance
Braulio Eduardo Morera: Ecological metaphors and urban sustainability: a critical analysis of eco-towns
Sam Page: Becoming Labour: Renewing electoral geography through assemblage theory
Andrew Papworth: Climate Change and Global Health
Sara Peres: Seed banking the spatial practices of securing plant biodiversity
Lucia Perez: A governance analysis of MPAs in Galicia, Spain.
Anna Plyushteva: City mega projects and new modes of commuting in Sofia
Valentine Seymour: Conservation volunteering and green gyms
Sinthujan Varatharajah. Suspended in this disjunction: the German asylum complex.
Faye Wade: An ethnographic approach to boiler installation in UK homes
Charlotte Whelan. Experimental art practices and alternative political spaces in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The research of the Science, Politics and Government cluster links closely with the following Masters courses: