My research is about the history and geography of the environmental sciences – specifically, a history and geography of the environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia. Predominantly, histories of the environmental sciences have often neglected UK history and are dominated with histories that focus on particular epistemologies and constitutional arrangements (natural sciences), the making of a global environmental science and an environmental science that is an outcome of Cold War strategy and military funding, the university institution goes amiss. Science has its geographies, spaces specifically delineated for scientific practice; (specific) laboratories, (broadly) the ‘field’, or dissemination; the conference hall, seminar room, and travels or circulates between places, regions or nations – each with different capacities to receive, understand and embed knowledge. Notwithstanding, as science, technology and subsequently, methods and practice have evolved these spaces have become more blurred (as has questions over what constitutes ‘science’). Space, in the broadest sense, has the capacity to affect and be affected by science.

            The university setting itself is a vibrant hub, a site of knowledge production, a centre of calculation, a space that is at once situated and relational. University knowledge can be found from the seminar room to a UN COP meeting, from a small laboratory to the board room of a transnational pharmaceutical company. Academics may share material in a lecture one week, and the next, be sharing the same material across the other side of the globe at an international conference – knowledge circulates far and wide. As one of the first of its kind, The School of Environmental Sciences at UEA is an important case to illuminate in the history of environmental sciences. This is because, over its 50-year history, the School has become a leading pioneer in environmental science research gaining an international reputation for its relevance, innovation and impact on our understanding of the environment and environmental change. However, like science studies emphasise – this success was not predetermined – but instead a lengthy process of building expertise, authority and legitimacy in science, contingent on varying political and social cultures, institutional arrangements and the circulation (and reception) of knowledge. This project seeks to contribute to the existing literature in history, sociology, and geography of science by investigating the historical role of the environmental sciences in society.   This thesis seeks to ask specifically:

1.)   What socio-political contexts and institutional arrangements paved the way for the environmental sciences at UEA in 1967?

2.)   How has The School of Environmental Sciences produced knowledge since 1967 and what kind of knowledge is this? How might this have evolved?

3.)   What interactions did The School of Environmental Sciences have with other institutions or organisations across local, national and global scales; what techniques, tools, or social/infrastructural arrangements enabled and strengthened these? How did the deployment of knowledge (re)shape these interactions, and vice versa?

 In answering these questions this project considers the plurality of knowledge in the making of the environmental sciences through a particular institutional form of environmental science. In doing so, the project contributes more diverse understandings of the history of environmental sciences that unsettles the dominant US-centric, geopolitically charged and military-funded naturalistic environmental science. The project also contributes to the geographies of knowledge literature that views the university as a site of science, but also a relational space of knowledge flows, circulation and reception. 

Key here is the focus on how, why knowledge is produced and then the multi-scalar circulation of that knowledge in the making and remaking in the broader remit of a history of the environmental sciences. Further, despite recent calls for more “co-production” of environmental knowledge, this thesis will also explore how the environmental sciences have, from the beginning, been the products of multiple forms of co-production – between established disciplines, and between knowledge makers and users. Understanding the histories and geographies of these processes is aided by developing the concept of ecologies of co-production. The ecologies of co-production resituate collectives of co-production amidst the cultural-political context in which they are embedded and traces the interrelationality of seemingly separate collectives. In doing so, contributes a framework that provides researchers in human geography, history of science, STS and other critical social sciences a comprehensive framework to illuminate the ‘co-production of co-production. The environmental sciences are not a coherent (inter)discipline but, rather, are contingent on the socio-cultural contexts, the material and infrastructural enablers and the institutional arrangements that permit a particular view of the environment (and subsequent modes of inquiry) that (re)shape the making of environmental knowledge.  In doing so, this thesis will also engage with the recent proposals concerning historians of science learning from the histories of environmental sciences to better manage living, knowing and sense-making in the ‘Anthropocene’.

My background is in environmental sciences and human geography. I completed a BSc in Environmental Earth Sciences here at UEA in 2016, before studying an MSc in Environment, Politics and Society at University College London (UCL) in 2017. 

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