Professor Gail Davies
Professor in Human Geography
Amory Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ , UK
Office hours: Student office hours for Autumn Term 2021 Please click here to book a slot. You will need to be signed into your Exeter email account.
Student office hours for Autumn Term 2021
Please click here to book a slot. You will need to be signed into your Exeter email account.
My work is situated at the interface of human geography, science and technology studies, and animal studies. Most of my research has focused on understanding the relationships between different ways of knowing nonhuman animals, environments, and human health in public, policy, and science. As a geographer, I am interested in encouraging conversations between differently located knowledges in a generous and constructive way.
My recent research charts the changing geographies of biomedical research, including laboratory animal science, and seeks innovative and collaborative ways to support translational research, and policy-making and public engagement with complex issues in science and technology.
I am currently working on a collaborative programme of work on ‘The Animal Research Nexus: Changing Constitutions of Science, Health and Welfare’ (2017-2023). This grant is funded by the Wellcome Trust and involves developing innovative approaches to the social dimensions of animal research 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). At Exeter, I have been working with Dr Rich Gorman, now at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Gabrielle King, on the changing interfaces between patient involvement and animal research.
I am also collaborating on the Resisting Bodies: The Politics and Practices of the Immune System project (2020-2024), led by Dr Tone Druglitrø at the University of Olso, which is generating new social science research on the connections between human and animal immune systems in research and policy.
My work is associated with the Life Geographies Research Cluster in Geography and Egenis, the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences, where I am an Honorary Senior Fellow. My university responsibilities include being Chair of the Geography Ethics Committee and champion for Reponsible Metrics for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences.
Past external responsibilities include being the recent co-editor in chief for the RGS-IBG Open Access Journal Geo: Geography and Environment. I served on the UK Animals in Science Committee (ASC) from 2013-2019. The ASC is an advisory non-departmental public body, which provides impartial, balanced and objective advice to the Secretary of State on issues relating to the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. I chaired the ASC subgroup reviewing harm-benefit analysis in the UK, which published its report in November 2017. I continue to contribute to the work of the ASC embedding developments in harm-benefit analysis.
BA Hons in Geography (Oxford),
PhD in Human Geography (London)
I graduated in Geography from Hertford College at Oxford University in 1993. My undergraduate degree was a mix of physical and human geography and I completed my undergraduate dissertation in physical geography. I continued my studies with a PhD in Geography at University College London, exploring the relationship between scientific and popular knowledges of nature in the development of natural history film-making. I was appointed as lecturer and then senior lecturer at UCL and moved to my current position as Professor of Human Geography at Exeter 2013. I continue to be motivated by an interest in how different knowledges of nonhuman animals, environments, and health are situated, embodied, and practiced, and how these interact within policy, ethics, scientific practices, and popular culture.
Research group links
- Developing social science approaches for understanding the changing spaces 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 assurances 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 geographies 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 use of internet of things appraoches in 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.
- Working with policy-makers, practitioners, artists and others to create and evaluate novel methods for engaging different audiences with emerging issues in the biosciences. This work ranges from the generation of new visual artworks (Micespace.org with Helen Scalway), contributions to innovative art/research institutions (Center for PostNatural History, Office of Experiments), to collaborative research with Sabina Leonelli and Jim Lowe (Philosophy, Exeter) evaluating the training investments made through the British Pharmacological Society's Integrative Pharmacology Framework. The recommendations from this research have underpinned the development of new curriculum to support the next generation of researchers in gaining the education, skills and understanding of animal welfare in animal research.
- Resisting bodies: The practices and politics of the immune system (2020-2024). This grant is is funded by The Research Council of Norway and led by Dr Tone Druglitrø at the University of Olso, with further collaborators including Kristin Asdal and Silje Morsman (University of Oslo) and Mette Nordahl Svendsen (University of Copenhagen). The project will develop new social science research on the connections between human and animal immune systems in research and policy. My work explores the emergence and application of the recent 'animal-rule' in vaccine development.
- The Animal Research Nexus: Changing Constitutions of Science, Health and Welfare (2017-2023). 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.
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 health, science and technology, including innovative forms of public engagement on the boundaries between science and art;
- The embodied, situated and relational knowledges of food, plants, animals, bodies, and biotechnology;
- Nature-society relationships and experimental approaches to thinking about and living alongside animals and nature.
I welcome enquiries from potential students and others interested in these and related areas. I have acted as research mentor for the following colleagues and students in the past.
- Dominic Walker (Geography, Exeter) Experiments, social practice, and the spaces of art: experimenting with science and technology through artist-led institutions
- Katie Ledingham (Geography, Exeter) Synthetic biology in a fractiversal world: on novel biologies and modest geographies
- Angeliki Balayannis (University of Melbourne and Geography, Exeter) The ethics and the emergence of toxic waste
- Hilary Geoghagen (Geography, UCL) Harnessing Enthusiasm – Ecosocialities and Citizens as Early-Warning Systems (ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship)
- Angela Last (Geography, UCL) Creating Common Futures – Embedding experimental methods for public engagement with innovative technologies (ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship)
- Sara Peres (Geography/STS, UCL) Seed banking networks and the globalisation of plant biodiversity (ESRC Studentship)
- Carina Fearnley (Geography/Earth Sciences, UCL) Understanding the dynamics of volcanic forecasting and warning systems (ESRC/NERC Studentship)
- Richard Milne (Geography/STS, UCL) 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, UCL) Bio-security and discourses of national identity in New Zealand (ESRC Studentship)
- Isobel Tomlinson (Geography, UCL) The 'organic' and the 'state': a critical analysis of the UK's organic action plan (ESRC Studentship)
- Russell Hitchings (Geography, UCL) Plants and society: an ethnographic approach to the changing role of botanical life in London homes (ESRC Studentship)
- Robert Doubleday (Geography, UCL) Political Innovation: corporate engagements in controversy over genetically modified foods (ESRC Studentship)
- Kersty Hobson (Geography, UCL) Evaluating and understanding lifestyle change in environmental information programmes (ESRC Case Studentship)
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
I was appointed to the Animals in Science Committee from 2013-2019. The committee is an advisory non-departmental public body of the Home Office, advising the Secretary of State on matters concerning the use of animals in scientific procedures.
I was elected Member of the Research Committee of the Royal Geographical Society, from 2010-2013, building on her previous work as Secretary (2006-2009) and then Chair (2009-2012) of the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group of the RGS. I have been a member of the Economic and Social Research Council College of Reviewers since 2009.
I am one of the inaugural co-editors of the new RGS-IBG open access journal Geo: Geography and Environment, with Anson Mackay at UCL.
I have previously held editorial board positions for the journals The Sociological Review (2013-2018), the Cultural Geography Section of Geography Compass (2010-2016), Geoform (2001-2011), the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (2006-2012) and Public Understanding of Science (1997-2001).
External Examiner Positions
I am currently External Examiner for the Geography/Environmental Studies module group at The Open University (2016-2020).
I have previously worked as external examiner for the Undergraduate Honours Degree in Geography at the University of Oxford (2012-2015), the MA in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance, University of Oxford (2016-2019), the MA in Society, Technology and Nature in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Lancaster University (2010-2016) and the MA in Geography (Research Methods at Durham University (2010-2013).
Invited lectures & workshops
I have given a large number of plenary lectures and invited talks at workshops. Recent and forthcoming talks are focused on developing collaborations between social science, policy, and the animal research community, and include:
- Animal Research Nexus Sponsored Session: The role of publics in animal research: Is the aim for understanding, engagement or involvement? AST 2020, Animal Science and Technology Conference, Edinburgh, March 2020
- Invited departmental seminar: Geography Department, University of Cambridge, February 2020
- Invited speaker: ‘Local practices and global politics in the regulation of laboratory animal research’ National Cultures of science, animals and care workshop, LSE, London, September2019
- Invited speaker: Posthumanism and Animal Welfare, School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Royal Holloway University of London, March 2019
- Invited speaker: The ASC Review of Harm-Benefit Analysis for AWERB Hubs, with Penny Hawkins, at AWERB regional chairs hub, London, March 2019
- Invited speaker: The Animals in Science Committee (ASC) report on harm/benefit assessment – key points and recommendations, RSPCA lay members forum, London, December 2018
- Invited speaker: ‘Research Integrity: power calculations, publishing metrics and the politics of a research crisis’ Laboratory Animal Science Association Annual Conference, November, Birmingham 2018
- Invited speaker: Patient Involvement and Animal Research Shared Learning Group on Research Involvement, London, September 2018
- Invited speaker: Micespace: Experiments in Mapping Laboratory Animal Science, Institute of Animal Technology workshop, with Helen Scalway, April, Manchester 2018
- Invited speaker: What might the social sciences and humanities offer the NC3Rs? Board of Trustees, National Centre for the 3Rs, London, October 2017
I have has also acted as advisor for a wide range of media and public engagement activities, including the curation of genetically-modified mice for the Center for PostNatural History, the development of anniversary programmes for the BBC Natural History Unit, and the evaluation of novel methods of public engagement with science for the Committee for Radioactive Waste Management and the New Economics Foundation. I am currently an associate of the critical art institution the Office of Experiments, directed by Neal White.
Supervision / Group
- Katie Ledingham
- Dominic Walker