Understanding Environmental Knowledge Controversies: The Case of Flooding

The relationship between science and policy is under urgent review with the Treasury, amongst others, identifying the improvement of public engagement in science as a priority. Sociologists of science have been generating new tools for addressing this challenge, particularly engaging the public with research findings. This project moves engagement upstream, developing a new approach to interdisciplinary environmental science that requires social and natural scientists to re-evaluate their practices and involves non-scientists throughout the research process. This approach is developed through an empirical research focus on flooding. The project will deliver three substantive contributions to knowledge. First, a social science analysis of the production of environmental science, asking how particular knowledge technologies (e.g. hydrological models) become ‘hard-wired’ into institutional procedures, and with what consequences for public engagement and trust. Second, a natural science analysis of flooding events that uses Minimum Information Requirement (MIR) models. Third, and building upon these, an evaluation of Competency Groups as the basis of a new interdisciplinary way of doing public science that is transferable beyond RELU to other research contexts. Further details about this project can be found here.

The project is being conducted with Prof. Sarah Whatmore at University of Oxford and Prof. Stuart Lane at University of Durham.

Project funder: Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU)

Staff involved: Neil Ward and Sue Bradley

Project duration: 3 years (2006-2009)