School of Social and Political Science

Professor Steven Yearley

Job Title

Professor of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge

photo of Steve wearing a scarf

Room number


Building (Address)

Old Surgeons' Hall

Street (Address)

High School Yards

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)


Research interests

Research interests

Environment, Citizen Science, Justice and the environment, Environmental Sociology, Sociology of knowledge and science, Sustainability, Sociology of Climate Change

Topics interested in supervising

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 on-line expertise, conservation controversies and public deliberation on environmental policies. I am particularly keen to supervise in areas where environmental themes and STS overlap.

If you are interested in being supervised by Steven Yearley, please see the links below (open in new windows) for more information:



  • MA (Cantab & Oxon),
  • PhD (York)

Principal Interests and Biographical Statement

Steve Yearley holds the Chair in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) 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. Key to his work is thinking about environmental issues from an STS or SSK point of view - for example, looking at the ways in which environmental activists have adapted to dealing with scientific evidence.

In his empirical work Steve is particularly concerned with areas where STS and environmental sociology overlap: for example in environmental controversies with a pronounced scientific element (such as with climate change and with continuing disputes over the safety or otherwise of GMOs and the associated 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 seconded to be Director of IASH (Edinburgh's Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities) from 2017 to 2022. Now back full time in STIS, Steve is working on industrial decarbonisation and also doing some writing that links back to his work with the Genomics Forum.

Steve was one of the founders of SKAPE, the School centre for the study of Science, Knowledge and Policy which links science studies with political science and social policy at the University of Edinburgh; he twice served as SKAPE co-director. For much of his time in STIS he also served as the Executive Secretary to SCRR (the Scottish Consortium for Rural Research) which links the principal institutions concerned with environmental and agricultural research in Scotland.

Steve's publications are listed pretty systematically on Google Scholar. You can also find out about some of his research grants and associated activities on the University of Edinburgh "Research Explorer".

Staff Hours and Guidance

I am currently on research leave until summer 2023. Please contact me by email to make an appointment if you'd like to see me.

Publications by user content

Publication Research Explorer link
Yearley S. Non-governmental organizations and the environmental movement: Challenges in climate change framing. In Baker Z, Law T, Vardy M, Zehr S, editors, Climate, Science, and Society: A Primer. 1 ed. Routledge. 2023. p. 77-85 doi: 10.4324/9781003409748-13
Yearley S. Environment & STS. In Irwin A, Felt U, editors, Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Studies. Edward Elgar Publishing. 2023
Yearley S. Environmentalists as science communicators: Advocates and critics in an age of climate challenges. In Bucchi M, Trench B, editors, The Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. 3 ed. Abingdon: Routledge. 2021
Sovacool B, Hess DJ, Amir S, Geels FW, Hirsh R, Rodriguez Medina L et al. Sociotechnical agendas: Reviewing future directions for energy and climate research. Energy Research & Social Science. 2020 Sept 7;70:101617. Epub 2020 Sept 7. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2020.101617
Yearley S. Political, ethical, and societal aspects of issuing warnings to humanity. Ecocene: Cappadocia Journal of Environmental Humanities. 2020 Jun 30;1(1):19-25. doi: 10.46863/ecocene.2020.2
Yearley S. The nature of public understandings of biology: Between comprehension and dialogue. In Reiss MJ, Watts F, Wiseman H, editors, Rethinking Biology: Public Understandings. World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd. 2019. p. 265-282 doi: 10.1142/9789811207495_0012
Yearley S, Baker S, Milton K. Environmental policy and peripheral regions of the European Union: An introduction. In Baker S, Milton K, Yearley S, editors, Protecting the Periphery: Environmental Policy in Peripheral Regions of the European Union. 1st ed. Routledge. 2019. p. 1-21 doi: 10.4324/9780429199622-1
Baker S, (ed.), Milton K, (ed.), Yearley S, (ed.). Protecting the Periphery: Environmental Policy in Peripheral Regions of the European Union. 1st ed. Routledge, 2019. 174 p. (Routledge Library Editions: Environmental Policy).
Sundqvist G, Gasper D, St.Clair AL, Hermansen EAT, Yearley S, Tvedten IØ et al. One world or two? Science-policy interactions in the climate field. Critical Social Policy. 2018 Dec;12(4):448-468. Epub 2017 Sept 11. doi: 10.1080/19460171.2017.1374193
Yearley S. Economic Valuation of the Environment. In Bostrom M, Davidson D, editors, Environment and Society: Concepts and Challenges. 1 ed. Palgrave Macmillan. 2018. p. 143-165. (Palgrave Studies in Environmental Sociology and Policy). doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-76415-3
Yearley S. Communication strategies of environmental NGOs and advocacy groups. In Nisbet MC, Schäfer MS, Markowitz E, Thaker J, Ho SS, O'Neill S, editors, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2018. (Oxford Research Encyclopedias). Epub 2017 Oct. doi: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.402
Yearley S (Author), Rodrigues E (Author). Targets for climate change policy: A special case? University of Edinburgh. 2016.
Yearley S, Rodrigues E. Monitoring, Numbers and Empirical Governance: Lessons from Climate and Migration Monitoring in the UK. 2016.
Sundqvist G, Bohlin I, Hermansen EAT, Yearley S. Formalization and separation: A systematic basis for interpreting approaches to summarizing science for climate policy. Social Studies of Science. 2015 Jun 1;45(3):416-440. Epub 2015 May 25. doi: 10.1177/0306312715583737
Boswell C, Yearley S, Fleming C, Rodrigues E, Spinardi G. The effects of targets and indicators on policy formulation: Narrowing down, crowding out and locking in. In Jordan AJ, Turnpenny JR, editors, The Tools of Policy Formulation: Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. 2015. p. 225-244. (New Horizons in Public Policy). doi: 10.4337/9781783477043.00023
Fletcher I, Yearley S, Lyall C. Mapping the UK Government’s genome: analysing convergence in UK policy one decade into the twenty-first century. In Wienroth M, Rodrigues E, editors, Knowing New Biotechnologies: Social Aspects of Technological Convergence. 2015. p. 92-104. (Genetics and Society).
Yearley S. Considering convergences in technology and society. In Wienroth M, Rodrigues E, editors, Knowing New Biotechnologies: Social Aspects of Technological Convergence. Abingdon: Routledge. 2015. p. 191-95. (Genetics and Society).
Yearley S. Sociology and politics of risk. In Wright JD, editor, International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral. 2nd ed. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd. 2015. p. 706-710
Yearley S. The Green Case: A Sociology of Environmental Issues, Arguments and Politics. Routledge, 2014. 208 p. (Routledge Revivals). doi: 10.4324/9781315780603
Yearley S. Environmentalists as communicators of science. In Bucchi M, Trench B, editors, Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. 2014. p. 113-24. (Routledge International Handbooks).
Yearley S. Science, Technology, and Social Change. Routledge, 2014. 200 p. (Routledge Revivals).
van der Wal R, Miller D, Irvine J, Fiorini S, Amar A, Yearley S et al. The influence of information provision on people's landscape preferences: A case study on understorey vegetation of deer-browsed woodlands. Landscape and Urban Planning. 2014 Apr;124:129-139. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.01.009
Austin Z, Smart JCR, Yearley S, Irvine RJ, White PCL. Incentivising the collaborative management of mobile ecological resources. Land Use Policy . 2014 Jan 1;36:485-491. Epub 2013 Oct 29. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2013.09.025
Yearley S. Environmentalists as communicators of science: Advocates and critics. In Bucchi M, Trench B, editors, Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. 2nd ed. Routledge. 2014. p. 113-124
Yearley S, Mercer D, Pitman AJ, Conway E. Perspectives on global warming. Metascience. 2012 Jan 12;21(3):531-559. doi: 10.1007/s11016-011-9639-9
Fiorini S, Yearley S, Dandy N. Wild Deer, Multivalence, and Institutional Adaptation: The ‘Deer Management Group’ in Britain. Human Organization. 2011;70(2):179-188.
Yearley S. Citizen Engagement with the Politics of Air Quality: Lessons for Social Theory, Science Studies and Environmental Sociology. In Lidskog R, Sundqvist G, editors, Governing the Air: The Dynamics of Science, Policy, and Citizen Interaction . Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 2011. p. 253-271
Yearley S. Making out the promise of synthetic biology. 2010. Paper presented at ESRC Genomics Network 4th International Conference - Delivering Global Promise Through the Life Sciences, Paris, France.
Austin Z, Smart JCR, Yearley S, Irvine RJ, White PCL. Identifying Conflicts and Opportunities for Collaboration in the Management of a Wildlife Resource: A Mixed-Methods Approach. Wildlife Research. 2010 Dec;37(8):647-657. doi: 10.1071/WR10057
Harwood J, Yearley S. What can development policy learn from the history of development? Food Security. 2010 Jul 29;2(3):285-290. doi: 10.1007/s12571-010-0067-2
Yearley S. "Science and the environment in the twenty-first century,". In Redclift M, Woodgate G, editors, The New International Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 2010. p. 212-225
Yearley S. Understanding Responses to the Environmental and Ethical Aspects of Innovative Technologies: The Case of Synthetic Biology in Europe. In Gross M, Heinrichs H, editors, Environmental Sociology: European Perspectives and Interdisciplinary Challenges. Berlin: Springer. 2010. p. 97-108
Frow E, Yearley S. People, Policy and Plant Genomics. In Kole C, Abbott A, editors, Principles and Practices of Plant Genomics - Advanced Genomics. Vol. 3. New Hampshire: Science Publishers, Inc. . 2010. p. 528-570
Yearley S. The Ethical Landscape: Identifying the Right Way to think about the Ethical and Societal Aspects of Synthetic Biology Research and Products. Journal of the Royal Society. Interface. 2009 Aug;6(Suppl 4):S559-S564. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2009.0055.focus
Yearley S. Sociology and Climate Change after Kyoto: What Roles for Social Science in Understanding Climate Change? Current Sociology. 2009 May;57(3):389-405. doi: 10.1177/0011392108101589
Irvine RJ, Fiorini S, Yearley S, McLeod JE, Turner A, Armstrong H et al. Can Managers Inform Models? Integrating Local Knowledge into Models of Red Deer Habitat Use. Journal of Applied Ecology. 2009 Apr;46(2):344-352. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01626.x
Frow E, Ingram D, Powell W, Steer D, Vogel J, Yearley S. The politics of plants. Food Security. 2009 Feb;1(1):17-23. doi: 10.1007/s12571-008-0007-6
Yearley S. Cultures of environmentalism: empirical studies in environmental sociology. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 216 p.
Yearley S. Globalization and the environment. In Ritzer G, editor, The Blackwell Companion to Globalization. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008. p. 239-253 doi: 10.1002/9780470691939
Yearley S. Environmental action groups and other NGOs as communicators of science. In Bucchi M, Trench B, editors, Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. 1st ed. London: Routledge. 2008. p. 159-171 doi: 10.4324/9780203928240-17
Yearley S. On the bright side. TLS - The Times Literary Supplement. 2008;(5498):28.
Yearley S. Nature and the environment in science and technology studies. In Hackett E, Amsterdamska O, Lynch M, Wajcman J, editors, The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 2007. p. 921-948
Yearley S. Out of the flat-pack wardrobe. TLS - The Times Literary Supplement. 2007;(5434):27.
Yearley S. How Many "Ends" of Nature: Making Sociological and Phenomenological Sense of the End of Nature. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. 2006 Mar 1;1(1):10-21. doi: 10.3167/155860706780272006
Yearley S. Bridging the science – policy divide in urban air-quality management: evaluating ways to make models more robust through public engagement. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy. 2006 Jan 1;24(5):701-714. doi: 10.1068/c0610j
Bruce S, Yearley S. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. 1st ed. SAGE Publications Ltd, 2006. 344 p.
Yearley S. The "end" or the "humanization" of nature? Organization and Environment. 2005 Jun;18(2):198-201. doi: 10.1177/1086026605276013
Yearley S. Making Sense of Science: Understanding the Social Study of Science. SAGE Publications Ltd, 2005. doi: 10.4135/9781446222218
Yearley S. Ecological problems. In Ritzer G, editor, Handbook of Social Problems: A Comparative International Perspective. SAGE Publications Inc. 2004. p. 87-100 doi: 10.4135/9781412973526.n6
Yearley S, Cinderby S, Forrester J, Bailey P, Rosen P. Participatory modelling and the local governance of the politics of UK air pollution: A three-city case study. Environmental Values. 2003 May;12(2):247-262. doi: 10.3197/096327103129341315
Yearley S, Forrester J, Bailey P. Participation and expert knowledge: A case study analysis of scientific models and their publics. In Hoppe R, editor, Knowledge, Power, and Participation in Environmental Policy Analysis. 1st ed. Routledge. 2001. p. 349-368 doi: 10.4324/9781351325721-20
Yearley S. Mapping and interpreting societal responses to genetically modified crops and food. Social Studies of Science. 2001 Feb;31(1):151-160. doi: 10.1177/030631201031001008
Yearley S. Making systematic sense of public discontents with expert knowledge: Two analytical approaches and a case study. Public Understanding of Science. 2000 Apr;9(2):105-122. doi: 10.1088/0963-6625/9/2/302
Yearley S. What does science mean in the "public understanding of science". In Dierkes M, von Grote C, editors, Between Understanding and Trust: The Public, Science and Technology. 1st ed. Routledge. 2000. p. 151-164
Yearley S. Science and the environment in the twenty-first century. In Redclift M, Woodgate G, editors, The New International Handbook of Environmental Sociology. Edward Elgar. 2000. p. 212-225
Yearley S. Computer models and the public's understanding of science: A case-study analysis. Social Studies of Science. 1999 Dec;29(6):845-866. doi: 10.1177/030631299029006002
Bailey P, Yearley S, Forrester J. Involving the public in local air pollution assessment: A citizen participation case study. International Journal of Environment and Pollution. 1999 Jan 1;11(3):290-303. doi: 10.1504/IJEP.1999.002262
Rothstein H, Irwin A, Yearley S, McCarthy E. Regulatory science, europeanization, and the control of agrochemicals. Science, Technology & Human Values. 1999;24(2):241-264. doi: 10.1177/016224399902400203
Entwistle VA, Renfrew MJ, Yearley S, Forrester J, Lamont T. Lay perspectives: Advantages for health research. British Medical Journal. 1998 Feb 7;316(7129):463-466. doi: 10.1136/bmj.316.7129.463
Irwin A, Rothstein H, Yearley S, McCarthy E. Regulatory science - Towards a sociological framework. Futures. 1997 Feb;29(1):17-31. doi: 10.1016/s0016-3287(96)00063-8
Yearley S. Sociology, Environmentalism, Globalization: Reinventing the Globe. SAGE Publications Ltd, 1996. doi: 10.4135/9781446250419
McCarthy E, Yearley S. The Irish Environmental Protection Agency: The Early Years. Environmental Politics. 1995 Dec 1;4(4):258-264. doi: 10.1080/09644019508414238
Yearley S. From one dependency to another: The political economy of science policy in the Irish Republic in the second half of the twentieth century. Science, Technology & Human Values. 1995 Apr;20(2):171-196. doi: 10.1177/016224399502000203
Yearley S. Social movements and environmental change. In Benton T, Redclift M, editors, Social Theory and the Global Environment. 1st ed. Routledge. 1994. p. 150-168 doi: 10.4324/9780203427903-7
Yearley S. Understanding science from the perspective of the sociology of scientific knowledge: An overview. Public Understanding of Science. 1994 Jul;3(3):245-258. 001. doi: 10.1088/0963-6625/3/3/001
Yearley S, Baker S, Milton K. Environmental policy and peripheral regions of the European Union: An Introduction. Regional Politics and Policy. 1994;4(1):1-21. doi: 10.1080/13597569408420884
Yearley S. Environmental knowledge interests. Science as Culture. 1994;4(3):466-469. doi: 10.1080/09505439409526399
Yearley S. Skills, deals and impartiality: The sale of environmental consultancy skills and public perceptions of scientific neutrality. Social Studies of Science. 1992 Aug;22(3):435-453. doi: 10.1177/0306312792022003001
Brewer JD, McBride G, Yearley S. Orchestrating an encounter: A note on the talk of mentally handicapped children. Sociology of Health & Illness. 1991 Mar;13(1):58-67. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.ep11340317
Yearley S. Researching the Precambrian biosphere: Constructing knowledge and shaping the organization of scientific work. Social Studies of Science. 1990 May;20(2):313-332. doi: 10.1177/030631290020002005
McNeil M, (ed.), Varcoe I, (ed.), Yearley S, (ed.). The New Reproductive Technologies. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 1990. 257 p. (Explorations in Sociology). doi: 10.1007/978-1-349-20548-6
Varcoe I, (ed.), McNeil M, (ed.), Yearley S, (ed.). Deciphering Science and Technology: The Social Relations of Expertise. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 1990. 256 p. (Explorations in Sociology). doi: 10.1007/978-1-349-20520-2
Yearley S. [Review of] Charles Crothers, Robert K. Merton (Key Sociologists Series), London: Tavistock, 1987, paper £4.25, 176 pp. History of the Human Sciences. 1990 Feb;3(1):144-146. doi: 10.1177/095269519000300115
Yearley S, Milton K. Environmentalism and direct rule: The politics and ethos of conservation and environmental groups in Northern Ireland. Built Environment. 1990;16(3):192-202.
Yearley S. Bog standards: Science and conservation at a public inquiry. Social Studies of Science. 1989 Aug;19(3):421-438. doi: 10.1177/030631289019003002
Yearley S, Brewer JD. Stigma and conversational competence: A conversation analytic study of the mentally handicapped. Human Studies. 1989 Jun;12(1-2):97-115. doi: 10.1007/BF00142841
Yearley S. Colonial science and dependent development: The case of the Irish experience. The Sociological Review. 1989 May;37(2):308-331. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-954X.1989.tb00031.x
Yearley S. The dictates of method and policy: Interpretational structures in the representation of scientific work. Human Studies. 1988 Apr;11(2-3):341-359. doi: 10.1007/BF00177309
Yearley S. The social construction of national scientific profiles: A case study of the Irish Republic. Social Science Information. 1987 Mar;26(1):191-210. doi: 10.1177/053901887026001010
Yearley S. Demotic logic: Causal discourse and the structure of explanations. TEXT: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse. 1987;7(2):181-203. doi: 10.1515/text.1.1987.7.2.181
Yearley S. Imputing intentionality: Popper, Demarcation and Darwin, Freud and Marx. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. 1985 Dec;16(4):337-350. doi: 10.1016/0039-3681(85)90016-0
Yearley S. Vocabularies of freedom and resentment: A Strawsonian perspective on the nature of argumentation in science and the law. Social Studies of Science. 1985 Feb;15(1):99-126. doi: 10.1177/030631285015001004
Yearley S. Science and Sociological Practice. Open University Press, 1984.
Yearley S. Interactive-orientation and argumentation in scientific texts. The Sociological Review. 1984 May 1;32(S1):132-157. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-954X.1984.tb00110.x
Yearley S. The relationship between epistemological and sociological cognitive interests: Some ambiguities underlying the use of interest theory in the study of scientific knowledge. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. 1982 Dec;13(4):353-388. doi: 10.1016/0039-3681(82)90019-X
Yearley S. Textual persuasion: The role of social accounting in the construction of scientific arguments. Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 1981 Sept;11(3):409-435. doi: 10.1177/004839318101100307