Prof Barry's talk will detail his research into political disputes and scientific controversies.

Theme in focus

Science, Technology and Culture

One of the 'leading lights' of interdisciplinary research is speaking about his work on the relationship between science and politics after being invited by a leading Exeter academic to give a high-profile talk.

Prof Andrew Barry's work has led to him becoming one of the most renowned interdisciplinary academics in the UK.

His work has been important in shaping the way Exeter academics put together their research. Steve Hinchcliffe, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Exeter, arranged the visit from Prof Barry. He explained: “He’s one of the leading lights in the UK in conducting interdisciplinary research. His work has been really important in helping us to think about how we put together our own research.”

Prof Barry, a professor of geography at University College London, will discuss his research, which tackles political disputes around scientific controversies, in a lecture on 4 December. The talk is part of the University’s Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) strategy lecture series.

Prof Barry’s work feeds into the Science, Technology and Culture (STaC) theme in particular, which is led by Prof Hinchcliffe. The theme uses interdisciplinary expertise as a means to study intervention in techno-cultural performance, from exploring legal frameworks to challenging social and ethical norms.

Prof Barry explained how local interest helped get him thinking about the subject of his work. He said: “In 1997 there was a protest about the building of a new bypass for Honiton, which I did some fieldwork on. Although not an explicitly scientific dispute, it got me thinking about the relationship between politics and controversies. Direct action by the environmentalists could be likened to a scientific demonstration.”

More recently, examples of Prof Barry’s research include his investigation into the widespread negative political effects of the building of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, captured in his book Material Politics: Disputes Along the Pipeline.

Prof Barry feels his work is particularly relevant to human geographers involved in the STaC theme, stating: “There is a growing interest in geography due to issues like genetically modified crops, mad cow disease and nuclear power –a whole range of issues.”

Prof Hinchcliffe feels that Prof Barry’s talk can help raise Exeter’s profile in the field, saying: “One of the things we’re trying to do with the STaC theme is built up Exeter’s reputation in the area of science and technology studies – and Prof Barry is an expert in discussing political dispute around science and technology.”

Prof Barry said he was ‘flattered to be invited’ to give the lecture and accepted the offer, saying: “Exeter has an incredibly impressive group and is a leading centre for science and technology studies in the UK.

“They’ve put together a very interesting research agenda.”

The talk takes place at the University of Exeter XFi building on Wednesday 4 December.