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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Steven Yearley

Steven Yearley
Professor Steven Yearley FRSE
Professor of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge
Science Technology and Innovation Studies School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
2.82 Old Surgeons' Hall High School Yards Edinburgh UK EH1 1LZ
+44 (0)131 651 4747
Research Interests
Environment, citizen science, Justice and environment, Environmental Sociology, Sociology of knowledge and science, Sustainability, Sociology of Climate Change

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Semester 1: Fridays 10.30-12.30 in IASH (location at )


Steve Yearley is the Director of IASH and holds the Chair in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge in STIS, the subject area of “Science, Technology and Innovation Studies”.

Steve is well known for his work in social studies of science and in environmental sociology. He is particularly concerned with areas where these specialisms overlap: for example in environmental controversies with a pronounced scientific element (such as with recent disputes over the safety or otherwise of GMOs and the emerging concerns around synthetic biology) or, for example, in attempts to foster public engagement in technical decision-making in environmental areas (for instance, through his work on citizen engagement in urban air-quality issues).

Having moved to Edinburgh in 2005 with an appointment in Sociology, Steve soon took over the role of Director of the ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum. He then moved to STIS in 2013, before being offered the IASH post in summer 2017.

Currently working 2 days per week in STIS and 3 in IASH, Steve is also the Executive Secretary to SCRR (the Scottish Consortium for Rural Research) which links the principal institutions concerned with environmental and agricultural research in Scotland. He also co-founded SKAPE, the centre for the study of Science, Knowledge and Policy which links science studies with political science and social policy at the University of Edinburgh.

Further information about Steve can also be found on his IASH page, while his publications are listed pretty systematically on Google Scholar.


  • MA (Cantab & Oxon)
  • PhD (York)


Research Interests

Environment, citizen science, Justice and environment, Environmental Sociology, Sociology of knowledge and science, Sustainability, Sociology of Climate Change

Research Overview

Steve has three research projects at present. Two relate to science-studies aspects of climate change: one of them focuses on monitoring practices and the governance of GHG emissions, the other on how scientific knowledge about climate change is summarised for policy purposes. His other project is a large international partnership on environment-food linkages funded by NERC.

Current Projects

Steve is wrapping up work on a group of projects about climate knowledge and climate policies. These include an ESRC-funded project on the Politics of Monitoring which examined the links between policies and monitoring in three UK policy areas including climate policy. There is also a project supported by the Research Council of Norway and led by Göran Sundqvist. This project, entitled “Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge as a Policy Instrument in Climate Policy” examines the issue of the public credibility of climate knowledge. The work on these projects is reported in recent journal articles and book chapters.

A further activity relates to a large international project funded by NERC and the Belmont Forum, on “Food security and land use: the telecoupling challenge”. This project aims to use modelling techniques to understand and interpret the links (immediate and remote) between agricultural practices and environmental change. Steve’s role within this consortium is mostly focused on stakeholder engagement with the modelling process.

Steve is taking advantage of the scholarly atmosphere of IASH to develop two writing projects. First, he is working on a book on the sociology of the climate-changed world. He is also preparing a short book on the social sciences in the genomic age.


Guidance and Feedback Hours

Semester 1: Fridays 10.30-12.30 in IASH (location at )

Undergraduate Teaching

I am one of the lecturers on the KEP course (Knowledge, Expertise and Policy) which is run by Dr E Rodrigues, also from STIS. I was part of the team that devised this course.

Postgraduate Teaching

I lead and co-teach the STIS first-semester course known as SKE: Science, Knowledge and Expertise

PhD Supervision

PhD Topics

I welcome applications in all areas of science and technology studies, in environmental social science, and in social aspects of genomics and contemporary life science. At the moment I have PhD students working on (or recently completed on) a variety of topics including environmental modelling, on-line expertise, conservation controversies, nuclear power and the ‘risk society’ in China, and environmental justice. I am particularly keen to supervise in areas where environmental topics and STS overlap.

Find out more about the programmes that I am involved with:

PhD in Politics; PhD in Science and Technology Studies; PhD in Sociology; MSc (R) Science and Technology Studies

Current PhD Students

Alvaro Saez: The silence of the swans: an environmental disaster in Chile.

Tim Squirrell: The construction of authority and expertise in online communities.

Completed PhD Students

Chihwei Yeh: Particle physics in public: legitimising curiosity-driven research for the Higgs boson and beyond.

Michael Kattirtzi: “Challenge and be challenged”: a history of social research capacity and influence in DEFRA and DECC, 2001-2015.

Margarida Paulos: Turning off lights. How sustainable development becomes embedded in primary schools’ everyday life.

Diego de la Hoz del Hoyo: Different kettle of fish: turning around how computer modelling counts for (fisheries) policy-making.

Isabel Fletcher: Obesity: an historical account of the construction of a modern epidemic.

Jonathan Suk: Epidemic communities: climate change, emerging disease and the governance of science.

Fraser Stewart: Scotland’s rubbish: domestic recycling, policy and practice in everyday life.

Xiang Fang: Risk and social construction of nuclear power development in China: local people’s participation in civil nuclear issues in China at the start of the 21st century.

Chih-Tung (Morgan) Huang: Shaping environmental “justices”.

Moxuan Li: To see China in a grain of genetically modified rice: a case study on the governance of agricultural biotechnology in China.

Åsa Gerger Swartling: Towards democratisation of expertise for sustainability? A case study of five initiatives in Sweden and the UK.

Yuri Jack Gómez Morales: Scientific production: the socio-technical construction of bibliometric measurement.

Olga Restrepo Forero: On writing review articles and constructing fields of study.

Lisa Garforth: Green utopias: imagining the sustainable society.


Further information about Steve's publications and research work is given on his Google Scholar page and on Steve's IASH website.

Latest Publications