Centre for Rural Economy


Understanding Environmental Knowledge Controversies

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 had been generating new tools for addressing this challenge, particularly engaging the public with research findings. This project moved engagement upstream, developing a new approach to interdisciplinary environmental science that required social and natural scientists to re-evaluate their practices and involved non-scientists throughout the research process. This approach was developed through an empirical research focus on flooding. The project delivered 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 used 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