School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Staff Profile

Dr Ruth Machen

Postdoctoral Fellow in Spatial Planning


My research focuses on the politics of environmental knowledge in and through science-policy interactions. Situated at the intersection of environmental governance, political theory and science and technology studies, it seeks to critically examine knowledge politics by unpacking questions of values, legitimacy and power during the making and circulation of various forms of environmental knowledge. My doctoral research examined these questions in the context of science-policy boundary organisations. As a research fellow of the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) my current fellowship is enabling me to examine climate change knowledge produced through algorithmic interfaces.

Over the past three years I have worked as a research associate on an ESPON LOCATE project: Territories and Low Carbon Economy (with Simin Davoudi), a UK-Brazil ESRC-CONFAP Newton Fund project: Augmented Urbanity and Smart Technologies: How Smart are our Cities Becoming? (with Simon Marvin) and on Low Carbon Urban Transitions in Sweden (with Harriet Bulkeley).

My research practice benefits from a previous career within local government between 2005 and 2011 leading climate change and renewable energy policy for Northumberland Strategic Partnership. Bringing this former practitioner experience into dialogue with my current research on science-policy interaction, I am interested in engaging with research impact in ways that draw from critical theory. I have provided strategic support to the School of Geography Politics and Sociology at Newcastle towards their planning for research impact for REF2021 and worked on an Impact Accelerator Award for Alex Hughes (Newcastle University) and Cheryl McEwan (Durham University) on Sustainable Supply Chains.


My research is driven by an interest in knowledge politics and crosscutting questions around values, legitimacy, and power.  I study different modes of science-policy interaction to explore how particular discourses, narratives and imaginaries are produced, fixed or contested through science-policy interaction, and how possibilities for political voice and social change are opened-up or closed-down through these different processes of knowledge work.

Research undertaken for my doctoral thesis examined the work of a climate science-policy boundary organisation in Scotland. This thesis developed a critique of the recent widespread emphasis on 'knowledge translation'. This can be accessed online via: .

My current research agenda explores science-policy knowledge politics through a focus on algorithmic knowledge. This will further explore how imaginaries and value-orientated discourses are produced and circulated through algorithmic modes of thinking, and forms of interaction that are mediated through interfaces, models and platforms.



I have contributed to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching on: 

Level 1:        Geographies of Crisis

                      Environment and Society

                      Integrated Geographical Research Methods

Level 2:         Theory and Concepts in Contemporary Human Geography

                       Social Research Methods in Geography

Level 3:          Cities and the Governing of Climate Change

                       Geographies of Commodities

Level 4: (MA) Geographical Research Skills and Dissemination