Journal Articles

China has become the leading country to develop wind and solar energy industries. By presenting the institutional arrangement and interest constellations of China’s regulatory system of renewable energy sectors, this paper argues that the reasons for China’s swift expansion of wind and solar energy investment go beyond the notion of a state-led model. It also…

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Published: 20th July 2017

In this paper we introduce an area of activity that has flourished for decades in all corners of the globe, namely grassroots innovation for sustainable development. We also argue why innovation in general is a matter for democracy. Combining these two points, we explore how grassroots innovation can contribute to what we call innovation democracy,…

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by Ian Scoones, Marc Edelman, Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Ruth Hall, Wendy Wolford & Ben White The Journal of Peasant Studies, Forum on Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World A new political moment is underway. Although there are significant differences in how this is constituted in different places, one manifestation of the new moment is…

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Published: 1st May 2017

 In October 2015, we convened a workshop for 80 researchers and practitioners involved in makerspaces in Europe. Our aim was to explore how makerspaces can help cultivate sustainable developments. This paper reports workshop discussion and ideas on the topic, and illustrates interest in the deliberative potential for this kind of ‘citizen lab’. Interestingly, given the…

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Published: 19th April 2017

We analyse the marketing of ‘heirloom rices’ produced in the Cordillera mountains of northern Luzon, the Philippines, as the commodification of a historical ‘anti-commodity’. We contend that, historically, rice was produced for social, cultural and spiritual purposes but not primarily for sale or trade. The Ifugaos were able to sustain terraced wet-rice cultivation within a…

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Published: 1st January 2015

Ecology and Society 20(3): 26 Social-ecological organization is a multidimensional phenomenon that combines material and symbolic processes. However, the coupling between social and ecological subsystem is often conceptualized as purely material, thus reducing the symbolic dimension to its behavioral and actionable expressions. In this paper I conceptualize social-ecological systems as doubly coupled. On the one hand,…

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Published: 1st September 2016

Volume 21, August 2016, Pages 52–57 We explore the relationship between water security (WS) and adaptive capacity (AC); the two concepts are connected because achieving the first may be dependent on building the second. We focus on how metrics of WS and AC are operationalized and what implications they may have for short- and long-term…

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Published: 1st December 2016

Volume 66, December 2016, Pages 324–333 Adaptation is typically conceived uniquely in positive terms, however for some populations, investments in risk management can entail significant tradeoffs. Here we discuss the burden for households of coping with, and adapting to, adverse water conditions in economically marginal areas of Mexico City. We argue that households’ efforts to…

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Published: 10th January 2017

Environmental disasters, ranging from catastrophic floods to extreme temperatures, have caused more than 30,000 deaths per year and more than US$ 250–300 billion a year in economic losses, globally, between 1995 and 2015 (1). Improved infrastructure and planning for extreme events is essential in urban areas, where an increasingly greater fraction of the world’s inhabitants…

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Published: 30th January 2017

The ‘Pathways’ transformative knowledge network is an international group of research organisations, collaborating to explore processes of social transformation and to share insights across disciplines, cultures and contexts. Working across the domains of food, energy and water, the network is experimenting with new methods of research and engagement that both help to understand – and…

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Published: 12th December 2016

IDS Bulletin Vol 47, No 5 (2016): Power, Poverty and Inequality (open access) This article argues that inequality in access to water and sanitation is largely caused and legitimised by different forms of invisible power that prevent universal access. It shows how invisible power combined with structural violence and experiences of unequal citizenship result in…

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Published: 2nd October 2016

This review examines the relationships between politics, sustainability, and development. Following an overview of sustainability thinking across different traditions, the politics of resources and the influence of scarcity narratives on research, policy and practice are explored. This highlights the politics of transformations and the way these play out under combinations of technology-led, market-led, state-led, and…

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Published: 1st March 2016

by Dawit Solomon, Johannes Lehmann, James A Fraser, Melissa Leach, Kojo Amanor, Victoria Frausin, Søren M Kristiansen, Dominique Millimouno and James Fairhead We describe for the first time a current indigenous soil management system in West Africa, in which targeted waste deposition transforms highly weathered, nutrient- and carbon-poor tropical soils into enduringly fertile, carbon-rich black…

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Published: 18th October 2016

This review paper examines pathways towards solar energy in China by examining two different solar energy technologies, namely solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar water heaters (SWH). The paper investigates these two case studies to understand how different pathways for low carbon innovation are promoted and challenged by China’s changing financing and policy-making, and how they relate to changing practices among producers and consumers.

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Published: 6th June 2016

by Li Wang, Xiulan Zhang, Xiaoyun Liang and Gerald Bloom The effectiveness of antibiotics in treating bacterial infections is decreasing in China because of the widespread development of resistant organisms. Although China has enacted a number of regulations to address this problem, but the impact is very limited. This paper investigates the implementation of these…

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Published: 1st June 2016

An article by Anabel Marin, Adrian Ely & Patrick van Zwanenberg about the benefits and challenges involved in co-designing research projects on agriculture & food with partners who are ‘aligned’ or ‘non-aligned’ in their aims and values, published in the journal ‘Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability’.

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Published: 1st March 2016

This article is concerned with the need to recognize the peri-urban as a frontier of urban sustainability, and to build a deep engagement with the processes of peri-urbanization into formal structures, governance arrangements, and other decision making processes in order to realize sustainability transformations. Read the article (PDF, open access)

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Published: 27th April 2016

Golden Rice” has played a key role in arguments over genetically modified (GM) crops for many years. It is routinely depicted as a generic GM vitamin tablet in a generic plant bound for the global South. But the release of Golden Rice is on the horizon only in the Philippines, a country with a storied history and complicated present, and contested future for rice production and consumption. The present paper corrects this blinkered view of Golden Rice through an analysis of three distinctive “rice worlds” of the Philippines: Green Revolution rice developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the 1960s, Golden Rice currently being bred at IRRI, and a scheme to promote and export traditional “heirloom” landrace rice. More than mere seed types, these rices are at the centers of separate “rice worlds” with distinctive concepts of what the crop should be and how it should be produced. In contrast to the common productivist framework for comparing types of rice, this paper compares the rice worlds on the basis of geographical embeddedness, or the extent to which local agroecological context is valorized or nullified in the crop’s construction.

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Published: 1st December 2015

Two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, a precursor of poverty reduction and development. The international community has ambitious commitments in this regard, e.g. the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All by 2030. But scholarship has not kept up with policy ambitions. This paper operationalises a socio-technical transitions perspective to analyse for the…

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Published: 13th July 2015

Charges against critics of genetic engineering (GE) often take four general forms. But all of them, we argue, are unsupported by facts. First, scientific and policy debates are not, as claimed, polarized in black and white, divided simply into two contending camps. Second, there is no genuine consensus within the scientific community about the safety…

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Published: 30th January 2015

In this paper we examine the outcomes and connections of preferences of the non-formal innovators identified by the Honey Bee Network (HBN) in India. The chosen mode of diffusion of each innovation has been correlated to socio-economic backgrounds, origins of knowledge of the innovators, their motivations, the fields and domains of knowledge application, and product…

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Published: 14th June 2015

Read this article (open access). The Technology Executive Committee (TEC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recently convened a workshop seeking to understand how strengthening national systems of innovation (NSIs) might help to foster the transfer of climate technologies to developing countries. This article reviews insights from the literatures on Innovation…

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Published: 9th February 2015

Special issue of the journal Water Alternatives edited by Jeremy Allouche, Carl Middleton and Dipak Gyawali. Articles are open access. Contents: Technical veil, hidden politics: Interrogating the power linkages behind the nexus Jeremy Allouche, Carl Middleton and Dipak Gyawali The rise and implications of the water-energy-food nexus in Southeast Asia through an environmental justice lens…

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Mobilities, Volume 9, Issue 4, 2014 (Special Issue: Mobilities & Foucault) View this open-access article online A mobility low-carbon transition is a key issue both socially and for mobilities research. The multi-level perspective (MLP) is justifiably a leading approach in such research, with important connections to high-profile socio-technical systemic analyses within the mobilities paradigm. The…

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Published: 6th November 2014

Journal of Peer Production, Issue 5: Shared Machine Shops Read the full article online (public domain) With unemployment reaching one in eight workers, and manufacturing in steep decline in the city, Londoners voted an avowedly socialist Labour council into power in 1981. Left-wing leaders of the Greater London Council (GLC) were committed to a radically…

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Published: 18th March 2014

by Mariano Fressoli, Elisa Arond, Dinesh Abrol, Adrian Smith, Adrian Ely and Rafael Dias Submitted to Innovation & Development in 2014 Grassroots Innovation Movements (GIMs) can be regarded as initiators or advocates of alternative pathways of innovation. Sometimes these movements engage with more established science, technology and innovation (STI) institutions and development agencies in pursuit…

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Published: 20th February 2014

This paper explores the complex interactions that occur as formal policies are interpreted and utilised to develop water management plans in peri-urban Delhi. With an emphasis on people’s participation in decision making, the paper examines some of the disjunctures between formal assumptions about water management in peri-urban areas and practices on the ground. In doing…

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Published: 8th January 2014

The ability of innovation—both technical and social—to stretch and redefine ‘limits to growth’ was recognised at Stockholm in 1972, and has been a key feature in debates through to Rio+20 in 2012. Compared with previous major moments of global reflection about human and planetary futures—Stockholm, Rio in 1992, Johannesburg in 2002—we now have a better…

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Published: 1st October 2013

This article is included in a special issue of Global Environmental Change about grassroots innovations, guest edited by Adrian Smith and Gill Seyfang.

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Published: 11th November 2013

Abstract This article explores the extent to which efforts to improve productivity of smallholder agriculture through a new ‘Green Revolution’ in Sub Saharan Africa are likely to enhance the capacity of smallholder farmers to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Drawing on empirical material from Malawi and Kenya, the paper finds more conflicts than…

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Published: 1st March 2013

Biofortification is an umbrella term for a diverse range of projects and possibilities. It is best understood on three levels: as a range of technologies for developing micronutrient – dense crops; a development intervention to improve public health; and an idea that links agriculture, nutrition and health in a particular way. This paper focuses on…

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Published: 8th November 2013

Technology assessment (TA) has a strong history of helping to identify priorities and improve environmental sustainability, cost-effectiveness and wider benefits in the technology policies and innovation strategies of nation-states. At international levels, TA has the potential to enhance the roles of science, technology and innovation towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, effectively implementing the UN…

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Published: 19th June 2013

Lucy S Tusting, Barbara Willey, Henry Lucas, John Thompson, Hmooda T Kafy, Richard Smith, Steve W Lindsay The Lancet, June 2013 (online) Background: Future progress in tackling malaria mortality will probably be hampered by the development of resistance to drugs and insecticides and by the contraction of aid budgets. Historically, control was often achieved without…

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Published: 18th March 2013

Drawing on a socio-technical systems perspective we compare the ways in which novel genetically modified (GM) crop artefacts, related devices and techniques, actors, practices, and institutions have been linked together, or configured, across two distinctive cotton production systems in north east Argentina, one based around large-scale farming and the other based around small-scale family farming….

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Published: 1st January 1970

Technologies for social inclusion in Latin America are a recent manifestation of grassroots innovation movements whose global activities go back to appropriate technology in the 1970s and earlier. Common to these movements is a vision for innovation processes more inclusive towards local communities in terms of knowledge, processes and outcomes. A comparison in this article…

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Published: 14th August 2012

In this paper we argue that over the last 40 years the context of agronomic research in the developing world has changed significantly. Three main changes are identified: the neoliberal turn in economic and social policy and the rise to prominence of the participation and environmental agendas. These changes have opened up new spaces for contestation…

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Published: 8th June 2012

by Melissa Leach, Johan Rockström, Paul Raskin, Ian Scoones, Andy C. Stirling, Adrian Smith, John Thompson, Erik Millstone, Adrian Ely, Elisa Arond, Carl Folke and Per Olsson A radical new approach to innovation is urged by STEPS, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Tellus Institute in this new paper.  As the world gears up for the Rio +…

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Published: 1st June 2012

Special issue of the journal Water Alternatives, edited by Lyla Mehta, Gert Jan Veldwisch and Jennifer Franco Recent large-scale land acquisitions for agricultural production (including biofuels), popularly known as ‘land grabbing’, have attracted headline attention. Water as both a target and driver of this phenomenon has been largely ignored despite the interconnectedness of water and land….

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Published: 19th June 2012

Biochar currently attracts technological and market optimism, promising multiple wins – for climate change, food security, bioenergy and health – not least for African farmers. This paper examines the political-economic and discursive processes constructing biochar as a novel green commodity, creating new alliances amongst scientists, businesses, venture capital firms and non-governmental organisations. Carbon market logics are not only threatening…

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Published: 19th April 2012

Across the world, ‘green grabbing’ – the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends – is an emerging process of deep and growing significance. The vigorous debate on ‘land grabbing’ already highlights instances where ‘green’ credentials are called upon to justify appropriations of land for food or fuel – as where large tracts of land are acquired not just for…

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Published: 19th June 2012

A special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies, edited by James Fairhead, Melissa Leach and Ian Scoones. This issue draws new theorisation together with 17 cases from African, Asian and Latin American settings, and links critical studies of nature with critical agrarian studies, to ask: To what extent and in what ways do ‘green…

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Published: 6th October 2011

This article explores the links between agency, institutions, and innovation in navigating shifts and large-scale transformations toward global sustainability. Our central question is whether social and technical innovations can reverse the trends that are challenging critical thresholds and creating tipping points in the earth system, and if not, what conditions are necessary to escape the…

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Published: 3rd January 2012

Recent years have seen growing worldwide discussions, experiments, and expectations around various kinds of public engagement in the biosciences. This is especially so, in the governance of biotechnology—in research policy, risk regulation, and adoption of new innovations. How one defines public engagement necessarily affects the course of political, media, and civil society debate on these…

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Published: 5th August 2011

Climate change and variability present new challenges for agriculture, particularly for smallholder farmers who continue to be the mainstay of food production in developing countries. Recent global food crises have exposed the structural vulnerability of globalized agri-food systems, highlighting climate change as just one of a complex set of environmental, demographic, social and economic drivers…

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Published: 1st December 2011

This article draws on findings from a multi-sited study of international science policy processes in rice biofortification. It focuses on the ten-year period between the discovery of a “high-iron” elite line named IR68144-3B-2-2-3 and the publication, in 2005, of the findings of a bioefficacy study that proved crucial to securing the support necessary to scale…

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Published: 30th October 2009

The IAASTD – the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development – which ran between 2003 and 2008, involving over 400 scientists worldwide, was an ambitious attempt to encourage local and global debate on the future of agricultural science and technology. Responding to critiques of top-down, northern-dominated expert assessments of the past,…

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Published: 1st March 2010

Debates about transgenic (genetically-modified) crops have become highly polarised across the globe. In the process, civil society organisations and social movements have played an important role in debates on agricultural biotechnology, alongside governmental and expert science institutions.  

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Published: 1st December 2005

Technology mediates our relations with one another and with nature. Modern environmentalism recognised this from its inception. Alternative Technology (AT) activists called for innovations which would pre-figure ecological society. This paper analyses AT advocacy of technology. Using the history of AT, three issues will be explored: 1) the relations between conceptualisations of environmental problems and…

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Published: 19th October 2005

A quasi-evolutionary model of socio-technical transitions is described in which regimes face selection pressures continuously. Differentiated transition contexts determine the form and direction of regime change in response to these pressures. The articulation of pressures, and the degree to which responses are coordinated and based on resources available within the regime, define the transition context….

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Published: 1st May 2007

Social-ecological systems are co-evolving systems. Of particular relevance are here: (1) co-evolution of the environment and governance, (2) co-evolution of technology and governance, and (3) co-evolution of human behaviour and culture. The co-evolutionary perspective has helped to understand the processes which led to the present unsustainable situation. This paper highlights different types of learning processes…

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Published: 1st July 2007

A role for green niches has risen to prominence in the environment and innovation literature. The role of idealistic enthusiasts in the creation of sustainability initiatives in niches is widely recognized. The importance of tensions in incumbent socio-technical regimes is acknowledged to provide niches with development opportunities. However, the literature currently gives insufficient consideration to…

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Published: 1st August 2007

As a consummately effective ‘boundary term’, able to link disparate groups on the basis of a broad common agenda, ‘sustainability’ has moved a long way from its technical association with forest management in Germany in the eighteenth century. In the 1980s and 1990s it defined – for a particular historical moment – a key debate…

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Published: 1st March 2010

Technology-focused literature on socio-technical transitions shares some of the complex systems sensibilities of social-ecological systems research. We contend that the sharing of lessons between these areas of study must attend particularly to the common governance challenges that confront both approaches. Here, we focus on critical experience arising from reactions to a transition management approach to…

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Published: 1st March 2010

Este artículo discute las regulaciones sobre algodón transgénico desde el punto de vista de las prácticas y las necesidades de los agricultores de menor tamaño de la provincia de Chaco, Argentina. El objetivo es esclarecer el alcance que tienen las regulaciones existentes sobre las realidades de los distintos tipos de agricultores, y revisar si dicha…

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Published: 12th December 2010

The international harmonization of technology-related regulations seeks certain norms across diverse contexts. Harmonization efforts are based primarily on the promulgation of state-centered command and control forms of regulation, though they may also be accompanied by the diffusion of more plural approaches that are decentered from the state. We contrast the ways in which the “proper”…

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Published: 26th October 2011

The status of international agricultural research as a global public good (GPG) has been widely accepted since the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. While the term was not used at the time of its creation, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system that evolved at that time has been described as…

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Published: 1st November 2011

This article explores the links between agency, institutions, and innovation in navigating shifts and large-scale transformations toward global sustainability. Our central question is whether social and technical innovations can reverse the trends that are challenging critical thresholds and creating tipping points in the earth system, and if not, what conditions are necessary to escape the…

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Published: 3rd March 2011

This paper is concerned with the management of health system changes aimed at substantially increasing the access to safe and effective health services. It argues that an effective health sector relies on trust-based relationships between users, providers and funders of health services, and that one of the major challenges governments face is to construct institutional…

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Published: 1st November 2010

Innovation and community action are two important strands for sustainable development. Yet they have not hitherto been linked. Community action is a neglected, but potentially important, site of innovative activity. Bridging this divide offers a novel theoretical approach to the study of community-level action for sustainability. The opportunities presented by grassroots innovation are discussed, as…

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Published: 1st June 2010

Focusing on the case of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in southern Africa – and specifically Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – this paper explores the economic, social and political trade-offs arising from different scenarios for gaining market access and managing and controlling FMD in support of beef production in southern Africa. A central…

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Published: 27th January 2010

This paper presents a chronology of the development of the Chinese rural health system and its responses to environment-related health problems. During the early years of the People’s Republic, the health system was very successful in reducing the transmission of infectious diseases through environmental improvements. Since the transition to a market economy, environment-related preventive programmes…

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Published: 5th April 2009

The ‘modernist’ project that has come to dominate food and agricultural policy has failed to provide sustainable outcomes for many poor people in developing countries. Conventional agricultural science is not able to explain let alone address these concerns because it is based on a static equilibrium-centred view that provides little insight into the dynamic character…

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Published: 4th October 2007

Science and security policy are increasingly overlapping because of concerns that legitimate research might be misapplied to develop biological weapons. This has led to an expansion of security policy to cover broad areas of research and scientific practice, including funding, publishing, peer-review, employment, materials transfer, post-graduate teaching and academics’ ability to design and perform experiments…

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Published: 25th June 2007

This paper elaborates a ‘pathways approach’ to addressing the governance challenges posed by the dynamics of complex, coupled, multi-scale systems, while incorporating explicit concern for equity, social justice and the wellbeing of poor and marginalised groups. It illustrates the approach in relation to current policy challenges of dealing with epidemics and so-called ’emerging infectious diseases’…

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Published: 17th April 2007

The overexploitation of natural resources and the increasing number of social conflicts following from their unsustainable use point to a wide gap between the objectives of sustainability and current resource management practices. One of the reasons for the difficulties to close this gap is that for evolving complex systems like natural and socio-economic systems, sustainability…

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