The nuclear option

andy-stirlingAndy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex and co-director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), argues that social science can play a vital role in unpicking policy arguments to challenge the real reasons behind nuclear energy decisions

Social science can play many useful roles in controversies over science and technology. The tricky bit is that what counts as ‘useful’ in any policy debate will often depend on the perspective. After all, it is inherent to democracy that different values and interests yield contrasting conclusions. This is especially so in controversies like the current one bubbling away around intense UK Government commitments to nuclear power. Continue reading

Building impact over time: experiences from Zimbabwe

Ian Scoones, Director ESRC STEPS Centre, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex – Second prize winner of the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize for Outstanding International Impact.

Ian Scoones 1

Generating impact takes time. And this is especially so when research challenges conventional wisdoms and entrenched interests. This is the lesson from our ESRC-funded research in Zimbabwe over the past 15 years, through which we have collected data on changing livelihoods following land reform, now in several parts of the country.

Gradually, evidence has accumulated that challenges the oft-repeated narrative that the Zimbabwean land reform of 2000 was an unmitigated disaster. Instead, a more complex picture emerges: some considerable successes, especially among small-scale farmers, and some failures, perhaps especially on the larger-scale farms. Continue reading