Dr Peter Robbins

Reader in Sociology of Science, Technology and Development; Associate Director, ESRC Innogen Research Centre


Peter Robbins obtained a BS in psychology from Guilford College (USA), followed by an MSc and PhD in sociology from the London School of Economics. After having taught sociology at the University of Reading, and in the Institute of Water & Environment at Cranfield University, Peter joined Development Policy and Practice (DPP) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN) in October 2004.

He is currently leading the Open University Development Studies Research Excellence Framework (REF) submission.

Peter’s research interests span three areas. The first concerns transnational corporations’ (TNCs) responses to environmental challenges. In particular he focuses on corporate cultures (traditional and social-environmental), green management styles, environmental regulatory systems (North America, Europe and Asia compared), and social auditing. They are explored in his book Greening the Corporation (London, Earthscan, 2001). Related to, and building on this work, Peter’s second area of interest is in science and technology studies. He has completed three ESRC funded projects. The first (R000223725), from 2001 to 2002, examined the discursive strategies of genetic modification (GM) scientists and the extent to which these convinced or antagonized non-experts. The second (RES000220132), between 2003 and 2004, investigated the GM National Debate, exploring attitudes of publics to GM decision making, especially in relation to the democratization of science and technology. The third (RES-000221626) in 2005 and 2006 investigated the discourse of organic food promotion. Peter’s third area of interest concerns notions of reflexive engineering and development especially in relation to water and sanitation. This is the subject of a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant investigating watershed ecosystems services in Andean and Amazonian Catchments, beginning in late 2010.

Peter has worked in 25 countries across 5 continents, North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. These include Brazil, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Hungary, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Tanzania, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe. He has also supervised PhD research on (former Soviet) Georgia, Ghana, India, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal and Uganda.

Peter is course team chair of TU874, the development management project, and has also been course team chair of U213, and has been involved in re-writes of both courses. He has been Lead Examiner for Sociology of Development at the University of London External Programme, London School of Economics, since 2000, for which he produced a course guide (University of London Press, 2001). He is external examiner of the University of Birmingham distance MSc in Poverty Reduction and Development Management. He currently supervises four PhD students on topics related to the discourse and politics of the life sciences.

Engineering and international development

The importance of science for development has been an increasing part of development discourses since 2000. Policy triggers included the MDG debates, the UK Chief Scientist, and increased public engagement with issues of science and development. But engineering has been less emphasised in these debates, surprisingly since engineering and engineers are crucial for the transport, water, energy, i...

Peter Robbins speaks at European NoPILLS project

Peter Robbins made a presentation as a member of the advisory board to the European NoPILLS Project Team at their meeting in Glasgow 12-14 March 2014.  NoPILLS http://www.no-pills.eu/ is a European Cooperation project studying pharmaceutical waste in watercourses, and is informed by proposed changes in the European Water Framework Directive to cover these ...

Dr Peter Robbins

Development Policy and Practice
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1908 653 422
Fax: +44 (0) 1908 654 825
E-mail: Peter Robbins