School of Social and Political Science

James Smith

Job Title

Vice Principal International; Professor of African and Development Studies

James Smith photo

Room number


Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)




Vice Principal International. Professor of African and Development Studies.


1995 MA (Hons) Geography and Environmental Science (University of Dundee)

1998 MSc Geography and Development (University of the Witwatersrand)

2001 PhD Environment and Development (University of the Witwatersrand)


I was appointed Vice Principal International on 1 November 2014, having held a personal chair of African and Development Studies since 2010. I have previously served as a director of the Centre of African Studies, the Innogen Centre and the Global Development Academy (where I was also Assistant Principal between 2011-14). I have previously held academic appointments at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (1997-2002) and worked with Oxfam Southern Africa (2001-03). I hold visiting professorships in Development Policy and Practice at the Open University and in the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

I have held several advisory positions. I have been an advisor on DfID's Research Into Use programme and am currently a senior advisor to the ESRC-DfID Joint Scheme for Research on International Development and a trustee at the international NGO, Practical Action and of their publishing arm, Practical Action Publishing. I have experience working with donors, development agencies and NGOs including DfID, IDRC, CIDA, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oxfam and the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

Publications and projects

I have published widely on the relationship between scientific research, technological innovation and international development. Much of my work has focused on sub-Saharan Africa (especially South Africa and Eastern Africa), but I have also conducted research in parts of South Asia and the Andes of South America. I am particularly interested in exploring global networks and the assemblages of technology, knowledge and values that shape development interventions so this comparative perspective is important.

I have recently been awarded a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant for a project entitled INZI (Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation). This project will examine the evolution of medical and veterinary research surrounding trypanosomiasis across Africa. The aim of this focus is to shed light on how new scientific knowledge has been generated firstly at a continental level and secondly over the late colonial/post colonial boundary through to the present day. This will shed light on how scientific knowledge can be generated to help alleviate poverty and drive development in Africa.

I am also involved in several large international projects, notably the DfID PISCES project, which is examining bioenergy security in East Africa and South Africa, and the ESRC Innogen Centre, which is exploring the social, political and economic implications of the new life sciences. Other recent projects have included a project funded by the Microsoft Foundation to look at mobile banking in Kenya, and a systematic review, commissioned by DfID, examining the evidence of the impact of aid on maternal and reproductive health.

Recent Publications

Smith, J. (2010) Biofuels and the Globalisation of Risk, Zed Books, London.

German translation: Bio-treibstoff: Eine idee wird zum Bumerang (Wagenbach, 2012)

Smith, J. (2009) Science and Technology for Development, Zed Books, London.

Lyall, C., Smith, J. and Pappaioannou, T. (2009) Limits to Governance: The Challenge of Policymaking in the Life Sciences, Ashgate, London.

Clark, N., Mugabe, J. and Smith, J. (2007) Biotechnology Policy in Africa, African Centre of Technology Studies, Nairobi.

Journal Special Editions

Smith, J., Chataway, J. and Hanlin, R. (2007) Rethinking Vaccine R&D in Developing Countries, Special issue of International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development, 6(1).

Ayele, S., Chataway, J., Hall, A. and Smith, J. (2005) Perspectives on Institutions, Agricultural Biotechnologies and Development, Special issue of Journal of International Development, 17(5).

Recent articles and book chapters

Smith, J. and Taylor, E.M. (2014) NTDs and MDGs: Reshaping the global health agenda, PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7(12): e2529.

Bompani, B. and Smith, J. (2013) Bananas and the bible: biotechnology, the Catholic Church and rural Development in Kenya, International Journal of Religion and Society.

Taylor, M., Hayman, R., Crawford, F., Jeffery, P. and Smith, J. (2013) The Impact of Official Development Aid on Maternal and Reproductive Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review, PLOS ONE.

Wield, D., Hanlin, R., Mittra, J. and Smith, J. (2013) Twenty-first century bioeconomy: Global challenges of biological knowledge for health and agriculture, Science and Public Policy, 40(1), 17-24.

Smith, J. (2010) Scientific responsibility and developmental complexity - a response to Rhodes and Sulston, European Journal of Development Research, 22(4), 583-585.

Molony, T. and Smith, J. (2010) Biofuels, food security and Africa, African Affairs, 109(436), 489-498.

Smith, J. (2010) New institutional arrangements for development, science and technology, Development, 53(1), 48-53.

Smith, J. (2009) Public-private partnerships and HIV vaccine research, HIV Therapy, 3(4), 345-350.

Lyall, C., Papaioannou, T. and Smith, J. (2009) The challenge of policy-making for the new life sciences, in C. Lyall, T. Papaioannou and J. Smith (eds), The Limits of Governance: The Challenge of Policy-Making for the New Life Sciences, Ashgate, London, 1-14.

Smith, J. (2009) Biosciences, ‘development’ and the abstraction of governance, in C. Lyall, T. Papaioannou and J. Smith (eds), The Limits of Governance: The Challenge of Policy-Making for the New Life Sciences, Ashgate, London.

Lyall, C., Papaioannou, T. and Smith, J. (2009) Governance in action in the life sciences: some lessons for policy, in C. Lyall, T. Papaioannou and J. Smith (eds), The Limits of Governance: THe Challenge of Policy-Making for the New Life Sciences, Ashgate, London, 379-393.

Chataway, J., Robbins, P. and Smith, J, (2009) New approaches to participation as institutional development and ‘systems building’ in science, technology and innovation: An exploration of frameworks and tools, in G. Wilson (ed), Environment, Development and Sustainability, Open University Press, London.

Chataway, C., Chatuvedi, C., Hanlin, R., Mugwagwa, J., Smith, J. and Wield, D. (2009) Building the case for systems of health innovation in Africa, in F. Kalua, A. Awotedu, L. Kamwanja and J. Saka (eds), Science, Technology and Innovation for Public Health in Africa. NEPAD Office of Science and Technology, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa, 7-52.

Chataway, C., Chatuvedi, C., Hanlin, R., Mugwagwa, J., Smith, J. and Wield, D. (2009) Technology trends and opportunities to combat diseases of the poor in Africa, in F. Kalua, A. Awotedu, L. Kamwanja and J. Saka (eds), Science, Technology and Innovation for Public Health in Africa. NEPAD Office of Science and Technology, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa, 53-94.

Rosiello, A. and Smith, J. (2008) A sociological economy of HIV/AIDS vaccine partnerships: case studies from Africa and India, International Review of Sociology, 18(2), 282-299.

Chataway, J. and Smith, J. (2007) Participation, communication and micro-systems of life sciences innovation in developing countries, IDS Bulletin, 38(5), 74-82.

Clark, N., Smith, J. and Hirvonen, M. (2007) Livestock R&D in east and southern Africa: an innovation systems perspective with special reference to the International Livestock Research Institute, International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development, 6(1), 9-24.

Chataway, J., Hanlin, R., Rosiello, A. and Smith, J. (2007) Rethinking vaccine R&D in developing countries, International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development, 6(1), 3-8.

Chataway, J., Smith, J. and Wield, D. (2007) Shaping scientific excellence in agricultural research, International Journal of Biotechnology, 9(2), 172-187.

Chataway, J., Hanlin, R. and Smith, J. (2007) Global health public-private partnerships: IAVI, partnerships and capacity building, African Journal of Medicine and Medical Services, 36, 69-75.

Smith, J. (2007) Culturing development: bananas, petri dishes and ‘mad science’ in Kenya, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 1(2), 212-233.

Harsh, M. and Smith, J. (2007) Technology, governance and place: situating biotechnology in Kenya, Science and Public Policy, 34(6), 251-260.

Chataway, J. and Smith, J. (2006) The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative: is it getting new science and technology to the world's neglected majority? World Development, 43(1), 16-30.

Smith, J. (2006) Globalising vulnerability: impacts of unfair trade on developing country agriculture, in R. Hester (ed), Modern Agricultural Practices: Their Environmental, Social and Public Health Impacts, Society of Chemistry Press, York.

Smith, J. (2005) Context-bound knowledge production, capacity building and new product networks, Journal of International Development, 17(5), 647-659.

Chataway, J., Smith, J. and Wield, D. (2005) Partnerships and building capabilities for science, technology, innovation and development in Africa, International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development. 5(2), 103-124.

Smith, J. (2003) Frontiers and freedoms: the WSSD and the end of sustainable development?, South African Geographical Journal, 98, 2-4.

Smith, J. (2003) PovertÀ, sovranitÀ e sicurezza alimentare in Africa australe, Afriche e Orienti. Rivista ai confini tra Africa, Medio-Oriente e Mediterraneo, Bologna, 2. (Poverty, sovereignty and resistance in southern Africa)

Vogel, C. and Smith, J. (2003) Acqua in una terra arida: acqua, sete e sviluppo lungo l’Africa australe, Afriche e Orienti. Rivista ai confini tra Africa, Medio-Oriente e Mediterraneo, Bologna, 4. (Water in a dry land: hydropolitics in southern Africa)

Vogel, C. and Smith, J. (2003) ‘The human and physical impacts of land degradation’, in Global Desertification: Do Humans Cause Deserts?, edited by J.F. Reynolds and D.M. Stafford-Smith, Dahlem University Press, Berlin 

Vogel, C. and Smith, J. (2002) The politics of scarcity: conceptualising the current food security crisis in southern Africa, The South African Journal of Science, 98, 1-3.

Popular press and reprints

Molony, T. and Smith, J. (2010) Biofuels in Africa, African Yearbook 2010.

Chataway, J. and Smith, J. and Wield, D. (2009) Shaping scientific excellence in agricultural research, ID21, 2 February 2009.

Smith, J. (2008) Food security and development. We need dialogue, not rhetoric, Food Ethics, September.

Smith, J. and Coughlan, C. (2006) The G8 one year on: an opportunity lost? View, 6, 16-18.


I contribute to several courses in the MSc in Africa and International Development, the MSc in African Studies, the MSc in Science, Technology and International Development and the MSc programme in International Development. I am also involved in the development of the new e-certificate in Africa and International Development, and am leading, with Prof Mark Rounsevell and Prof Sue Welburn, the inter-College development an exciting new MSc in Global Challenges.

I am external examiner to the MSc in Science, Society and Development at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, and to the new Masters in Development Practice, jointly delivered by Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

I am interested in capacity building and training in developing countries having been employed as a lecturer and trainer in Africa in the past. Currently, I work most closely with the Nairobi-based African Centre of Technology Studies in running capacity building workshops around science policy for African policymakers, and I work hard to ensure that scholarships and other means of support are available for developing country students who wish to study in Edinburgh.

Research interests

Research interests

African development, Science, technology and development, Global health policy, Neglected zoonotic and tropical diseases, Anthropology of development

PhD supervision

I supervise students working on development issues in Africa and elsewhere, and particularly students working on the relationship between science, technology and development. Current supervisees include:

  • Adedamola Badejo (Neglected zoonoses and household health in Jos)
  • Kevin Bardosh (Livestock control and livelihoods in Africa)
  • Hannah Cook (Microfinance and its impact in Malawi)
  • Shona Lee ('Big data' and global health in Africa)
  • Vera Mugittu (Generating rural innovation in Tanzania)
  • Mabutho Shangase (State policymaking in South Africa)
  • Rebekah Thompson (Veterinary expertise and institutions in East Africa)
  • Ross Tsakas (PPPs and global health)

Recently completed PhDs that I have supervised include studies of agri-biotech discourses and networks in Kenya (Matt Harsh); IAVI and capacity building in East Africa (Becky Hanlin); Biofuels policy in India (Maija Hirvonen); development policy harmonisation in Uganda (Michelle Taylor); M-PESA and livelihoods in Kenya (Olga Morawczynski); rural livelihoods in Northern Cape, South Africa (Julie Grant); pastoralism in Kenya (James Pattison); politics and trade unionism in South Africa (Alex Beresford); alternative food networks in Zambia (Caryn Abrahams); and, biosafety harmonisation in Southern Africa (Julius Mugwagwa).

Staff Hours and Guidance

By appointment only