Professor Gail Davies
Professor in Human Geography


Research interests

  • Developing social science research concepts and methods to understanding the changing contexts and challenges for laboratory animal research. With colleagues, I am working on the Animal Research Nexus Programme, which explores how the use of animals in scientific research is contingent upon a complex and changing network of relations and obligations across science and society. Exeter is leading the project exploring the changing patterns of patient and public involvement with the practices of animal research. Past work has explored the changing spaces of laboratory animal research from international collaborations around mutant mice, the growing attention to environment in post-genomics, the increasing demands of translational medicine, to the changing architectures of animal facilities. I have also worked on the material and discursive practices which shape how boundaries are understood and enacted in organ transplantation protocols and discussion of xenotransplantation. Insights from this research inform my work on the UK Government's Animals in Science Committee (ASC) 2013-2019.
  • Facilitating collaborative ways of working with policy and across disciplinary perspectives to inform learning and decision-making in contexts where there are plural values and scientific uncertainties. Past research includes the development of 'Deliberative Mapping' decision-support processes, with colleagues at SPRU, which integrates multi-criteria decision analysis with deliberation between citizens and stakeholders. I led the LASSH (Laboratory Animals in the Social Sciences and Humanities) network, using a structured and iterative process for developing a collaborative agenda for future humanities and social scientific research on laboratory animal science and welfare. I recently held an ESRC Impact Fellowship exploring challenges around the characterisation of benefits in the UK Harm-Benefit Analysis of animal research, which has informed my work chairing the UK Review of Harm-Benefit Analysis in the Use of Animals in Research.

Research projects

  • The Animal Research Nexus: Changing Constitutions of Science, Health and Welfare (2017-2022). This major grant is led by Professor Gail Davies (University of Exeter) with Dr Beth Greenhough (Oxford University), Dr Pru Hobson-West (University of Nottingham), Dr Rob Kirk (University of Manchester) and Dr Emma Roe (University of Southampton). This major award has three main aims: 1) to understand the historical interrelations between science, health and animal welfare 2) to identify challenges to animal research raised by scientific and social shifts around species and supply, professional roles, and patient engagements and 3) to facilitate dialogue with stakeholders, scientists and publics across the Animal Research Nexus. The overall programme seeks to identify what is required to remake the social contract around animal use in 21st century science and medicine.
  • Appraising Benefits in Laboratory Animal Research. An ESRC Impact Accelerator Award (2015-2017) developing the capacity for social science research to understand and inform the changing landscapes of translational biomedicine, with a specific focus on the process of appraising benefits in laboratory animal research.
  • In vivo skills training and the changing landscapes of biomedical research in the UK. A co-authored evaluation of the Integrative Pharmacology Fund (2015-2016). This research funded by the British Pharmacological Society and the project led by the University of Exeter.
  • Developing a collaborative agenda for humanities and social scientific research on laboratory animal welfare. A series of workshops funded by a Wellcome Trust Small Grant and University of Exeter Project Development Grant (2014-2015).  Co-applicants include Carrie Friese (LSE), Beth Greenhough (University of Oxford), Pru Hobson-West (University of Nottingham), Rob Kirk (University of Manchester) and Elisabeth Ormandy (UBC).
  • Making It Big? Tracing Collaboration in the Life Sciences. ESRC Genomics Forum Event (2011) with E Frow (ESRC Genomics Forum, Edinburgh) and S Leonelli (Egenis, Exeter). An international workshop developing comparative insights across projects in 'big biology’, exploring what is at stake, for both natural and social scientists, in projects seeking to rescale biology.
  • Biogeography and Transgenic Life. Three-year ESRC Research Fellowship (2007-2010) funding a series of projects exploring spatial issues in the production and coordination of mutant mouse resources, furthering understanding of international scientific collaboration, translational research and the spaces of postgenomics.
  • Locating Technoscience: Geographies of Science, Technology and Politics. ESRC Research Seminar Series (2005-2007) with B Balmer and C Thorpe (STS, UCL), A Hedgecoe (Sociology, Sussex), R Doubleday (Geography, Cambridge) and S Whatmore (OUCE, Oxford). ESRC seminar series building interdisciplinary and institutional conversations around the geographies of contemporary science and technology.
  • Deliberative Mapping: Appraising Options for Addressing ‘the Kidney Gap'. Wellcome Trust Grant (2001-2003) with J Burgess and S Williamson (UCL), A Stirling and S Meyer (SPRU) and M Eames (PSI). Project developing an innovative participatory methodology, combining scientific, expert-driven risk assessment techniques and deliberative approaches to public engagement. This was tested this through a full-scale public engagement exercise on the range of future options available for the treatment of human organ failure.

Research networks

Past PhD and Postdoctoral Students

I have supervised and acted as mentor for a broad range of PhD, post-doctoral students and artists with research interests in:

  • The geographies of science and technology, including innovative forms of public engagement on the boundaries between science and art;
  • The materials and spaces of socio-technical relations, including work on food, plants, animals, risk and biotechnology;
  • Nature-society relationships and alternative ways of thinking about and living alongside animals and nature.

I welcome enquiries from potential students and others interested in these and related areas.

  • Hilary Geoghagen (Geography) Harnessing Enthusiasm – Ecosocialities and Citizens as Early-Warning Systems (ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship)
  • Angela Last (Geography) Creating Common Futures – Embedding experimental methods for public engagement with innovative technologies (ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship)
  • Sara Peres (Geography/STS) Seed banking networks and the globalisation of plant biodiversity (ESRC Studentship)
  • Carina Fearnley (Geography/Earth Sciences) Understanding the dynamics of volcanic forecasting and warning systems (ESRC/NERC Studentship)
  • Richard Milne (Geography/STS) The role of research 'origin' in the formation of public attitudes towards biotechnology in the UK (UCL Institute of Human Genetics and Health)
  • Kezia Barker (Geography) Bio-security and discourses of national identity in New Zealand (ESRC Studentship)
  • Isobel Tomlinson (Geography) The 'organic' and the 'state': a critical analysis of the UK's organic action plan (ESRC Studentship)
  • Russell Hitchings (Geography) Plants and society: an ethnographic approach to the changing role of botanical life in London homes (ESRC Studentship)
  • Robert Doubleday (Geography) Political Innovation: corporate engagements in controversy over genetically modified foods (ESRC Studentship)
  • Kersty Hobson (Geography) Evaluating and understanding lifestyle change in environmental information programmes (ESRC Case Studentship)

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