Professor James Smith

Visiting Professor


1995 MA (Hons) Geography and Environmental Science (University of Dundee)

1998 MSc Geography and Development (University of the Witwatersrand)

2001 PhD Environment and Development (University of the Witwatersrand) 

Previous/Other Positions

I held a tutorship and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, worked with Oxfam Southern Africa for a while, and held a research fellowship in the ESRC Innogen Centre at Edinburgh University before moving to the Centre of African Studies, initially as a Lecturer, in 2005. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2006 and appointed Co-director of the Centre of African Studies in 2008. In 2010 I was promoted to a personal chair in African and Development Studies and am Assistant Principal of the new Global Development Academy at Edinburgh. I am also Director of Developing Country Research in the ESRC Innogen Centre and hold Senior Visiting Fellowships at the Development Policy and Practice at the Open University and the Department of Geography, Environment Management and Energy Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

I have been an advisor on DfID's Research Into Use programme and am currently a senior advisor to the ESRC-DfID Joint Scheme for Research on International Development and a trustee at the international NGO, Practical Action. I have experience working with donors, development agencies and NGOs including DfID, IDRC, CIDA, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oxfam and the New Partnership for Africa's Development. 

I have held visiting positions at universities in Africa and Europe. I am a member of the Africa Panel of the British Academy. I am a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy and am a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. I am involved in the University's new Academy of Government, contributing to teaching on international development.

I have published widely on the relationship between scientific research, technological innovation and international development. Much of my work has focused on sub-Saharan Africa (especially South Africa and Eastern Africa), but I have also conducted research in parts of South Asia and the Andes of South America. I am particularly interested in exploring global networks and the assemblages of technology, knowledge and values that shape development interventions so this comparative perspective is important.

I have recently been awarded a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant for a project entitled INZI (Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation). This project will examine the evolution of medical and veterinary research surrounding trypanosomiasis across Africa. The aim of this focus is to shed light on how new scientific knowledge has been generated firstly at a continental level and secondly over the late colonial/post-colonial boundary through to the present day. This will shed light on how scientific knowledge can be generated to help alleviate poverty and drive development in Africa.   

I am also involved in several large international projects, notably the DfID PISCES project, which is examining bioenergy security in East Africa and South Africa, and ESRC Innogen Centre, which is exploring the social, political and economic implications of the new life sciences. Other recent projects have included a project funded by the Microsoft Foundation to look at mobile banking in Kenya, and a systematic review, commissioned by DfID, examining the evidence of the impact of aid on maternal and reproductive health.