Dr James Porter

University of Sheffield


As a human geographer, my work specialises in how institutional politics shapes the production, and in turn, use of environmental knowledge for policy, through the lens of science and technology studies (STS) and the management of risk/uncertainty. In June 2012, I took up a Research Fellowship on advancing knowledge systems in climate adaptation decisions, otherwise known as the ICAD project, working alongside Professor Suraje Dessai at the Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, at the University of Leeds.



    • PhD in Human Geography and Science and Technology Studies (King's College London)
    • MRes (Dist.) in Environment, Society & Politics (King's College London)
    • BA hons. (First) in Geography (King's College London) 



    • Royal Geographical Society
    • Association of American Geographers
    • Institution of Civil Engineers 


Research Interests

I have a wide range of interests but they mostly centre around the way environmental science and policy come to interact and affect each other, for example, in the context of co-producing flood risk science and spatial planning. My PhD traced the origins, production and use of the Environment Agency’s flood risk maps and how decisions over what to include (or exclude) from the modelling reveal various practical considerations, at once technical and institutional-political, which affected the flood outlines generated. That is, striding for accurate science is not always synonymous with politically defensible science. 

As part of the ICAD project, I have traced the way climate knowledge develops, and by extension changes, as it travels across different production sites, such as at the Met Office and later via specialist consultancies, to where it is eventually applied. How, and why, for example, does climate knowledge come to take a particular form for decision-making? Focusing on the key role played by climate experts and increasingly specialist consultancies in the construction, verification, and interpretation of climate information, this research revolves around the UK's latest climate projections, UKCP09, the UK's first Climate Change Risk Assessment, CCRA, the emergence of specialist consultancies, and local authorities; and seeks to understand what effect, if any, do these actors have on the kind of climate knowledge that gets produced.

Dr James Porter