More from the Blog

water pipe

Just another drop in the bucket on World Water Day?

Each year, the United Nations uses World Water Day as an opportunity to raise awareness and demand action around the global water crisis. Each year, there is a theme. This year’s theme is wastewater, framed as a ‘grossly undervalued as a potentially affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials’ (pdf)….

Cement factory sending fumes up into the sky.

Exploring the social impacts of green transformations in China

A transformation lab (T-Lab) focused on China’s green transformation policy and its impacts was held in Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province on October 22, 2016. The T-lab intended to identify  problems created through the implementation of local “green transformation” policies and sustainable pathways for the future. It was entitled “Transformative pathways to sustainability: Exploring the social…

City street

How understanding politics and science can help create resilient cities

A new article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) explores how urban resilience can be strengthened by considering social and political norms, values and behaviours alongside engineering and environmental science approaches. The article, Urban resilience efforts must consider social and political forces, is written by colleagues at Arizona State University and UNAM…

water in mozambique

From remunicipalisation to reprivatisation of water? The case of Mozambique

After widespread privatisation in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, many water services around the world began to be transferred back into public control. This ‘remunicipalisation’ has been welcomed by the Transnational Institute and like-minded organisations, who suggest that ‘remunicipalisation is here to stay’ (Lobina et al., 2014). While I am sympathetic to this work on…

People sit around a table talking about sustainable food systems.

Why local land matters for sustainable food systems

Land presents both challenges and opportunities for establishing sustainable food systems. That is one of the learning points from a workshop in Brighton on 7 December 2016. Stakeholders joining the discussions included local small-scale producers, retailers of sustainable produce, non-governmental organisations (Food Matters and The Gaia Foundation), and researchers from the University of Sussex and…

climate change

COP22: Climate change and innovation

The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the UNFCCC took place from 7-18 November 2016. Read research and opinion from STEPS on what happens next. This year’s COP comes shortly after the Paris Agreement enters into force. The agreement aims to keep global temperature rise this century to under 2 degrees….

A woman walks along a pipe with a bucket in her hand.

The New Urban Agenda and its 47 inclusions

  Inclusion can be a powerful term, particularly when applied to cities and urbanisation. It focuses attention on the means through which exclusion and inequality are produced and reproduced, and on achieving a more just ‘inclusion’. This is lost, however, when inclusion becomes a catch-all for social aspirations. Other aspirational terms, including sustainability and resilience,…

Learning from Nepal

A new book Aid, Technology and Development: The Lessons from Nepal will be published by Routledge in November. It is co-edited by Dipak Gyawali, who has had long-term links with the STEPS Centre and is a member of the STEPS Advisory Committee (the other editors are Michael Thompson and Marco Verweij). From the description: Over…

biogas in italy

Hot debate about biogas: lessons from Italy

A new STEPS working paper by Bianca Cavicchi and Adrian Ely examines the history of biogas as a source of energy in the region of Emilia Romagna, Northern Italy. Over the last few decades, the potential of biogas in Emilia Romagna has been explored and debated by different agencies and people. But it has not…

Close up image of circuit board lines.

What can we learn from digital transformations?

by Nathan Oxley and Adrian Smith With climate change, inequality, and injustice putting pressure on societies around the world, it often seems that incremental change towards sustainable development is not enough. A growing number and variety of alliances between organisations across civil society, business, politicians and states are calling for something more transformational. So are…

The sugar rush in southern Africa

In a new post on his Zimbabweland blog, STEPS director Ian Scoones discusses a new special issue looking at sugar in South Africa. “It is a good moment to review the political economy of sugar in southern Africa. This is what a new open access special issue of the Journal of Southern African Studies does….

Six grassroots innovation movements, and why they matter

Innovation is increasingly said to be vital for responding to global challenges like sustainable development. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that networks of community groups, activists and researchers have been innovating grassroots solutions for social justice and environmental sustainability for decades. A new STEPS book, Grassroots Innovation Movements (Routledge, 2016) examines six such movements…

Does nuclear power help tackle climate change?

A new paper in the journal Climate Policy, co-authored by STEPS co-director Andy Stirling, suggests that, among European countries, strong national commitment to nuclear energy goes hand in hand with weak performance on climate change targets. The paper shows that the most progress towards reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy sources – as set…

Recipe for a Green Economy

Why aren’t the media talking more about climate change and population growth? asked Nigel Chapman, the Director of the BBC World Service and Trust from 2004 to 2009, speaking at the Green Economy Coalition (GEC) Global meeting in London this week, on how to connect better with audiences about a Green Economy. He quoted a…

Landmarks: how to get up close and personal with nature

I’ve just finished reading Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in sustainability and language. Each chapter focuses on one or two authors who’ve made deep impressions on Macfarlane through their writing about the natural world – including Nan Shepherd’s deep explorations of the Cairngorms, Roger Deakin’s explorations of wild swimming,…

Science, Brexit and ‘post-truth’ politics

STEPS co-director Andy Stirling is one of six researchers writing in the Guardian on ‘science after Brexit’. A longer version of his part of the Guardian article is below. The current woes of British democracy are grim and momentous. This is no time for gratuitous piggy-backing of other issues. The early indications of ‘Brexit’ specifically…

Brexit and development

As Britain faces the prospect of leaving the European Union, here’s a couple of blog posts on what the referendum result might mean for the UK’s role in international development. Ian Scoones on Brexit and Africa: Why Britain’s Decision to leave the EU is bad news for Africa  “The decision will fundamentally affect the continent’s…

Understanding the Anthropocene: blog series

We now live in an era where humankind has become the dominant force behind global environmental change. Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer introduced the term “Anthropocene” to reflect the growing impacts of human activities on the earth and the atmosphere. Sixteen years on from its introduction, it’s clear that the concept has gained traction in…

Painting a new picture of development

Can the Sustainable Development Goals trigger a new approach to development in the world’s Least Developed Countries? On Monday, Least Developed Country experts from around the world gathered in London for a dialogue event to discuss how the world’s poorest countries relate to the new global goals. Organised by the Least Developed Countries Independent Expert…

How do we reform fossil fuel subsidies?

The idea of reforming fossil fuel subsidies is attracting attention in both academic and policy circles. The environmental and economic aspects of subsidies and their reform have been much debated, but the political aspects are less prominent in the discussion. STEPS member Peter Newell gave a keynote talk at ‘The Politics of Fossil Fuel Subsidies…

The financialisation of nature

Financialization describes an economic system or process that aims to reduce all values into a financial instrument. As part of this process, nature is treated as a private resource or financial asset with neo-liberal, market-based approaches increasingly being adopted to protect the environment, such as payments for ecosystems processes. The School of Global Studies (through…

Image of a car on a dusty street.

In the world’s poorest countries, cities could be the test for the Sustainable Development Goals

Ahead of a dialogue event on 13 June, STEPS member Gordon McGranahan discusses how the Sustainable Development Goals present challenges and opportunities for urbanisation in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The UN’s 2030 Agenda presents a dazzling array of Sustainable Development Goals, claims they are integrated and indivisible, and pledges that no one will…

Learning from the past about rapid transition

What can history teach us for the task of rapid transition in the face of climate change and corrosive inequality? Historian Molly Conisbee, a speaker at this week’s Transformations events at the Hay Festival, has written about how communities adapted during Britain’s dramatic urban growth and upheaval in the 18th and 19th centuries. In a…

The Wicked Foundations of the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene describes how human society has now become the dominant force on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. The notion of the Anthropocene highlights a confounding contradiction: we have an unprecedented ability to control the world around us, yet we are using this power to destroy the preconditions for our own existence, and we seem strangely…

Call for papers: Transformations 2017

A call for papers has been issued for the Transformations 2017 conference in Dundee, UK. Transformations 2017 is the third in a biennial series of international interdisciplinary conferences that focuses on transformations towards sustainability: addressing contemporary challenges and creating conditions for enhancing people’s wellbeing, today and in the future, while strengthening the Earth’s support system.

How can the STEPS pathways approach help us understand the Anthropocene?

by Mathew Bukhi Mabele (Department of Geography, University of Zurich) and Jacob Weger (Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia) It has been sixteen years since Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer first introduced the term ‘Anthropocene’ to signify that the ‘growing impacts of human activities on earth and atmosphere’ had reached planetary proportions. Their central argument is…

Seeking sustainable transformations around the world

The new ‘Pathways’ Network, which explores transformations to sustainability in 6 cases around the world, had its opening workshop in Buenos Aires on 24-27 April 2016. At the workshop, participants from Sweden, South Africa, and ‘hubs’ in Kenya, the UK, Argentina, USA/Mexico, India and China discussed research questions and how best to share learning.

How do we link research and action for sustainability?

In March, researchers, knowledge brokers and funders gathered in Pretoria, South Africa to share lessons and experiences on how a decade of ESRC-DFID research support has impacted on poverty reduction. The Conference came just a few months after the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These goals articulate the value of research and capacity…

Puzzling questions on tackling antibiotic resistance

Last week’s conference on One Health for the Real World was an enriching experience. All the participants agreed that One Health means linking together our understandings of, and responses to, human, livestock and ecosystem health. See for example, this blog by Ian Scoones. There was also widespread agreement that doing so was important, although in…

Discussing low carbon urban mobility in China

On Sunday 13th March, the ‘Low Carbon Innovation in China: Prospects, Politics and Practice’ project held the closing workshop of its research package on urban e-mobilities at the Shenzhen Graduate School of Tsinghua University. The event involved over 50 delegates including senior government officials, automotive companies, mobility entrepreneurs, leading academics, NGOs and students to discuss…

Uncertainty and Climate Change in India

Harbouring one of the largest mangrove forest tracks in the world, the Sunderbans cover a sizeable area in southern Bangladesh and east India. Formed by the confluence of three major rivers, the deltaic region which the Sunderbans are part of, is famed for its tiger habitats and dynamic ecology. Researchers from a Norwegian Research Council-funded and Noragric-led project…

Why we need Degrowth

In this post, Giorgos Kallis responds to a three-part critique by Andy Stirling of his ideas on the ‘Degrowth Hypothesis’. You can read Andy’s blog posts here: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 Andy Stirling’s three-part blog intervention on the occasion of my lecture at Sussex is much appreciated. I am particularly thankful…

Exporting China and Brazil’s agricultural know-how to Africa

Can China and Brazil use their home grown agricultural knowledge, which has driven phenomenal agricultural productivity at home, to transform agriculture in Africa? That was one of many questions discussed at the Contested Agronomy conference. When Lidia Cabral interviewed a Brazilian agronomist from Embrapa, Brazil’s agricultural research corporation in Mozambique, he talked to her about…

To struggle against and to build with: what does student activism in Delhi mean for pathways to justice?

At the weekend, Umar Khalid, one of the six student activists accused in Delhi’s ‘anti-nationalism scandal’ unfolded by the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Modi, returned to the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). In a rousing speech on Sunday night, he made a persuasive case for “anti-nationals of the world [to] unite”. Echoing…

The challenges of creating new visions for sustainable urbanisation in India

by Poonam Pandey, from the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University. A two-day conference organised at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in collaboration with the STEPS centre, raised questions about how to bring about critical new thinking on sustainable urbanisation in India. For the creation of new visions for a sustainable city the foremost questions to be…

Contested Agronomy: more heat than light?

by Jim Sumberg, John Thompson, Ken Giller and Jens Andersson Agriculture, and the agronomic research that supports it, will be critical in making sustainable, equitable and secure development a reality. Surprisingly however, there seems to be increasing contestation around the priorities and methods used by agronomists, and the technologies that they develop and promote. Why…

Solidarity with JNU

We in the STEPS Centre stand in full solidarity and support for our colleagues at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), India.  We were distressed to hear of the circumstances leading to the arrests and raids carried out on the JNU campus in the last few days, and the subsequent events, including violent assaults on faculty and students. Universities…

What would a sustainable city look like?

On Thursday, India announced the first 20 cities to receive funding to become ‘Smart Cities’. It’s a high profile mission to modernise and transform urban infrastructure, especially using digital technologies like sensor networks and data centres. Smart cities are one response to the huge challenges facing urban India. The conference on pathways to sustainable urbanisation,…

How do we end the dominance of rich countries over sustainability science?

by Patrick van Zwanenberg, Anabel Marin & Adrian Ely With the new Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN last year, SciDev.Net has published a timely report on the global status of sustainability science. Sustainability science (defined as ‘research that supports and drives sustainable development’) is growing significantly as a proportion of world scientific output,…

Four neglected challenges for China’s low carbon future

Last year ended with a momentous political step forward on climate change. The Paris Agreement, signed at the COP21 climate conference in December, requires countries to work together to meet and surpass their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs) with an objective of limiting global average temperature change to 2⁰C, and an aspiration of keeping within…

In search of transformations at COP21

The International Social Science Council has published interviews from the COP21 climate conference with three researchers who are part of their ‘Transformations to Sustainability programme’. The interviewees include STEPS researcher Adrian Ely, and Cosmas Ochieng, director of ACTS, one of the institutions in the STEPS Africa Sustainability Hub. The Africa hub was an important partner…

Call for papers: EASST/4S session on makers, manufacturers and politics of digital fabrication

STEPS member Adrian Smith is one of the organisers of a session at this year’s EASST/4S conference. The session title is ‘Digital fabrications amongst hackers, makers and manufacturers: whose “industrial revolution”?’ The conference itself (title: ‘Science and technology by other means: exploring collectives, spaces and futures’) is on 31 August until 3 September in Barcelona,…

Was COP21 a failure or a success?

In the aftermath of the COP21 climate change conference, the debate over whether the Paris Agreement is a success or a failure is going full blast. Among other things, the deal sets a high aspirational goal to limit warming below 2C and strive to keep temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This is a far…

Video: Andy Stirling on research methods and policy

In this video, STEPS Co-director Andy Stirling talks about the need to fully understand what qualitative and quantitative methods are before evaluating their role in science policy making. Andy’s presentation was part of the National Centre for Research Methods seminar held in British Academy, London on 27 October 2015. More on Methods Browse our Methods…

Carbon forestry in Africa: who wins?

2015 is a crucial moment for sustainability and climate change, with the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris following hard on the heels of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals. What to do about carbon, forests, and forest management are crucial questions in reaching global agreements. But as recent research in Africa’s forest landscapes…

Escaping the frames of war

The world is now witnessing yet one further bout in a perennial tragedy. As so often before, organised violence is being used as an instrument of politics. This is no less obscene for being so familiar. And the pathology is all the more distressing, for being so pervasive. A diversity of political perspectives are implicated….

Africa’s land rush

There is a rush on for African farmland – a phenomenon unmatched since colonial times. Africa’s land rush, and the implications for rural livelihoods and agrarian change, is the subject of a new book that I have edited together with Ruth Hall (from PLAAS at UWC, South Africa) and Dzodzi Tsikata (ISSER, University of Ghana at Legon)….

How the Water-Energy-Food ‘Nexus’ in Asia affects real lives

By Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University In Asia and globally, the water-energy-food nexus has received growing attention from policy makers, researchers, and practitioners. A key premise of ‘the nexus’ is that water use is interdependent with energy and food production. Thus, from a nexus viewpoint, the relationship between…

Call for papers: 2016 Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) colloquium

A call for papers has been issued for the international colloquium on Global governance/politics, climate justice & agrarian/social justice: linkages and challenges on 4-5 February 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands. Among the speakers will be STEPS Centre director Ian Scoones. The colloquium is organised by the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS), a community of…

Opening up science and development in Latin America

STEPS América Latina is the latest regional hub of the Pathways to Sustainability global consortium to be launched. The launch event, which took place on 5-6 November in Buenos Aires, brought together diverse perspectives on how pathways to sustainability can be identified, analysed and nurtured. The first day brought together two highly connected topics: ‘inclusive…

What is Ecological Civilisation? 

The Chinese Communist Party last week held its annual plenum in Beijing at which details of the country’s 13th Five Year Plan, from 2016 to 2020, were set out for the first time. The plan, say commentators, will be notably green, with an emphasis on an economic transition to slower, innovation-led growth, and more stringent…

Making new worlds together

How could we end up in this world nobody ever wanted? This question, posed by Justyna Swat from POC21 during her talk at Monday’s event on makerspaces and sustainability, has no short answer. It also implies a further question: if you could shape the world you wanted, what would it look like? Shared workshops –…

The political economy of small-scale mining in Zimbabwe

There was much discussion about small-scale and artisanal mining at the STEPS Centre’s Resource Politics conference last month. This is where resources and politics come together; perhaps especially so in Zimbabwe. Ever since the enactment of  Zimbabwe’s Mines and Minerals Act, which gives the state rights over mineral resources wherever they are found, mining has been controversial. In the colonial period,…

Making and Sustainability

At an event at the Machines Room in London on 26 October, we discussed the roles that maker communities and the places where they interact can play in sustainable development. The event was entitled “How can makerspaces, fablabs and hackerspaces help cultivate sustainable developments?” Community-based workshops like hackerspaces, fablabs and makerspaces, equipped with design, prototyping…

What can China teach India about dealing with waste?

by Bharati Chaturvedi and Ashish Chaturvedi Just past the first anniversary of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, as we ruminate about the achievements of the Modi government’s much-vaunted programme, it might also be worthwhile to take a look at what our next-door competitor and inspiration China has done about waste. Especially, other people’s waste. China’s rise as…

Exploring ‘dynamic sustainabilities’ in the Anthropocene

In this post, STEPS Summer School alumnus Mathew Bukhi Mabele explains plans for a session on ‘Exploring ‘dynamic sustainabilities’ in the Anthropocene’, which will feature at the 6th Annual Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference at the University of Kentucky, on February 26 – 27, 2016.   Jacob Weger and myself were very lucky to participate at the 2015…

Time to rei(g)n back the Anthropocene?

I was very lucky to be able to participate in last week’s Stockholm Resilience Centre conference on ‘Transformations 2015: People and Planet in the Anthropocene‘. Involving a dynamic and highly policy-influential global interdisciplinary community, this was a large, friendly and very interactive meeting. It more-than-fully lived up to the very high standards set by earlier…

Why livelihoods perspectives still matter

Livelihoods perspectives have become increasingly central to discussions of rural development over the past few decades. They have offered a way of integrating sectoral concerns and rooting development in the specifics of different settings. Central to livelihoods perspectives is an understanding of what people do to make a living in diverse circumstances and social contexts….

How can African agriculture adapt to an uncertain climate? 

 By Stephen Whitfield, Lecturer: Climate Change & Food Security, University of Leeds  Often operating at the margins of sustainability, for smallholder farming systems in Africa the challenge of adapting to uncertain climatic change is particularly acute. Across international research and development programmes, a variety of technologies, agronomic innovations, and cropping systems are advocated as the means to a green revolution; a future…

Bringing vehicle sharing to China

by Dr Dennis Zuev (Research Associate, Lancaster University) & Dr David Tyfield (Reader, Lancaster University) Car-sharing is the fastest growing urban mobility innovation worldwide but is yet to take off in Chinese cities. According to a recent Roland Berger report, the Chinese car sharing market is still developing, but it has very high potential. It is expected to grow around 80% per year until 2018. There are…

Moving beyond products to material culture

Prototyping or debating sustainable developments in makerspaces? In the previous blog I introduced some of the diverse ways that makerspaces are helping cultivate sustainable developments. Admittedly, these initiatives do not represent the totality of makerspaces, where many projects and activities are oblivious to demands for sustainable developments. In this blog I discuss some of the challenges…

Why should we seek sustainable developments in makerspaces?

Community-based workshops like hackerspaces, fablabs and makerspaces, equipped with design, prototyping and fabrication tools have spread rapidly in recent years. Interest in the social, economic and environmental possibilities of these spaces has grown too. Amidst the claims and aims people bring to this collaborative flourishing of tool-based creativity is an argument that makerspaces can become experimental sites for the pursuit of…

Sustainability: the next 50 years

Accelerating sustainability is a challenge that defines our era. A new Institute of Development Studies (IDS) paper by Hubert Schmitz and Ian Scoones, Accelerating Sustainability: Why Political Economy Matters (pdf), brings together what we can learn from development studies and from sustainability studies to understand this challenge and move forward. Their starting point is that…

BEAM Exchange Research: Call for proposals

BEAM Exchange is investing in a significant research programme to develop new knowledge that is authoritative and accessible around critical questions about market systems approaches. A call for proposals has been issued for phase two of the research programme. BEAM is seeking research that builds stronger bridges between theory and practice.

In defence of ethics

Michael Hauskeller writes in defence of ethics: “We are not sitting in an evolutionary elevator that has only two directions: up and down. Instead, there are many different ways of going up and going forward, many different ways of going down and backwards, and many different ways of going sideways, or around in circles, or…

Rethinking Africa’s sustainable development pathways

Sustainable development (SD), brought into the spotlight with this week’s UN summit, remains a landmark policy and global development agenda since the 1992 Convention on Environment and Development. Anchored on the Brutland Commission report ‘Our Common Future’, sustainable development articulates the urge to harmonise the temporal and spatial redistribution of development with a natural resource…

Who writes international climate change reports?

Guest blog by Esteve Corbera (ICTA-UAB, Spain) This week in the journal Nature Climate Change, colleagues and I published an analysis of who has participated in the latest 5AR mitigation report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We analyse North-South representation, institutional pathways, co-authorship patterns and disciplinary backgrounds, using Social Network Analysis of…

Resource politics: living in the Anthropocene

By Ian Scoones, Director of the STEPS Centre This week we are hosting a major conference at the STEPS Centre at Sussex on resource politics. There are panels looking at everything from mining to wildlife to carbon to water, with big themes cross-cutting on: Scarcity, politics and securitization; Resource grabbing; Governance, elites, citizenship and democracy;…

Conference: Resource Politics 2015

This year’s STEPS Centre conference, Resource Politics: transforming pathways to sustainability, took place from 7-9 September 2015 at the Institute of Development Studies. Plenary speakers include Rohan D’Souza, Betsy Hartmann, Melissa Leach, Johan Rockström, Michael J. Watts and Myint Zaw. Materials from the conference are now online, including a Storify, graphic panels, photos and blog…

More about the research

Although reliable numbers are hard to come by, Myanmar pig production is expected to grow rapidly over the coming decades. Livestock intensification This growth is being accompanied by an intensification of both pig production (the backyards and farms on which pigs are bred) and the pig supply-chain (the stages pigs pass through from farmer to…

Book: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development

A new book, Gender Equality and Sustainable Development, edited by Melissa Leach, has been published in the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability book series. For pathways to be truly sustainable and advance gender equality and the rights and capabilities of women and girls, those whose lives and well-being are at stake must be involved in…

Submerged origins of UK nuclear lock-in?

By Andy Stirling, STEPS Co-Director and Phil Johnstone, Research Fellow at SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit Many legitimately contrasting views are possible on the pros and cons of nuclear power. But when seen in a global context, successive UK Governments are quite striking in their tendencies to adopt partisan positions. Growing evidence is persistently…

Cecil the Lion and Zimbabwe’s conservation carve-up

The huge uproar generated by the shooting of Cecil the lion provides a fascinating lens into Zimbabwe’s new elite land politics and the relationship between humans and “wild” nature. The country’s extensive game ranches and conservancies were mostly subject to land reform in the early 2000s. Many of the former owners were evicted, along with…

Does the Anthropocene mean we have to ‘put democracy on hold’?

Our co-director Andy Stirling is at the 2015 conference of the International Society for the Systems Sciences in Berlin today, and sent us this abstract of his keynote, ‘Emancipating Transformations: from Anthropocene control to culturing systems’: “Current global environmental governance reverberates with talk of a new ‘Anthropocene epoch’ defined by ‘human domination’, in which a…

Sussex Sustainability Research Programme seeks new Director

The University of Sussex is recruiting a Director for its Sussex Sustainability Research Programme. Initiated this year, SSRP spans four of the University’s Schools and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), aiming to develop a world-leading programme in sustainability research. The members of SSRP include the School of Life Sciences, SPRU, the School of Business,…

Pollution in the Hindon River

This month, the Hindustan Times featured a short series of articles about the Hindon river and its tributaries. The Hindon runs through Ghaziabad, one of the study sites in our project on Risks and Responses to Urban Futures. The paper reports that the waters of the Hindon are severely depleted after groundwater extraction, and pollution…

Welcoming the medics to the One Health movement

The Ebola epidemic alerted many to the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health. The medical community has traditionally lagged behind animal health and ecosystem experts in embracing One Health, the predominant movement espousing this approach, but now a report from a Lancet and Rockefeller Foundation co-convened Commission on Planetary Health appears to do so enthusiastically…

Partners

The Myanmar Pig Partnership comprises a multidisciplinary team including vets, microbiologists and social anthropologists from across the UK, Myanmar and Vietnam. There are four partners: The University of Cambridge (lead) The STEPS Centre Myanmar Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department University of Oxford Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam There are also two official collaborating institutions: The Food…

Hand holding maize seeds / Photo: Speak-It films

Global lessons for agricultural sustainability from GM crops

Governing Agricultural Sustainability: Global lessons from GM crops is the latest title in the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability book series. Editor Phil Macnaghten introduces its reframing of the GM debate explored in the book. By Phil Macnaghten, Professor of Technology and International Development, Wageningen University ‘Can GM crops help to feed the world?’ It…

For or against GM crops? Other positions are available

Academic cheerleaders for biotechnology corporations need better arguments if they want to persuade the public, write Erik Millstone, Andy Stirling and Dominic Glover, introducing their article in a forthcoming edition of Issues in Science and Technology (PDF). Companies involved in crop genetic engineering (GE) see themselves as principled heroes in a struggle against opportunistic reactionaries….

Restart Podcast: Adrian Smith on grassroots innovation

The London-based Restart project, which promotes community repair for electronics, interviewed STEPS researcher Adrian Smith for their latest podcast, ‘Searching for the roots of grassroots innovation’. In it, Adrian discusses our historical and comparative project on ‘grassroots innovation’, including the Lucas Plan, the origins of 1980s tech networks in London, and the wider context of community…

STEPS Director Ian Scoones wins ESRC Impact Award

STEPS Director Ian Scoones was a winner of the Outstanding International Impact Award at the ESRC’s 50th anniversary Celebrating Impact Award ceremony, for his work on rural livelihoods in Zimbabwe. ESRC Blog: Building impact over time: experiences from Zimbabwe by Ian Scoones The awards recognise and reward the successes of ESRC-funded researchers who are achieving…

Myint Zaw to join us for Resource Politics 2015

Myint Zaw, winner of one of this year’s ‘Green Nobels’, the Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia, will speak at Resource Politics 2015, the title of this year’s STEPS Centre annual conference. Journalist and social activist Zaw launched a national movement that successfully stopped construction of the hydroelectric Myitsone Dam on Myanmar’s treasured Irrawaddy River, despite…

Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical

Today sees the publication of “Laudato Si”, the Pope’s encyclical on the environment. Encyclicals are for Catholics (and there are 1.2 billion of them in the world) but in this one, Pope Francis aims to “address every person who inhabits this planet”. In it, he warns of the impacts of climate change and calls for…

Carbon Conflicts: A new book from STEPS

Carbon Conflicts and Forest Landscapes in Africa, edited by Melissa Leach and Ian Scoones, examines the management of forests and carbon. Tackling climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our age. And this year is a crucial moment with the Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris in December 2015 to forge…

Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Finance: STEPS Africa is “a huge contribution”

On behalf of the Cabinet Secretary of the National Treasury on Kenya, Hon. Henry Rotich, Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources formally launched the STEPS Africa Sustainability Hub today in Nairobi. The speech underscored the importance of Low Carbon Economy Development in Africa. “Low carbon development will play an important…

Global land grabbing: new papers & special issues

This week 200 delegates assemble in Chiang Mai in Thailand for a major conference on land grabbing, conflict and agrarian-environment transformations in southeast Asia. It is co-organised by the Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI), a research network co-founded by the Future Agricultures Consortium. The conference marks the next step in this work, aiming to locate…

Waste(d) laws in India

by Ashish Chaturvedi Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies Last year, I wrote about the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission), launched on the anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday. As part of this endeavour, and due to the limited impact of existing regulations, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has taken…

Glyphosate, politics and chemical safety

Glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, hit the headlines in March after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that it is a “probable human carcinogen”. The IARC, which is responsible for providing an evidence base for the cancer control policies of the World Health Organisation and its members, had completed a…

Nepal: resilience, disasters and development

The doyen among Nepal’s ethnographers, the Janku-blessed Bihari Krishna Shrestha had a valid point. Since his phone had gone dead after the Big Earthquake of 25th April, I had gone to his house in Chakupat to find out if he was OK. Our working together goes back to the Marich Man Singh-constituted “Pokhrel Commission” in…

Stories from STEPS: Waste not, want not

The first of a new series of digital stories from the STEPS Centre looks at the working lives of India’s waste pickers, and reveals the hidden connections within the life and politics of the city. Read the story now on Medium: Waste not, want not The story picks up themes from our ‘Pathways to environmental…

Sustainable urban waste management in India

By Fiona Marshall and Pritpal Randhawa Today in Delhi government officials, representatives of waste pickers associations, NGOs, industries and resident welfare associations will participate in the launch event for our new policy brief on Rethinking urban waste management in India. This is just one of the outputs from a joint venture between the STEPS Centre,…

Water purification and the regulatory vacuum in India

By Aviram Sharma, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, JNU Water purification technologies have witnessed a rapid rise at firm, household and community level in developing countries, especially during the last two decades. Yet they remain as one of the most neglected areas of research. So much so, in fact, that these ‘emerging’ technologies often…

China Daily covers launch of China Sustainability Hub

Mutual learning across continents is one of the key imperatives behind the launch of our China Sustainability Hub and the focus of a China Daily article about the Hub, which is coordinated by Beijing Normal University School of Social Development and Public Policy (BNU-SSDPP) In Research hub helps China’s sustainable development Cecily Liu today reports…

Made in China? Mutual learning in a global development era

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the Bandung conference when Asian and African countries gathered in Indonesia to discuss independence, peace and prosperity. The conference resulted in 10 principles based on friendship, solidarity and cooperation in this newly post-colonial era for many of the states involved, prefiguring what many now term ‘South-South’ cooperation in…

Sustainability in a Changing China

The STEPS Centre is delighted to be working with partners in China to launch a Sustainability Hub for collaborative, interdisciplinary research and learning, launched today at an international conference on Pathways to Sustainability in a Changing China. Beijing Normal University School of Social Development and Public Policy (BNU-SSDPP) and the STEPS Centre are working together…

Addressing Resistance to Antibiotics

There is growing international concern about the threat to public health of the emergence and spread of bacteria resistant to existing antibiotics. An effective response must invest in both the development of new drugs and measures to slow the emergence of resistance. A new Working Paper from the STEPS Centre and Future Health Systems, Addressing…

Join us for a Nexus methods workshop

Applications are invited for a Nexus Network workshop on Transdisciplinary Methods for Developing Nexus Capabilities led by STEPS Co-director Andy Stirling. The workshop will take a critical look the research challenge in addressing nexus issues, with interactions based on short panel interactions, with break-out groups and lots of room for discussion. The workshop at the…

45 years of Earth Day: transitions and transformations

It’s 45 years today since the first Earth Day. Plenty has happened since then to explore different pathways to sustainability – from big, high-profile international conferences and governance, to local activism and action, and all scales in between. This year, 2015, is a crunch year for science, environment and development agreements, with the COP21 climate…

Greening Agrarian Studies

In honor of this year’s Earth Day, The Journal of Peasant Studies (JPS) is delighted to offer readers free access to a special virtual issue entitled ‘Greening Agrarian Studies’. “As the title suggests, this collection brings together 40 articles on various environmental themes that speak to critical agrarian studies,” said  Saturnino (‘Jun’) M. Borras Jr,…

A new tool to prepare for zoonotic surprise

A new website from the STEPS-led Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium illustrates how scenarios modelling can provide a new and vital new tool in the global health community’s toolkit. The site, at www.diseasescenarios.org, explores how this multidisciplinary approach can help shed light on the complex processes at play in determining disease risk – and…

Watch video: ‘India’s Risks’ book launch

You can now watch video of the launch event of the book ‘India’s Risks: Democratizing the Management of Threats to Environment, Health and Values’. The video features contributions from Professor M V Rajeev Gowda, Honorable Member of Parliament and Prof Ian Scoones, STEPS Centre Director. The launch event was held at the British Council in…

Market-based environmentalism under fire

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the fantastic Financialisation of Nature conference, co-hosted by the STEPS Centre, along with the Sussex Centre for Global Political Economy and Sussex Doctoral School. Organised by and run for PhD students and early career researchers, I was invited as a discussant on one of the sessions and…

Seed Laws… Government Advocacy and Grassroots Action

By Adrian Ely, Anabel Marin and Sam Geall Research at the STEPS Centre addresses sustainable development challenges that are felt both globally and locally. Over the last two months three events have reinforced the international linkages within our work, illustrating the interconnectedness and similarity of diverse efforts of researchers and civil society groups across the…

Why we should argue about agronomy

“The real problem is that too many people are playing politics with agriculture, and poor people are suffering – agronomists should stick to the facts!” Organic agriculture, agroecology, Conservation Agriculture, the System of Rice Intensification, Holistic Management (Savory System), integrated pest management, Green Revolution style intensification, genetically modified crops – what do all of these…

Mind your (innovation) language

by Adrian Smith and Saurabh Arora, SPRU At the STEPS Centre, we recently organised a couple of workshops looking at the topic of alternative innovation and its proliferation of innovation prefixes, such as social, inclusive, frugal, and sustainable. Our workshops were prompted by the observation that a variety of interacting cultural, social, economic, and technological…

Join us for Resource Politics 2015

The ESRC STEPS Centre’s annual conference, Resource Politics: transforming pathways to sustainability will be held at the Institute of Development Studies on 7-9 September 2015. Registration is now closed. Among the plenary speakers are: Rohan D’Souza, Betsy Hartmann, Melissa Leach, Johan Rockström and Michael Watts with those among the panel speakers including Tor Benjaminsen, Esteve…

The Politics of Green Transformations

It’s a crunch year for science, environment and development agreements – COP21, the Sustainable Development Goals – but will 2015 be the transformative moment it is being hyped as? (Michael Jacobs, Mariana Mazzucato, Camilla Toulmin and Andrew Simms debate at the book launch. Photo credit: Lance Bellers) Overview | Book | Launch debate | Video | Blogs…

Green Transformations: Video

←BACK TO GREEN TRANSFORMATIONS HOMEPAGE Book launch debate The Politics of Green Transformations was launched on 24 February 2015 with a high-profile debate at the National Liberal Club in London, chaired by co-editor Peter Newell (University of Sussex). Michael Jacobs (IDDRI), Mariana Mazzucato (SPRU), Andrew Simms (NEF) and Camilla Toulmin (IIED) discussed what it takes to create the multiple ‘green transformations’…

From Knowledge Economy to Innovation Democracy

The ESRC STEPS Centre’s Co-Director Professor Andy Stirling recently gave a keynote speech at the European Commission’s ‘FTA 2014: future oriented technology analysis’ conference. Prof. Stirling’s address, From Knowledge Economy to Innovation Democracy: collective action in the shaping of scientific and technological futures, was based on his extensive work on technocratic transitions and opening up…

Climate innovation systems: new STEPS working paper

A new STEPS working paper discusses the academic evidence for a promising idea for supporting climate change technology in developing countries. The paper, CRIBs (Climate Relevant Innovation-system Builders): An effective way forward for international climate technology policy by David Ockwell and Rob Byrne follows a shorter policy-focused paper and summary briefing on the same subject…

Researchers pick ‘breakthrough’ technologies for growth

Dr Adrian Ely, STEPS Centre head of impact and engagement was interviewed for a story about ‘breakthrough’ technologies by Aamna Mohdin for SciDev.net Desalination using renewable energy, vaccines to help eradicate HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and electronic textbooks that adapt to readers’ skills are among the 50 development-boosting technologies identified in a report published last…

Davos, development and delivering progress

As the money men and women of the world gather in the Swiss ski resort of Davos for annual The World Economic Forum (WEF), the challenges of addressing inequality, mitigating against climate change and living sustainably on this fragile planet are at the forefront of their minds. Actually, I lie. Those things do not appear…

Resource Politics 2015: Call for panels and posters

We are delighted to announce our annual conference, Resource Politics: transforming pathways to sustainability, to be held at the Institute of Development Studies on 7-9 September 2015. Among the plenary speakers are: Rohan D’Souza, Betsy Hartmann, Melissa Leach, Johan Rockström and Michael Watts with those among the panel speakers including Tor Benjaminsen, Esteve Corbera, Wendy Harcourt…

How climate change transformed India’s megacities

By Alankar, researcher at Sarai / STEPS Uncertainty from Below project. The megacities of India like Delhi and Mumbai are exhibiting today what we can call ‘urbanization of poverty’ and ‘urbanization of consumption’. More than half of the populations of both cities survives under acute poverty. At the same time, both these megacities today house…

Soil and politics

What do you think of when you think about soil? There are radically different ways to answer the question. For some scientists, it’s a subject of investigation – what do soils need to grow which types of plants the best? How can they be managed, improved or damaged? For archaeologists or paleontologists, digging into the…

Major new research project on animal-to-human disease transmission

The ESRC STEPS Centre has begun work on a major, international research project exploring the factors that drive animal-to-human (‘zoonotic’) disease transmission in Tanzania, with the aim of informing new strategies for disease control and elimination. Anthropologist Dr. Linda Waldman, a member of the STEPS Centre, will be undertaking the social science element, including participatory…

STEPS blog: best of 2014

We can hardly believe it, but it’s nearly the end of 2014. To mark the occasion, the STEPS Centre communications team has picked 12 of our favourite blog posts by STEPS members, one from each month of the year. Choosing them has been a difficult task, as there’s been a lot to write about our…

National Systems of Innovation: UN climate technology policy takes a positive turn

Update (1 July 2015): The research described in this blogpost has been written up in an article for the journal Climate Policy: Ockwell D. and Byrne R. (2015) Improving technology transfer through national systems of innovation: climate relevant innovation-system builders (CRIBs), Climate Policy (open access) Other publications: Working Paper 76 (focused on policy recommendations): CRIBs…

Space, markets and employment: 3 films from Zimbabwe

A new series of films explores the links between land reform and economic activity in Zimbabwe, focusing on three commodities: tobacco, beef and horticulture. The films are produced for the ‘Space, Markets and Employment in Agricultural Development’ (SMEAD) project by Pamela Ngwenya, supported by the field team. They are accompanied by an overview film. Zimbabwe is one…

COP20: Research from the edge

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP20) in Lima, Peru (1-12 December 2014) will settle the key elements of a global climate deal to be finalised in Paris next year, when the deadline for a new deal runs out. The ESRC STEPS Centre and its partners around the world have been working on policy-relevant research in…

STEPS America Latina launches new website

The Centro STEPS America Latina – the new Latin American regional hub for our Global Pathways to Sustainability Consortium  – has unveiled its own dedicated website. The new website is now live at www.stepsamericalatina.com. The Centro STEPS website is run by a team at the Centro de Investigaciones para la Transformación (CENIT) in Buenos Aires,…

Maker culture and sustainability

What are citizen labs and ‘maker’ culture providing to sustainable development? STEPS researcher Adrian Smith was part of a panel discussing this question at an event on 18 November in Madrid. A recording from the event is now available. >> Listen to the discussion on the Medialab-Prado website (audio in Spanish) The debate explored the…

Innovation choices in the face of uncertainty

Professor Andy Stirling writes chapter accompanying the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser’s inaugural report Sir Mark Walport recently launched his first ever annual report as UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Innovation: Managing risk not avoiding it. The accompanying evidence and case studies includes a chapter written by Professor Andy Stirling, Co-Director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre,…

Genetically modified rice plants

GM Food and the precautionary principle

“Precaution does not necessarily mean a ban. It simply urges that time and space be found to get things right.” Professor Andy Stirling, writing in the Guardian Overview The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee is carrying out an inquiry into genetically modified (GM) foods and the way in which these are regulated in Europe…

China and the new climate deal

“The joint US-China announcement on tackling climate change has been described as “historic”, a “turning point” and a “positive signal”. It has also been written off as insubstantive or even “hype”. “The reality, perhaps unsurprisingly, lies somewhere in between. What it might represent, however, is a future that pairs economic growth with environmental concerns,” writes…

Informing the UK’s approach to SDGs

A Parliamentary inquiry about the UK’s position and approach to the development targets to replace the millennium development goals has published evidence from the ESRC STEPS Centre. The Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry is looking at how best the UK can move forward on setting and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

STEPS Centre Conference 2010 / Lance Bellers

ESRC Studentships: study with the STEPS Centre

The STEPS Centre is delighted to offer PhD training in association with the Sussex ESRC Doctoral Training Centre, one of a network of 21 Doctoral Training Centres in the UK, set up by the Economic and Social Research Council to support the development and research training of postgraduate researchers. A grant of more than £3.5million from the ESRC together…

Political Ecology: resources, power and justice

With conceptual roots in political economy and cultural ecology, as well as close relationships with development studies and science and technology studies, the multidisciplinary field of political ecology shares a number of theoretical and methodological complementarities with the STEPS Centre’s pathways approach. In early September 2014, the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University hosted an…

Business for peace?

It is difficult to avoid being swept up in the current tide of optimism about Africa and resource development. For once, Africa is not only portrayed by outsiders as a continent of poor people suffering and fighting over civil wars and dependent on good will and aid. At the same time, the new, positive single…

Journal of Peasant Studies new special issue: critical perspectives on Food Sovereignty

A new special issue on ‘Critical perspectives on food sovereignty’ from the Journal of Peasant Studies has been released, with free articles available for a limited period. The guest editors are Marc Edelman, James C. Scott, Amita Baviskar, Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Deniz Kandiyoti, Eric Holt-Gimenez, Tony Weis and Wendy Wolford. View/download the issue: Critical perspectives…

New Multicriteria Mapping software launched

Multicriteria Mapping (MCM), a new software package to aid decision-making by exploring contrasting perspectives on complex issues, has been launched. MCM was pioneered by STEPS co-director Andy Stirling as a way of ‘opening up’ technical assessment by systematically ‘mapping’ the practical implications of alternative options, knowledge, framings and values. The new software will make MCM…

Ebola: difficult questions for development

As the horrific Ebola crisis unfolds across West Africa, and the international community belatedly responds, there are some bigger questions that arise beyond the immediate challenges on the ground. These are worth raising and discussing, as they challenge our understanding of ‘development’ as framed and practised over the last few decades in fundamental ways. The…

STEPS wins ISSC Transformations to Sustainability grant

The ESRC STEPS Centre is delighted to have won an International Social Science Council (ISSC) seed grant under the new Transformations to Sustainability Programme. The ISSC programme aims to build the knowledge partnerships needed for longer-term research on the fundamental innovative processes of social transformations towards sustainable and equitable futures. Led by Director Professor Ian Scoones,…

Join us for What Works at the Nexus?

Join us at the first Nexus Network conference: What works at the nexus? New connections in food, energy, water and environment on Thursday 27 November from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm at the Coin Street Conference Centre in London. This is an opportunity for network members to meet, hear high-profile keynote speakers, discuss nexus challenges from a variety…

Adrian Smith on grassroots prototyping at SCORAI Europe

Adrian Smith, STEPS Grassroots Innovation project convenor, will talk about grassroots prototyping past and present to a SCORAI (Europe) workshop on sustainable consumption at Kingston University today. The flourishing of community-based workshops for prototyping new forms of production and consumption using versatile digital design and fabrication technologies can learn from similar community workshops in the…

Complex Adaptive Systems & health: new resources

In June 2014, Future Health Systems (FHS) and the STEPS Centre co-hosted a workshop exploring Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) approaches to health systems strengthening in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). FHS and STEPS are particularly concerned with policies, programs, and individual level interventions promote and protect people’s health and wellbeing, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. The…

‘Innovation histories’: capturing legacy & learning from long-term programmes

By Annie Wilkinson, post doctorate researcher, Institute of Development Studies (This post is part of a series of reflections emerging from a workshop on complex adaptive systems research methods held in Baltimore in June 2014.) At the recent workshop on methods for complex adaptive systems (CAS) research in Baltimore, jointly organised by the STEPS Centre and Future Health Systems (FHS),…

GM in China: ‘Paranoia’ and public opinion

Biosafety certificates permitting Chinese researchers to grow genetically modified rice and corn expired last week, with little indication that the Ministry of Agriculture will renew them. The certificates, issued in 2009, concerned two types of Bt rice, which express a gene of the bacillus thuringiensis bacterium, conferring pest resistance, and phytase maize, which when used…

A day with Argentina’s ‘street engineers’

They take pride in what they do at the Reciclando Sueños co-operative. Situated in the La Matanza district of greater Buenos Aires, the workers describe themselves as cartoneros profesionales (professional recyclers) and ingenieros callejeros (street engineers). Whilst some in the city see waste picking as a lowly activity, these workers consider themselves to be providing…

India’s risks: forging a new multidisciplinary debate

by Raphaelle Moor A prospective superpower, India is grappling with a host of risks that threaten to hamper its progress towards becoming a more economically successful, egalitarian, safe and harmonious society. India’s population routinely deals with the risks from HIV/AIDS, earthquakes, floods, industrial accidents and environmental disasters, and more recently the risks and uncertainties brought…

Recordando el Plan de Lucas: que nos puede decir el movimiento para producción social útil sobre la innovación inclusiva hoy?

This post is a translated and edited version of an article first published in English on the Guardian’s Political Science blog En enero de 1976 los trabajadores de Lucas Aerospace publicaron un plan alternativo para el futuro de su empresa manufacturera. Fue una respuesta novedosa a los anuncios que miles de despidos porrazones de reestructuración…

Livelihood pathways after land reform in Zimbabwe

Understanding livelihood pathways requires sustained fieldwork in particular sites in order to understand what changes and why. Systematic longitudinal studies are sadly rare in many developing country settings. Project grants for a few years are insufficient to sustain the research effort required. Long term studies are especially important when major changes have occurred. We cannot…

Sustainable Development Goals: lessons from the ‘nexus’

As part of our engagement with the ‘nexus’ of food, water, energy and the environment, STEPS members will be participating in an Overseas Development Institute event on 11 September 2014. The event Tackling trade-offs in the food-water-energy nexus: lessons for the SDGs features contributions former STEPS Director Melissa Leach and includes a contribution from our…

Urban Futures: Background and research questions

This page provides detail of the background and research questions of the project ‘Risks and Responses to Urban Futures’. For a shorter overview, see the project homepage. Urbanisation creates of new opportunities for many, while also resulting in a dramatic increase in the concentration of poverty and environmental degradation in peri-urban zones. Peri-urban areas, at…

Global health meets genomics: inequality and politics

Scientific advances in the understanding of genetics and genomics have the potential to generate major improvements for human health in the near future. However, from a global health perspective, the translation of this technology into new medical treatments raises profound international and local issues around inequality, identity and insecurity. On 18th July 2014, we attended…

Building low carbon, high growth futures in Africa

An article in New Scientist magazine pubished today sets out one of the most hotly-contestated questions about increasing energy access in the global south: can low carbon techology deliver meaningful opportunities for economic growth? Author Fred Pearce, who sits on the STEPS Centre’s Advisory Committee, in unconvinced that those on either side of the low carbon argument have made a strong enough…

Community-based Micro Grids: Experiences in Rural Kenya

By Lorenz Gollwitzer I am standing in Olosho-Oibor, a small village three-hours from Nairobi, at the bottom of the Ngong Hills (famous as the place where Denys Finch Hatton crashed his plane and died in Karen Blixen’s autobiography Out of Africa). Beeping in my pocket, my smartphone has just received an email, yet the nearest connection to the national grid…

Ebola: failures, flashpoints and focus

By Annie Wilkinson, post doctorate researcher, Institute of Development Studies As the worst Ebola epidemic on record shows no signs of abating in West Africa, fear and ignorance are increasingly said to be playing a role in its continued spread. Meanwhile, local practices such as the consumption of bushmeat and deforestation are the go-to explanations…

Antibiotics: Avoiding a return to the dark ages of medicine

By Annie Wilkinson, post doctorate researcher, Institute of Development Studies Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme woke up yesterday to Prime Minister David Cameron’s prediction of a return to the “dark ages of medicine” if the problem of growing antibiotic resistance is left unchecked. This doomsday scenario is one where routine infections which we have come to think…

The nexus – politics, practice and disciplinary dilemmas

STEPS researchers have written a series of blogposts for the Guardian and the Nexus Platform website addressing the challenges of the water-food-energy-environment ‘nexus’. Andy Stirling addresses the challenges of working across disciplines, Jeremy Allouche looks at nexus politics while James Wilsdon and Rose Cairns discuss joining research, policy and practice. The Guardian Nexus blogpost series launches the Nexus Network,…

GM Crops: Continuing controversy

By Ian Scoones, STEPS Centre Director In 2002, the international press was full of headlines such as ‘Starving Zimbabwe Shuns GM Maize’. This was repeated again in 2010. The context was the refusal to import whole-grain GM maize from South Africa, as regulatory approval had not been granted, and there were fears that the food…

STEPS Summer School 2014 – Elsie Khakasa’s review

Guest post by Elsie Khakasa, STEPS Summer School 2014 participant. This post is reposted from Elsie’s blog with kind permission. Two weeks of a thought provoking and intense summer school have left me excited, and intellectually invigorated. I was fortunate to take part in this year’s STEPS Centre Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability, held from…

Political Ecologies of Carbon project researchers to speak at Green Economy in the South conference in July

Martin Kijazi and others from the STEPS Centre’s Political Ecologies of Carbon in Africa project will be speaking at the international conference “Green Economy in the South – Negotiating Environmental Governance, Prosperity and Development” in July. The conference takes place from 8-10 July 2014 at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania. More information can be found…

STEPS Summer School 2015: apply

Applications for the STEPS Summer School 2015 are now closed. Who should apply? Applications are invited from highly-motivated doctoral and postdoctoral researchers,working in fields around development studies, science and technology studies, innovation and policy studies, and across agricultural, health, water or energy issues. There is a premium on interdisciplinary approaches and on interests and orientations…

Against authoritarianism: Why we shouldn’t ‘put democracy on hold’ to achieve sustainability

Does the human response to global environmental challenges need to be channelled through authoritarian, controlled ‘transitions’? Threatened by climate change, should we ‘put democracy on hold for a while’? Or could more unruly modes of change, inspired by other ongoing radical social transformations – release from colonialism, racism and patriarchy, for example – offer more…

The Wonders of Walkshops

By Melissa Leach, IDS Director The STEPS Centre Summer School has been running here at IDS over the last two weeks – 38 fantastic PhD students and early career researchers from 25 countries. As ever we’ve all been enriched, enlightened and challenged by presentations, discussion and searching debate around building pathways to sustainability and social…

Learning from Great Transformations Past and Present

Reflecting on Karl Polanyi at the Resilience 2014 Conference By John Thompson, STEPS Centre Food and Agriculture Convenor In June 2013, I served on the Scientific Steering Committee of the international conference on Transformation in a Changing Climate, which was held at the University of Oslo. One of my duties for that event was to…

The power and politics around ‘objective’ performance monitoring

Performance monitoring, most prominently exemplified in the Millennium Development Goals, is often perceived as providing objective results. Using the case of access to rural water supplies in Ethiopia, a new journal article (£) by STEPS alumna Katharina Welle explores the power and political dynamics inherent in sector performance monitoring. Welle, K. (2014) Monitoring performance or…

Grassroots fabrication in makerspaces: the importance of culture, context & relationships

On Thursday 10th April 2014, the Grassroots Innovations project organised a half-day World Café workshop in Copenhagen on the topic of grassroots fabrication in makerspaces. It formed one session within a wider conference exploring an ‘Innovative Civil Society’ and hosted by the international Living Knowledge network of science shops. Makerspaces are one of the case…

On the benefits of walking and talking

Our Summer School kicked off today, with 38 students from 25 countries meeting at IDS for two weeks of intensive debate and discussion. On Wednesday, after a short lecture on ‘uncertainty’, they’ll take a long walk over the South Downs, talking to each other around a set of guiding questions. This builds on a strong…

STEPS Centre Summer School 2014

Our Summer School brought together an exceptional group of people who are exploring and developing ideas on building pathways to sustainability. This year 38 participants from 25 countries challenged the STEPS team and each other on questions of science, society and development through a mix of lectures, walks, discussions and public events. Storify: The story…

Resilience 2014: Planetary boundaries, politics and pathways

How can we build development pathways that enhance sustainability and resilience, integrating ecological integrity, social equality, human rights, well-being and security? That was the tough question at the centre of Professor Melissa Leach’s presentation at the Resilience 2014 conference in Montpellier, France, this morning. Prof. Leach, former STEPS Centre Director and new IDS Director, opened the second day of the conference in…

New leadership for the ESRC STEPS Centre

A new leadership team has been announced at the ESRC STEPS Centre today. The two founding Co-Directors, Prof. Ian Scoones and Prof. Andy Stirling remain at the helm of STEPS, with Prof. Scoones (right) taking over as Director and Prof. Stirling retaining his Co-Director role. This follows the appointment of the former Director, Prof. Melissa Leach, as…

Ebola in Guinea – people, patterns and puzzles

By Melissa Leach, Principal Investigator of Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium The francophone West African country of Guinea doesn’t often make international headlines, but has this week for the nastiest of reasons. An outbreak of Ebola, first identified in the forested south-east of the country in mid-March, has now spread across the country…

Understanding water for food security

Lyla Mehta, STEPS Centre water & sanitation theme convenor, is heading a team writing the report on Water and Food Security to the Committee of World Food Security (CFS). Water for all, provided in an equitable and sustainable way, is central to global justice for poor women and men. It has a particularly important role…

IPCC: should climate change debates be more political?

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, focusing on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, makes sobering reading. But it also situates climate change among a range of other challenges and uncertainties faced by society, especially poor people. IPCC reports always provoke a discussion about trust in climate science. But they should also make…

Future Earth launches new website

Future Earth, the international hub for research on sustainability, has launched a new website to share news of its events and projects. Future Earth was launched in June 2012 and aims to bring together research on global environmental change from across disciplines, with input from governments, civil society, business and others. STEPS Director Melissa Leach…

Sustainable energy for whom?

How can we move from “sustainable energy for some” towards “sustainable energy for all”, whilst promoting economic development in some of the world’s poorest nations? In a new blogpost for Politics@Warwick the STEPS Centre’s David Ockwell and Rob Byrne reveal new research that shows capacity building has been more influential than market mechanisms in the Solar Home Systems sector in Kenya. “There’s…

STEPS-JNU Symposium 2014: Powerful storytelling

The power of simple storytelling to move and inspire is explored in a new post about ‘photovoice’ by Julia Day, STEPS Centre Deputy Director and Head of Communications, written for the WonkComms blog. Photovoice, a participatory method using photography and people talking about their experiences, is being used to great effect by our partner Shibaji…

Dams, displacement and development

A dam disaster in Zimbabwe prompts STEPS co-director Ian Scoones to reflect on dams, displacement and development more broadly on the Zimbabweland blog. He points to a new paper in Energy Policy that reiterates the advice of the World Commission on Dams, and the need for a more diverse approach to water resources development. With…

Photovoice – Uncertainty through the lens

← BACK TO SYMPOSIUM 2014 HOMEPAGE The views of people living and coping with the everyday effects of climate change in India are explored here through an innovative ‘Photovoice’ presentation created by Shibaji Bose of the Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR), the communications officer for India on our Uncertainty from Below project. The Photovoice powerfully brings together…

Steps-JNU Symposium 2014 – Storify

←BACK TO SYMPOSIUM 2014 HOMEPAGE We told the story of the Symposium as it happened via Storify. By collating resources and social media from difference sources we hoped to bring the event debates to life. [View the story “STEPS-JNU SYMPOSIUM: Exploring Pathways to Sustainability” on Storify]

STEPS-JNU Symposium 2014 – Videos

←BACK TO SYMPOSIUM 2014 HOMEPAGE View video clips from our 2014 Annual Symposium, ‘Exploring pathways to sustainability’, co-organised with the Centre for Studies in Science Policy at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Video vox pops We asked participants: “How do you build pathways to sustainability?” Here are their short (c.2 minute) responses. ) Opening session…

Telling stories about scarcity

‘Scarcity’ is a key term in debates about the global rush for land and other resources. A new Future Agricultures working paper, co-authored by STEPS director Ian Scoones, looks at different narratives of scarcity related to the future of food and farming in Africa and globally, and finds that political questions – about distribution, needs,…

STEPS-JNU SYMPOSIUM: Every case is its own study? Every movement has its own goals?

By Adrian Smith, Researcher, STEPS Centre / SPRU Learning with and across diverse grassroots innovation movements Here in Delhi, first at the Grassroots Innovation Movements Workshop, and then at the STEPS-JNU Symposium, participants were interested in the commitments and positions taken in STEPS Centre research projects. Our project on Grassroots Innovation Movements in Historical and…

STEPS-JNU SYMPOSIUM: Making climate change visible

By Ian Scoones, Co-Director, STEPS Centre The second session at the JNU-STEPS Symposium focused on how uncertainties generated by climate change are appreciated both ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ – and indeed by those in the middle. Three highly contrasting rural and urban case studies from Delhi and Mumbai, presented by Alankar of Sarai, Kutch…

STEPS-JNU Symposium: Exploring Pathways To Sustainabilty

Our 2014 Annual Symposium, ‘Exploring pathways to sustainability’, was co-organised with the Centre for Studies in Science Policy at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and launched a new initiative across four schools at JNU to create a STEPS ‘Sustainability Hub’ for collaborative, interdisciplinary work. This exciting initiative will engender cutting-edge, academically rigorous research across the social and natural sciences,…

IDS seeks 3 new fellows in environmental change

The Institute of Development Studies is seeking to recruit up to three new researchers with international reputations for innovative interdisciplinary work broadly within the area of ‘Environmental Change’. A particular concern is to understand the challenges posed by climate change, in interaction with other environmental and social changes, and options for climate resilient pathways in…

Missing politics and food sovereignty

Over the last two decades La Via Campesina has grown as a movement campaigning for a change in the global agri-food system. Some claim that it is the world’s largest social movement. Its main rallying cry has been a demand for ‘food sovereignty’, a term, as Marc Edelman notes, that has a longer genealogy but…

Controlling animal-to-human disease in Africa

African trypanosomiasis is a devastating disease, both for humans and animals. Over the last hundred years huge efforts have been made to control it. A working paper by Ian Scoones looks at the scientific and policy debates surrounding control of the disease and its vector, the tsetse fly, in Eastern and Southern Africa. The paper…

Food Sovereignty: a Critical Dialogue

On 24 January 2014, the event ‘Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue’ will bring together sceptics and advocates of food sovereignty to discuss the future of this controversial idea in critical agrarian studies. Ian Scoones will be chairing the opening keynote session of this event, held at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands….

Linking global and local sustainability: new journal article

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012 was another opportunity to reflect on the links between global and local sustainability. High-profile global processes, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and others, have aimed to unite action at a global level to address sustainability challenges….

Apply now for ESRC Studentship Awards

Apply now for ESRC studentship awards to join our Innovation and Sustainability: Management and Policy course, part-based at the STEPS Centre. Open to all UK and EU students, the ESRC studentships at the Sussex ESRC Doctoral Training Centre pathways are designed to dovetail with both the University’s Research Themes and the ESRC’s Strategic Challenges in ways that maximise the…

Prof Melissa Leach appointed director of IDS

Professor Melissa Leach, ESRC STEPS Centre director, has been appointed as the new director of the UK’s Institute of Development Studies. Prof. Leach will continue in her current roles, as director of the ESRC Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre and the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium, until she begins her new role…

COP19: A push for pro-poor low carbon development

Julia Day, STEPS Centre Communications Manager All too often discussions about low carbon technologies range around the interests of high and middle income countries, but fail to factor in the needs of Least Developed Countries (LDCs). But there are compelling reasons why a broader definition of technology can help low carbon, pro-poor pathways to sustainability…

Big stories, little stories

This is the (slightly edited) text of my talk at Communicate 2013, in a session called “liberating stories”. The pictures are some of the slides I used. The brief was to provide some suggestions about the role of the social sciences in ‘liberating stories’ for environmental communicators, through memorable examples. I only had 10 minutes…

COP19: Cutting edge policy research

The ESRC STEPS Centre is seeking to address the many different impacts that climate change has on peoples’ lives and livelihoods in sustainable ways that work for people and planet, using their own knowledge and expertise through our research with partners around the world. The COP19 United Nations summit on climate change in Warsaw, Poland (11-22 November 2013) played…

New book: land deals and the state

A new book examines the state’s role in land deals through theoretical insights and empirical studies from around the globe. Governing Global Land Deals: The Role of the State in the Rush for Land analyses the relationships between global land grabs and processes of government and governance. STEPS co-director Ian Scoones is among the editors….

Who knows best when creating technology?

What attempts are being made to ‘improve reality’ and who are the real beneficiaries of bids to mould the future to the vision of a few, powerful actors? STEPS Centre PhD student Justin Pickard explored a variety of inititaives to improve reality on a global scale as part of a session at the Brighton Digital Festival last…

Don’t believe the hype: Who authors our futures?

A chain of technological developments set into motion by chemist and physicist Gordon Moore more than 45 years ago is still resonating in technological choices being made today, says Justin Pickard, a STEPS Centre PhD student, in a blogpost for The Guardian published today. Justin, who is researching the relationship between uncertainty, infrastructure and grassroots innovation and working…

Living on the edge: Rethinking aid amidst complexity

By Melissa Leach, STEPS Centre director These days, a remarkably short and convenient flight takes one from Sussex UK –  where among other STEPS Centre activities this week I’ve been contributing to the post-2015 global sustainable development goals process and the international Future Earth Science Committee  – and Sierra Leone. Here, I’m on my way…

Where branding and sustainability collide

By Nathan Oxley, Communications Officer, STEPS Centre Peace Parks sound lovely, don’t they? I mean, who would be against the idea of creating a nature reserve across national borders to promote co-operation, development and conservation? Sign in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape, South Africa Bram Büscher (Institute of Social Studies), who gave a STEPS Centre Seminar last…

From Uncertainty in India to low carbon in Kenya: Our autumn newsletter is out now

Our autumn 2013 newsletter gives a snapshot of a few of the areas we are researching right now.  A new briefing looks at how people deal with uncertainty about climate, disease or natural disasters in India, while new resources highlight pathways of pro-poor energy access in Kenya.  A new policy briefing examines how science and politics must be engaged in a post-2015 framework, while…

Building pathways of pro-poor energy access

The misconception that developing countries can plump for either increasing access to energy, or low carbon development, but not both, is exploded in a paper presented by Dr Rob Byrne, STEPS Centre energy and climate change co-convenor, at the Poverty Reduction, Equity, and Growth Network’s (PEGNet) conference this week. Because conventional high carbon energy options…

Citizens and science in a greener China

As China and the UK seek to collaborate more closely in science and innovation, there are lessons they can share about how to govern and debate new technologies, write Adrian Ely and David Tyfield in the Guardian today. A visit to Bejing by UK Chancellor George Osborne and science minister David Willetts this week, bought…

New articles: Access to Water in peri-urban India

A new article examining the increasing inequalities around water provision in Delhi by STEPS Centre partner Alankar is published this week. Socio-Spatial Situatedness and Access to Water (Economic & Political Weekly, October 12, 2013 vol xlviiI 54 no 41), looks at the social and political biases around large state-managed and institutionalised water provision in the city and the increasing gap…

IPCC climate report: research, resources and expertise

As the most comprehensive statement on climate science to date is published, we have gathered some of our key resources on the impact of climate change on poor and marginalised people in developing countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summary for policymakers on the physical science of global warming is published today, with the full report to follow. The summary concludes that…

Engaging science and politics in a Post-2015 framework

A new STEPS Centre/IDS policy briefing examines how science and politics must be engaged in a post-2015 framework in order to tackle the interlinked environmental and social justice challenges which the world faces. It highlights the need for technical and social innovation alongside a new politics of innovation guided by the concepts of social and planetary boundaries and…

Call for papers: Is the Nexus Secure … and for Whom?

Water Alternatives will publish a special issue on Critical Thinking On the ‘New Security Convergence’ in Energy, Food, Climate and Water, with financial support from the STEPS Centre. The editors invite abstracts by 15 December 2013 on the points set out below. For full details, please visit the Water Alternatives website Guest Editors: Jeremy Allouche (STEPS Centre, IDS) j.allouche@ids.ac.uk…

GM crops and biotechnology

GM crops, Golden Rice and other related technologies polarise opinion: they are the solution to the global food crisis; or they are ‘frankenfoods’ causing irreversible environmental harm. Concerns about poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, farmers’ livelihoods and the role of the private sector; the challenges of regulation in different settings; and how to involve the…

Against ‘monocultures’ in agriculture and knowledge

Faced with the undeniable fact of hunger in developing countries, ‘sustainable intensification’ has been claimed as a science-led solution to food security. In an article for SciDev.Net, Prof Brian Wynne (Lancaster University) and Georgina Catacora (GenØk) tear strips off the large-scale industrial model of agriculture that is supposed to feed the world, and the narrow…

Climate change: where stereotypes go to die

What do you mean when you call someone a climate sceptic? I went to a panel discussion last Thursday evening, “Tackling scepticism: How can we most effectively communicate climate change?” which despite the confrontational title, was an enjoyable debate touching on how people on different sides of a sometimes polarised climate debate think of, and…

David Dickson 1947-2013

The STEPS Centre’s directors, members and partners are sad to have learnt of the sudden death of David Dickson (1947-2013), the founding director of SciDev.Net. David played an important part in the STEPS Centre, serving for five years as a member of our inaugural Advisory Committee and generously sharing his unrivalled expertise in the communication of science for development. His…

Responsibility at the Science-Publics-Policy Interface: What I learnt at the 2013 Science in Public Conference

The village of Onna, after the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake. Photo: Darkroom_Daze (Flickr) by Stephen WhitfieldDPhil Student, Institute of Development Studies This year’s ‘Science in Public’ conference hosted by Nottingham University was excellent. I came away from two captivating days of presentations, discussions and (at times heated) debates having learnt a lot… and inevitably feeling frustrated…

IDS Bulletin: China and Brazil in African Agriculture

New research published by the Institute of Development Studies, and jointly edited by STEPS co-director Ian Scoones, reveals the realities of how the BRICS and Africa are engaging in agricultural development cooperation. The questions of how Africa can feed itself, and how the agricultural sector can be a more effective engine for growth and development,…

More than nets: tackling malaria through development

Does reducing poverty help to tackle malaria? A systematic review of studies on socioeconomic status and malaria in children, published in the Lancet, suggests that greater wealth and standards of living are important for malaria control. The authors include John Thompson, a STEPS Centre member. Malaria control is often focused on methods from the health…

‘Golden Rice’ and the GM crop debate

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants / IRRI Guest blog by Sally Brooks, Researcher and Associate Tutor at the University of York, and former STEPS Centre member In an interview on the Radio 4 Today Programme last week, Owen Paterson, Minister for Environment, outlined his case for a…

TV interview: Social Innovations

Kevin Urama, executive director of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and Adrian Ely, STEPS Centre head of impact and engagement, talk about social innovations and prosperous societies to Kenyan TV programme, The GMK Show, June 2013. This interview was conducted as part of the Pro-poor low carbon development project.

Exposing the political journey of climate change evidence from Exeter to Africa

The Met Office’s modelling IBM supercomputer Stephen Whitfield, PhD student, Institute of Development Studies (Knowledge, Technology and Society Team)   For someone more used to the quiet productivity and relative inconspicuousness of the PhD office at the Institute of Development Studies, the headquarters of the UK Meteorological Office in Exeter is impressive and intimidating in equal measure….

Future Earth takes flight with inaugural scientific committee

Global sustainability research programme Future Earth has announced its inaugural science committee, with ESRC STEPS Centre director Melissa Leach serving as vice chair. Future Earth is major 10-year international research programme which aims to provide the critical knowledge needed to address the challenges of global environmental change and to identify opportunities for a transition to…

Future Earth takes flight with inaugural science committee

Global sustainability research programme Future Earth has announced its inaugural science committee, with ESRC STEPS Centre director Melissa Leach serving as vice chair. Future Earth is major 10-year international research programme which aims to provide the critical knowledge needed  to address the challenges of global environmental change and to identify opportunities for a transition to…

How can the G8 solve hunger?

By Ian Scoones. Next weekend the leaders of the G8 gather in Northern Ireland for  their annual summit. This year it’s hosted by the UK, and Prime Minister  David Cameron has been highlighting hunger and malnutrition as a major  priority, together with the Enough Food for Everyone If…campaign. Top issues are transparency around tax and…

Summer School 2013 begins

Group discussion on transitions and grassroots innovation Our annual Summer School has hit the ground running, with 40 students from around the world descending on Sussex to hear and challenge the STEPS Centre’s ideas on pathways to sustainability. So far, we’ve had a mix of lectures and discussions on topics from the global political economy…

The GM debate should not be closed down to what is rational, but opened up to multiple rationalities…. A response to Chris Whitty and colleagues

  By Stephen Whitfield, PhD student, Institute of Development Studies (Knowledge, Technology and Society Team) Genetically modified rice / BASF   In a recent commentary published in Nature, Chris Whitty (chief scientific adviser at the UK Department for International Development) and colleagues rightly argue that the (ever-rich and seemingly-unending) debate over genetically modified crops should…

Public debate: Fuel poverty, climate change and social justice

Watch our lively public debate on fuel poverty, climate change and social justice. With Doug Parr, Jim Watson, Thurstan Crockett and Kirsty Alexander, chaired by Alice Bell. Watch the video (on YouTube) See photos from the event More resources from the 2013 STEPS Centre Summer School On 20 May 2013, as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, the STEPS Centre…

STEPS Centre Summer School 2013

Our Summer School brought together an exceptional group of people who are exploring and developing ideas on pathways to sustainability. Through a mix of lectures, walks, discussions and public events, participants challenged the STEPS team and each other on questions of science, society and development. Find out more about our 2013 Summer School (13-24 May 2013)…

Bird Flu: Panic, Pandemics and Planning

A steady stream of reports about bird flu infection cases in China over the past month has given way in the past couple of days to panicked confirmations of deaths (27 as of today) and doom-laden projections about what may lay ahead. The new H7N9 strain of avian influenza in China is causing much conjecture about animal-to-human and human-to-human infection and how the spread of…

Mike Hulme on planetary boundaries and other metaphors

Spaceship Earth? Photo: NCC-1701-A by tram_painter on Flickr (cc-by-nc-nd) Prof Mike Hulme has a thoughtful post on the UEA’s 3S blog today on how metaphors affect the way we think (about science and other things), reflecting on a recent talk by Johan Rockström packed with imagery about planetary boundaries, tipping points and other engaging ideas….

Soldiers hand out masks near a shopping mall in Mexico City after the emergence of H1N1 in April 2009. Photo: Militares y Cubrebocas by eneas on Flickr (cc-by)

Pandemic Flu Controversies

How can a better understanding of the social, political, institutional and policy dimensions of pandemic control and preparedness planning help us deal with new outbreak controversies, such as the new H7N9 avian flu in China? Useful resources about pandemic influenza, including material from the STEPS Centre and Sussex University Centre for Global Health Policy’s recent Pandemic Flu Controversies workshop which discussed lessons,…

DIG-IT Workshop: Dialogue on Inclusive Growth, Innovation and Technology

The DIG-IT Workshop on Inclusive Growth, Innovation and Technology – co-sponsored by the STEPS Centre – promoted a unique forum for discussion of alternative and interdisciplinary frameworks to improve our understanding of the nexus between innovation, technological change, growth and inequalities within and between regions. STEPS Centre co-directors Andy Stirling and Ian Scoones and members, Adrian…

Democracy in the Anthropocene?

Planetary boundaries / Illustration from Global Change magazine STEPS Centre director Melissa Leach recently wrote in the Huffington Post: “When the cover of the Economist famously announced ‘Welcome to the anthropocene’ a couple of years ago, was it welcoming us to a new geological epoch, or a dangerous new world of undisputed scientific authority and…

Celestial (policy) navigation

by Jim Sumberg, STEPS Centre research fellow The proposition that public policy should be ‘evidence-based’ is now widely accepted (although there is still considerable contestation around the meaning, nature, types, and qualities of evidence, the interpretation of evidence, the politics of evidence etc). The evidence in the phrase ‘evidence-based policy’ is often portrayed as evidence…

Democracy in the Anthropocene? Science and Sustainable Development Goals at the UN

Melissa Leach, STEPS Centre director, was one of 28 scientists invited to attend a United Nations Expert Meeting to discuss science and Sustainable Development Goals. She reflects on the issues addressed, the process involved and asks whether a dangerous new world of undisputed scientific authority and anti-democratic politics lies ahead. Read about Melissa’s experience of the United Nations…

World Water Day 2013

Lyla Mehta, STEPS Centre water and sanitation convenor, writes about the need to look at the Millennium Development Goal on water and sanitation and what it means for gender justice, particularly as we look beyond the MDGs to potential Sustainable Development Goals. “Current water and sanitation indicators to monitor progress are inadequate. They ignore gender dynamics, rights, equality, sustainability…

STEPS Seminar: The Entrepreneurial State and the Risk-Reward Nexus: Implications for Innovation and Inequality

Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of Economics and RM Phillips Chair in Science and Technology Policy at SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex, will give a STEPS Seminar on Tuesday 16 April on a new framework to study the relationship between innovation and inequality. Mariana will present a new framework, called the Risk-Reward…

The Entrepreneurial State and the Risk-Reward Nexus: Implications for Innovation and Inequality

Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of Economics, SPRU, University of Sussex, will give a STEPS Seminar on Tuesday 16 April on a new framework to study the relationship between innovation and inequality. Tuesday 16 April, 1pm-2.30pm University of Sussex, Brighton. Venue on campus to be confirmed. All welcome More details on the event page Overview of seminar Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of Economics and RM Phillips…

Decorating the Christmas tree with perfect Sustainable Development Goals?

By Katharina Welle, STEPS Centre PhD student  The 2013 STEPS Symposium on “credibility across cultures” examined questions surrounding ‘best available’ scientific advice in relation to global policy processes on sustainable development. One global process discussed at the Symposium is the current United Nations consultation process for setting new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs will form…

Crossing swords over science

Kendo practice / gratapictures / Flickr (cc-by-nc) By Nathan Oxley, STEPS Centre Why do words matter in the politics of science? The topic of language kept coming back again and again at the STEPS Symposium on evidence, uncertainty and science advice. It isn’t about arguing over semantics: words are bound up in how we think,…

STEPS Symposium 2013: S is for Society

Susan Owens.Photo: Lance Bellers Guest blog by Sandra Pointel, Doctoral researcher, SPRU The last session of the STEPS Symposium on Credibility Across Cultures was promising. Its focus on “power, plurality and uncertainty” promised to shed light on how to open up expert advice, improve the governance of the science and technology decision-making process and engage…

STEPS Symposium 2013: Beyond Rio+20 – Improving global structures for scientific advice

Lidia Brito.Photo: Lance Bellers Guest blog by Ruth Segal, Doctoral Researcher, SPRU  In recent years, global initiatives have attempted to co-ordinate scientific advice and assessments – on climate change, biodiversity and agriculture, among other topics. The second day of the STEPS Symposium on the global politics of scientific advice opened with a panel looking at…

STEPS Symposium 2013: Science and developing countries – whose expertise counts?

Dipak Gyawali at the symposium. Photo: Lance Bellers Guest blog by Rachael Taylor, PhD student, SPRU The second session of the STEPS Symposium on the global politics of scientific advice asked ‘whose expertise counts?’ In his opening comments, Professor Brian Wynne (University of Lancaster) turned this question around by asking “whose questions count?” He described…

Anne Glover on science advice in Europe

The STEPS Centre’s symposium on the global politics of science advice looked at how evidence informs decision-making. The speakers included Prof Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to the President, European Commission, who gave a public keynote lecture at the end of day 1. Under the title “What is the right balance between respecting evidence and…

STEPS Symposium 2013: Photo gallery

The 2013 STEPS Symposium, Credibility Across Cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of scientific advice, was held in February 2013 at the University of Sussex. Browse the photo gallery below for some pictures from the event. Symposium home  |  Video  |  Presentations  |  Resources  |  Storify  |  Blog

Storify: STEPS symposium 2013

This Storify documents tweets, links, photos and video posted during the 2013 STEPS Symposium, Credibility Across Cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of scientific advice, held in February 2013 at the University of Sussex.   Symposium home  |  Video  |  Presentations  |  Resources  | Photos  |  Blog     [View the story “STEPS Symposium 2013:…

STEPS Symposium video

STEPS SYMPOSIUM 2013 – VIDEOS

View all the video from our symposium “Credibility across cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of scientific advice”, which took place at Sussex University on 6-7 February 2013. Symposium home  |  Presentations  |  Resources  |  Photos  |  Storify  |  Blog Credibility across cultures: interviews with speakers Speakers at the symposium reflect on the themes of…

STEPS Symposium 2013 – Speaker presentations

The 2013 STEPS Symposium, Credibility Across Cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of scientific advice, was held in February 2013 at the University of Sussex. Slides from the speakers can be viewed below. Symposium home  |  Video  |  Resources  |  Photos  |  Storify  |  Blog Day 1 Session 1: Promises and paradoxes of scientific authority…

#steps13 social media roundup

Following Alice Bell’s insightful post on the recent history of social media and science campaigns, I had quick look at our symposium speakers’ online profiles (the full list of speakers is here). I’ve shepherded their Twitter profiles and blogs together into the list below. Looking down the list, there are plenty of opportunities to engage….

Science policy, social media and skepticism

Science is Vital protest outside the Treasury, 2010 By Alice Bell, Research Fellow, SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research   The Royal Institution is up for sale. There are many interesting things about the fuss this has caused. One of which is that Harry Kroto has taken to Twitter.It’s what happens now when scientists…

3 challenges for science and democracy after Rio+20

Rally to Restore Sanity, from Steve Rhodes’ photostream on Flickr (by-nc-nd) By Melissa Leach, STEPS Centre director When sustainability poses complex and often tangled questions, how do we answer them? In international circles before, at and since Rio, we’re seeing strong arguments for a science-led agenda – from Earth System Science and planetary boundaries, to…

Credibility Across Cultures: resources

A set of resources relevant to the STEPS Centre Annual Symposium 2013 Credibility across cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of scientific advice Symposium home  |  Video  |  Presentations   |  Photos  |  Storify  |  Blog Science and uncertainty Article: Keep it Complex. When knowledge is uncertain, experts should avoid pressures to simplify their advice. Render decision-makers…

Credibility Across Cultures – STEPS Annual Symposium 2013

Our symposium on the global politics of scientific advice was held on 6-7 February at the University of Sussex. Video, slides, comment and other resources are now available to view. Video  |  Presentations  |  Resources  |  Photos  |  Storify  |  Blog STEPS Symposium Programme (pdf, 735kb) Credibility Across Cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of…

Credibility across cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of scientific advice, 6-7 February 2013, UK

Speakers include: Professors Anne Glover, Sir Robert Watson, Lidia Brito, David Spiegelhalter, Chris Whitty, Roger Pielke, Duncan Green and more. Tackling 21st century sustainability and development challenges requires the ‘best available’ scientific advice. But what is ‘best advice’ and how might this idea need to be re-thought? Many questions persist about how to build and…

COP 18: Climate change resources

A range of resources relevant to the issues being discussed at COP18. Rapid environmental change and the key development challenges of alleviating poverty and inequity are inseparable and increasingly complex. The STEPS Centre’s work looks at how pathways to sustainability – linking environmental integrity with social justice – can be built in today’s complex, dynamic world. Investigating…

“Pastoralism” book launch, 29 November, London

On 29 November, we’re launching the book Pastoralism and Development in Africa with a panel debate and drinks reception in Central London, held in association with the Royal African Society. Book launchPastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones 29 November 2012London House Large…

STEPS Centre newsletter – autumn 2012

A bumper edition of the quarterly newsletter this autumn includes details of our upcoming annual symposium, Credibility Across Cultures, next year’s Summer School, a prestigious award win as well as work on the Post-2015 agenda, low carbon development, land-grabbing plus a lot more besides. Our newsletters aim to keep you up-to-date on the latest research, publications and events  from the STEPS…

New Andy Stirling presentations

A collection of presentations recently given by STEPS co-director Andy Stirling on: civil society and the direction of innovation; the implications of uncertainty for science policy; knowledge and innovation implications for climate geo-engineering; and social, ethical and cultural challenges for security research.

The new ‘security’ agenda in water, energy and food

On 26 October 2012 the STEPS Centre and SOAS ran a joint event to discuss the connections made between water, energy, food and climate, and the tendency to frame these issues in terms of ‘security’. The increasing references to a so-called water-energy-food ‘nexus’ reflects the understanding that vital resources are connected in fundamental ways. Although…

Land grabs: knowledge and resistance

by Nathan Oxley, STEPS Centre communications officer Shalmali Guttal from Focus on the Global South addresses the opening plenary The Global Land Grabbing II conference at Cornell last week brought together an impressive range of people with different disciplines, views and experience on large scale land deals – a phenomenon that’s erupted worldwide in the…

STEPS Centre wins award for contribution to public understanding of the social dimensions of science

The European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) has awarded the ESRC STEPS Centre its prestigious new Ziman award for “the most innovative cooperation in a venture to promote the public understanding of the social dimensions of science”. The STEPS Centre was given the award for its Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New…

GLOBAL LAND GRABBING II

See videos, photos, blogs and more from the second international conference on ‘Global Land Grabbing’. The STEPS Centre also has a range of useful resources on land, green and water grabs. Organised by the Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI) and the Cornell Department of Development Sociology, two of the STEPS Centre’s directors – Melissa Leach and Ian Scoones – presented…

Tackling unregulated health markets

Follow the Washington debate which launched our new book on the spread of health markets in developing countries via the event Storify. New book: Transforming health markets Our new book in the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability book series looks at how the challenge of unregulated health markets is being addressed. Transforming Health Markets in Asia and Africa:…

Pandemic Influenza: Research themes

  Outbreak policy narratives Public and policy reactions to H5N1 and H1N1 have been guided by the prospect of the devastating impacts of an outbreak. ‘Outbreak narratives’ have guided policymaking, with the building of drug stockpiles, the development of contingency plans and so on. Draconian measures for containment have often been devised, including restrictions on…

Pandemic Influenza: Resources

Books Scoones, I. (ed.) (2010)  Avian Influenza: Science, Policy and Politics, London: Earthscan Routledge. Elbe, S. (2010) Security and Global Health, Polity Press Dry, S. and Leach, M. (eds.) (2010) Epidemics: Science, Governance and Social Justice, London: Earthscan: Routledge. (Includes Scoones, I.,  Fighting the flu: Risk, uncertainty and surveillance) Projects: Pharmaceuticals and Security: The Role…

Vive la révolution?

  Photo: Garissa cattle market from USAID’s photostream on Flickr Revolution is in the air. As the 3-day African Green Revolution Forum kicks off officially today in Arusha, the talk is of scaling up investment and innovation, focusing on small and medium-sized agribusinesses. Agriculture in Africa, neglected in recent years, is now seen as a…

The great green land grab

“Land grabbing” is rarely out of the headlines. But the practice of land being appropriated by the environmental agenda – so-called “green grabs” – is gaining more and more attention. A new article on the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) blog looks at this phenomenon, and refers to recent work involving STEPS Centre members,…

Low Carbon Energy Development Network 2nd conference (#LCEDN2)

Follow the conference on Storify They are big, big questions: How can developing countries transition to low carbon energy systems? Do low carbon futures preclude economic development? Can low carbon energy access go hand-in-hand with poverty reduction? The first day of the Low Carbon Energy Development Network (LCEDN) second international conference grappled with all of these, and more (Photo: Kevin Urama by…

Rio+20 activities and resources

Following Rio+20, our work on science and technology for development continues. On this page: New paper | High-Level Dialogue | Resource Centre | Media coverage | Press releases  | Green grabs | Activities | Events  | Blog | Hopes for Rio videos |  Newsletter Transforming Innovation for Sustainability A new paper, co-authored by the STEPS Centre, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Tellus Institute calls for a…