West’s research explores how people make sense of their relationships with the natural world, in an era of complex social and environmental change. In particular, West is interested in how these meanings shape perceptions of and responses to sustainability challenges, as well as how they are communicated and enacted through management, policy and governance.
West's empirical research to date has predominantly focused on how people create, share and use knowledge within the everyday practice of biodiversity conservation. This has included work on environmental monitoring, adaptive ecosystem management, and adaptive governance. His current research project examines Indigenous land management in northern Australia.
West's work is inter-disciplinary and collaborative in nature, and his unique contribution is to introduce interpretive social science – including work from sociology, policy analysis, science and technology studies, human geography and the environmental humanities – into the emerging trans-disciplinary field of sustainability science.
West's has a keen interest in the methodological and theoretical development of sustainability science. Methodologically, he is interested in knowledge coproduction, trans-disciplinary and decolonizing research practices, and qualitative methods (including photovoice, q-method, narrative interviews and discourse analysis). Theoretically, he is interested in complexity theory, practice theory, dwelling, actor-network theory, and process/relational philosophy.
West received a PhD in Sustainability Science from the Stockholm Resilience Centre in December 2016. In his PhD he explored the creation, interpretation and use of sustainability concepts – including adaptive management, biosphere reserves, biodiversity corridors and planetary boundaries – in a variety of contexts in South Africa and Australia.
West holds an MA in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), and a BA in American and English Literature from the University of East Anglia. He has extensive experience volunteering in practical conservation projects in the UK, including with the Wildlife Trusts and Natural England.
In 2014, West co-designed and ran a PhD course together with Wijnand Boonstra, ‘Why bother with Durkheim? Using (classical) social science to understand the social dynamics of social-ecological systems.’ He has also co-run the SRC’s MSc programme course module ‘Adaptive Governance’ in 2015 and 2017 together with Lisen Schultz.
Research news | 2019-12-09
New study demonstrates the benefits of developing new ideas about what knowledge and action are and how they relate to each other
Research news | 2019-08-28
Why the idea that scientific expertise rests on the strict application of pre-determined technical methods is misplaced
Research news | 2018-11-20
Several new and exciting projects will be initiated
Research news | 2018-09-18
Why the concept of stewardship offers a platform for collaboration and dialogue between actors, even with differing perspectives
2019 - Journal / article
The imperative to “link knowledge and action” is widely invoked as a defining characteristic of sustainability research. The complexities of sustainability challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss mean that linear models of knowledge and action, where knowledge is produced first (by researchers) then “applied to” action (by policy actors), are considered insufficient. Researchers have developed more dynamic, ope...
2019 - Journal / article
Stewardship is a popular term for describing action in pursuit of sustainability. There is growing interest in how relational values, such as care, animate stewardship action. In this paper we develop relational understandings of care in stewardship, in so doing infusing the relational values literature with modes of ‘relational thinking’ increasingly adopted in sustainability science. We use three theoretical perspectives — d...
2018 - Journal / article
Current sustainability challenges – including biodiversity loss, pollution and land-use change – require new ways of understanding, acting in and caring for the landscapes we live in. The concept of stewardship is increasingly used in research, policy and practice to articulate and describe responses to these challenges. However, there are multiple meanings and framings of stewardship across this wide user base that reflect di...
2018 - Journal / article
Learning is considered a means to achieve sustainability in practice and has become a prominent goal of sustainability interventions. In this paper we explore how learning for sustainability is shaped by meaning, interpretation and experience, in the context of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (BRs). The World Network of Biosphere Reserves brings environmental conservation, socio-economic development and research together in ‘learnin...