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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

The Socio-Politics of Biosecurity: Science, Policy and Practice

Grant reference: RES-451-26-0740

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Impact Report details

The Socio-Politics of Biosecurity: Science, Policy and Practice
Impact Report

Primary contributor

Author Andrew Dobson

Additional contributors

Contributor Kezia Barker
Contributor Sarah Taylor


Our main impacts were: i) an examination of policy frameworks, nationally and internationally, ii) studies of policy implementation, iii) normative justifications for biosecurity, iv) relationship between cultural and bio-ecological norms, and v) lay/expert value conflicts, vi) bringing together an interdsicinplinary group of scholars, vii) bringing these scholars into contact with members of the policy community – including activists. Overall, these last two impacts amount to an increase in research and policy capacity, and an enhancement of networks in this field.

A key output is the seminar series website ( The vast majority of the papers and presentations –as well as full details of each and every seminar - through which impacts i) – v) were achieved can be found there. Some of these papers (as well as some specially commissioned) have been worked up as chapters for a forthcoming Earthscan/Routledge edited book, which is a direct result of the seminar series (see Potential Future Impacts – though this book is Actual rather than Potential as it will be published in the summer of 2013). Impacts vi) and vii) were achieved through the seminar series itself, which for these reporting purposes should perhaps itself be regarded as an ‘output’.

The series’ substantive intellectual objectives were met by careful design of the seminar content, both individually and as a whole. The objective of holding an interdisciplinary conversation around biosecurity was met both by having an interdisciplinary (social science/natural science) team of investigators, and making sure that this carried through into the recruitment of participants. We sought to include members of the policy-making community in the seminars, and this was achieved by publicizing in government departments and agencies. Indeed, effective publicising of the sminar series was essential. Initially we worked through professional association and personal networks (Political Studies Association, Green Politics newsletter, Critical Geographies networks). As the series gathered momentum we added to this by using our website as a point of encounter, and by asking successive seminar participant groups to use their own networks to publicise the series in the manner of a ‘telephone tree’. We also advertised the series around relevant government ministries and agencies such as DEFRA and the Natural England Science Advisory Committee (NESAC), and through the British Ecological Society (BES) Agricultural Ecology Specialist Group, which was an excellent forum to contact land managers, policy practitioners and academics. The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management included a link to our seminar series advert on their website. We presented a poster on the series and gave out flyers at the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) conference on ‘Invasive Species: New Natives in a Changing Climate?’ on 23 March 2011 at Hamilton House, London. A copy of this poster has been uploaded onto our website.

The two broad groups we feel we have impacted are biosecurity scholars across the disciplines (especially the social and natural sciences), and members of the policy community. An analysis of attendees shows that ttendance comprised (without double counting): 50 university academics, 23 members of the policy community, 9 early career researchers (PhD); of which total 46 were male and 36 were female. The ratio of academics to policy community members is a healthy one, and accords with our desire to involve the latter in academic debates – and vice versa. Here are some anonymised comments, drawn from across these groups, that we received from participants after seminars, and that illustrate the networking effect of the seminars: ‘Many thanks for inviting me to the Biosecurity seminar - I found it enjoyable and interesting, particularly trying to link up the life science and social science aspects and applying them to a real life issue (effective biosecurity in the Galapagos).’ ‘Many thanks for organising and hosting the seminar series on biosecurity. Although a latecomer to the events I found the 4th and 5th seminar very useful and made some good contacts.’ ‘Many thanks to all of you for organising such an interesting day. It was very enjoyable and great to meet some others undertaking research in a similar area to myself.’ ‘Thanks again for the seminar. It was a great experience. I can't wait to go through the other presentations.’ ‘Thanks and well done for putting together the seminar - I had a really interesting and enjoyable time.’ ‘Sorry I could not make the final seminar. I was sorry to miss it - the two I attended were excellent. The series overall looks very impressive.’ ‘Many thanks for organising a fantastically interesting seminar last Friday. Really useful to touch base with people.’ .’

In previous sections we have mentioned the seminar series website, which remains live. We hope that this will serve as a resource and a contact point beyond the life of the seminar series. The Earthscan/Routledge book will be published in the summer of 2013, and this too will have impact beyond the life of the series. The final contents list is as follows. Acknowledgements Notes on Authors PART ONE – FRAMING BIOSECURITY Introduction: Interrogating bio-insecurities – Kezia Barker, Sarah Taylor and Andrew Dobson Chapter 1. A World in Peril? The case for containment – Daniel Simberloff Chapter 2. Power over Life: Biosecurity as biopolitics – Bruce Braun PART TWO – IMPLEMENTING BIOSECURITY Chapter 3. Governing biosecurity – Andrew Donaldson Chapter 4. Legal frameworks for biosecurity – Opi Outhwaite Chapter 5. Biosecurity: Whose knowledge counts? – Gareth Enticott and Katy Wilkinson Chapter 6. Biosecurity Management Practices: Determining and delivering a response – John Mumford PART THREE – BIOSECURITY AND GEOPOLITICS Chapter 7. A Neoliberal Biosecurity? The WTO, free trade and the governance of plant health – Clive Potter Chapter 8. Infectious Insecurities: Biosecurity and public health – Alan Ingram Chapter 9. Biosecurity and bio-terror: Reflections on a decade – Brian Rappert and Filippa Lentzos PART FOUR – TRANSGRESSING BIOSECURITY Chapter 10. Biosecurity and ecology: beyond the nativism debate – Juliet Fall Chapter 11. Introducing aliens, re-introducing natives: A conflict of interest for biosecurity? – Henry Buller Chapter 12. The insecurity of biosecurity: Re-making emerging infectious diseases –Stephen Hinchliffe Conclusion: Biosecurity, the future and the impact of climate change – Sarah Taylor, Andrew Dobson, and Kezia Barker

As a result of the seminars Dr Sarah Taylor: • was involved in the drawing up the sections on invasive species for Keele University’s £6 million Life +bid • was asked by Forest Research Scotland, through her research on mapping and modelling invasive species, to have her research on remote sensing of rhododendron rolled out to an operational level as part of their biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of Phytophthora as rhododendron is the main host species As a result of the seminars Dr Kezia Barker: • co-wrote a paper for Health and Place with Jacky Chambers and Andrew Rouse of the Birmingham PCT • edited an ‘Infectious Insecurities’ Health and Place special issue (out in Feb 2012). All papers are now available on early view on the Health and Place website ( Further, Dr Barker: • designed, and will deliver from 2013, a new Birkbeck College undergraduate module on ‘Global Environmental Security’ • was invited to contribute a paper on biosecurity to the ‘Chair’s Plenary Session’ at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in 2012, which has the theme “Geographies of (in)security”. Invitation generated by the wider profile being involved in the seminar series gave Dr Barker as an early career academic

We feel we have our achieved our ambitions in terms of scientific impact.

Short term’ is the key phrase here. Who knows if our main outputs – the papers that were presented, the website we created, and the book we are publishing – will eventually have an economic or societal impact.? We certainly hope so, and it’s entirely possible, but given the slow-burn nature of impact it is impossible to make any claims of this sort just now.

Cite this outcome


Dobson, Andrew et al. The Socio-Politics of Biosecurity: Science, Policy and Practice: ESRC Impact Report, RES-451-26-0740. Swindon: ESRC


Dobson Andrew et al. The Socio-Politics of Biosecurity: Science, Policy and Practice: ESRC Impact Report, RES-451-26-0740. Swindon: ESRC.