Best of STEPS 2013: Science and technology for development

From the global politics of scientific advice to solar home systems in Kenya. From the GM crops debate to living with climate uncertainty in India. The STEPS Centre and our partners around the globe have been hard at work throughout 2013 seeking to make science, technology and innovation work for the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.

Here are some of the most popular highlights from this year. If you would like to comment on any of our work, we would love to hear from you via the blogpost comment sections, on Twitter (@stepscentre), we’re using #bestof2013, or by email.

Lidia Brito addresses the STEPS Centre SymposiumCredibilility Across Cultures

Tackling the sustainability and development challenges of the 21st century requires the ‘best available’ scientific advice: to measure progress; to predict impacts; to identify solutions; and to evaluate options and pathways for decision-making. But what is ‘best advice’ amidst the inherent complexities, uncertainties and contestations of knowledge and value that pervade so many of today’s challenges? Our 2013 Annual Symposium bought together 150 people to discuss ways forward.

Expertise, uncertainty and the global politics of scientific advice

Crop experimentGM crops and the global food crisis

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. However, a simplistic ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ stance leaves little room for a more informed and balanced debate not only about these technologies, but a range of alternative innovations too. This page features highlights from our extensive work on how science, policy and politics interact in this area. It includes selected projects, events, books and peer-reviewed articles.

GM Crops and Biotechnology


Apply now for the 2014 STEPS Centre Summer SchoolSummer School on Pathways to Sustainability

The STEPS Centre’s second Summer School bought 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. This page contains materials from the past summers schools and details about applying for the 2014 school, deadline 31 January.

STEPS Summer School

Zoonoses,  ecosystems and wellbeingChild andcows, Rift Calley | Sven Torfinn | Panos

Our affiliate consortium of researchers from 20 institutions in Africa, Europe and America are studying the connections between disease and environment across five countries in Africa, focussing on animal-to-human disease transmission, or zoonoses. Among this year’s publications are research updates for each country and a study published in Nature.

Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium


Solar lighting / Rising Powers projectPro-poor low carbon development

A very busy year for this project, aiming to inform the development of Climate Innovation Centres in various developing countries by analysing the history of, and actors involved in, the adoption of solar home systems in Kenya. The objective is to improve the ability of policy to facilitate the transfer and uptake of low carbon technologies in developing countries, and to do so in ways that can assist in their economic development. New publications include briefings in English and Kiswahili, TV interviews in Kenya and an Innovation Histories workshop and report.

Improving low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries

Publications, publications, publicationsKasigau, Kenya_Maggie Mahan_Flickr CC

From a journal special issue on grassroots innovation, articles on the Green Revolution in Africa and technology assessment to working papers on livestock and REDD+ and short films about rapid urbanisation in Bangalore. Our members continue to publish cutting-edge research across a variety of media to engage with audiences from academia, policy and practice.

STEPS Centre Publications

STEPS Centre’s YouTube channel

Living with climate change uncertainty10051965616_a1ccd128f6_m

How do people deal with uncertainty about climate, disease or natural disasters like floods?  Our ‘Uncertainty from Below’ project brings together people who study uncertainty with the perspectives of those who experience it in India. A new briefing outlines our work bridging the gap in the perceptions of those who theorise about climate change and uncertainty from above’, those who experience it from ‘below’, as well as those in the ‘middle’ who act as intermediaries between the two.

Uncertainty from Below


Democracy in the AnthropocenePlanetary boundaries / illustration from Global Change magazine

STEPS Centre director Melissa Leach wrote in the Huffington Pos earlier this yeart: “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 anti-democratic politics?” Melissa’s blog provoked a series of fascinating responses and contributions to a vital debate about the planetary boundaries concept, the use of scientific expertise and authority within political processes, and the nature of democratic involvement in sustainability debates.

Debate about democracy in the Anthropocene

Post-2015 development agendaWATER-PIPE

Our research and engagement aimed at shaping the post-2015 development framework to succeed the United Nations Millennium Development Goals has continued apace this year. Our work included: contributions to UK Parliamentary inquires; United Nations processes, such as STEPS director Melissa Leach’s contributions to the UN|DESA Open Working Group on science and Sustainable Development Goals and High-level Dialogue on Global Sustainability; and via Professor Leach’s engagement with Future Earth, of which she is science committee vice chair.

STEPS and Post-2015


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