Global Urban Research Unit

Staff Profile

Dr Ruth Machen

Postdoctoral Fellow in Spatial Planning

Background

My research focuses on the politics of environmental knowledge in and through science-policy interactions. Intersecting environmental governance, political theory and science and technology studies, it unpacks questions of values, legitimacy and power during the making and circulation of environmental knowledge. 

My current fellowship with the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) is enabling me to expand studies of science-policy interactions beyond human-centred work of boundary organisations to examine the politics of knowledge arising through digital registers. Focusing initially on algorithmic interfaces, this work considers what it means to know and act on climate change through digital means. 

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 (2005 -2011) where I led climate change and renewable energy policy for Northumberland Strategic Partnership. Bringing practitioner experience together 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 conducted strategic work on impact for the School of Geography Politics and Sociology at Newcastle and spent six months working as an RA on an Impact Accelerator Award around Sustainable Supply Chains.

Research

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, developing a critique of 'knowledge translation'. This can be accessed online via: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/11514/ .

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.



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Teaching

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

Publications