I am an environmental social scientist with interests in the fields of plant biosecurity, ecosytems services and stakeholder engagement. As an interdisciplinary researcher I work extensively with colleagues in the natural sciences on major research projects and am committed to undertaking research which contributes to the development of government policy and the public understanding of science applied to the above fields. The principal areas of my research are:
Agricultural restructuring, sustainable land use and rural governance: Understanding how agriculture in industrialised countries is changing in response to market, policy and broader socio-cultural influences, and the impact of this on the rural environment, its landscapes and biodiversity, has been a central theme of my work over the last twenty five years. I am interested both in the nature and drivers of policy change in relation to agriculture and in the way farmers and land managers respond to these influences over long periods of time. I have undertaken extensive social survey work in the UK and in other EU countries which has contributed to knowledge about the motivations and behaviour of these key actors (see below) but I have also been an active contributor to the debates surrounding agricultural policy reform, both internationally (through my work on agricultural trade liberalisation within the WTO) and within the UK and the EU (through my analysis of agri-environmental policy and the design of green payment schemes);
Policy learning and public involvement in the rural environment and biosecurity policy process: I have long been interested in how agricultural change and its likely landscape and biodiversity consequences is communicated to (and deliberated upon by) people who live in rural areas or have some other stake in their future development. My interdisciplinary work in relation to rural futures and more recent work conducted under the theme of biosecurity and the management of environmental risk (particularly in relation to potential tree disease epidemics), has investigated how far, and in what ways, both historical and predictive knowledge can be drawn into the policy process. I am interested in the extent to which policymakers are able to learn from historical experience in managing future environmental risks but also how they can best integrate expert science knowledge about a threat such as phytophera ramorum with the local observation and public concern that typically emerges during the early stages of epidemics.