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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Robin Williams

Robin Williams
Professor Robin Williams
Director, Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies; Research Adviser, and Postgraduate Research Adviser, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Subject Group
Room 2.09 Old Surgeons' Hall High School Yards Edinburgh UK EH1 1LZ
+44 (0)131 650 6387

As Director of the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, I promote the development, conduct and dissemination of interdisciplinary and social science research across many areas including:

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT);

Life Science Innovation

Environmental Innovation and Transition to a sustainable society

My research has involved over 50 external awards from research councils and the European Union. Much of this work is conducted in collaboration with other social scientists and with practitioners and specialists from across the Colleges of Science and Engineering and of Medicine/Veterinary Medicine.

My personal research focuses on the social shaping of technology, highlighting the influence of a variety of actors on the design, implementation and use of ICT.  A major concern has been with enterprise systems and other large, complex information infrastructures.  The Biography of Artefacts perspective I am developing with Neil Pollock and other colleagues explores the co-evolution of technologies, practices and institutional arrangements. Our work has explained how standardized packaged solutions can be created that can successfully be implemented in many diverse organizations, and has highlighted the role of new types of player (such as Gartner industry analysts) in constituting and shepherding technology fields and markets. These insights are being applied further in the area of e-health, where, with colleagues in medicine we are now investigating the development and adoption of packaged solutions for e-prescribing in hospitals.

 Another strand of research examines the role of interoperability standards in the emergence of new ICT infrastructures such as mobile broadband, and how China has become  a global player alongside Europe and the USA. Further work with Ian Graham is exploring the future internet. Emerging research initiatives around the digital economy include participation with Law on the AHRC funded CREATe project examining  copyright and new business models in the cultural  industries.

Alongside this is a body of work on risk governance and innovation of new and emerging science and technology, especially in relation to life sciences (where I am co-director of Innogen: the ESRC Centre for Socio-Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics). A recent collaboration with the Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, sponsored by the Ove Arup Foundation and Royal Academy of Engineering examines how better regulation and training could improve fire safety and better integrate it with other goals for our built environment (for example security, aesthetics, energy use).

Published books include

Software and Organisations: The Biography of the Enterprise-Wide System -  Or how SAP Conquered the World, Routledge 2009 (Neil Pollock and Robin Williams)

Social Learning in Technological Innovation: Experimenting with Information and Communication Technologies, 2005, Edward Elgar (with James Stewart, Roger Slack)

Shaping Technology, Guiding Policy: Concepts, Spaces and Tools, 2002 Edward Elgar (edited with Knut H. Sørensen)

Policies for Cleaner Technology: A New Agenda for Government and Industry, 1999 Earthscan (with Tony Clayton and Graham Spinardi)

Exploring Expertise: Issues and Perspectives, 1998, Macmillan (co-edited with Wendy Faulkner and James Fleck) 

The Social Shaping of Information Superhighways: European and American Roads to the Information Society, Campus Verlag, 1997 (co-edited with Kubicek and Dutton)

Expertise and innovation: Information technology strategies in the financial services sector, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994 (R. Fincham, J. Fleck, R. Proctor, H. Scarbrough, M. Tierney and R. Williams)


ATBEST; Biography; Branded Meeting Places; BREIS; BTG; CHAMELEON; CHINA; DIRC; FLOWS; INDEED; Innogen; INNOGEN II; Innovation Processes in Life Science Industries; Network Enterprise; Non-Place; RIN; RIN Web2.0; SIGIS; SLL

Working Papers

  • Global Software and its Provenance [download]

  • Post Local Forms of Repair: The Case of Virtualised Technical Support [download]

  • Technology Choice and its Performance [download]

  • The Sociology of a Market Analysis Tool: How Industry Analysts Sort Vendors and Organise Markets [download]

Topics interested in supervising

I supervise PhD students across the broad range of research areas outlined above, with special interest in: social learning/social shaping of technology and biography of artefacts and practices; standardisation and innovation; enterprise systems; e-health; information infrastructures; e-sciense; models of innovation interdisciplinary engagements promissory work and new and emerging science and technology