Alice Vadrot

I am an Associate Professor for International Relations with a focus on Environmental Politics at the Department of Political Science of the University of Vienna and Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) of the University of Cambridge. Since 2018, I am the principal investigator of the ERC Starting Grant project MARIPOLDATA (2018-2023), and since 2019 member of the Young Academy of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and a Senior Fellow of the Earth System Governance platform.

My main research interest is the role of knowledge and science in international environmental politics and policies with a specific emphasis on biodiversity and ocean governance. I want to understand the processes that lead to epistemic authority, legitimacy, and scientific and political self-evidence, which I conceptualize in terms of ‘epistemic selectivities’. I have developed and applied this concept to analyze and describe how particular representations and concepts of biological diversity are favored over others and how this is mirrored in intergovernmental negotiation settings and institutions (e.g. multilateral environmental agreements, treaty negotiations, and assessment producing bodies such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – IPBES). The overall objective of my research is to understand the different kinds of conflicts and power struggles emerging between and within states and the different epistemic communities competing for epistemic authority in policy-advisory circles. This includes empirical research at intergovernmental negotiation sites of multilateral environmental agreements and global assessment producing bodies developed and designed to cope with environmental problems and related state interests.

In the past years, I have conducted fieldwork at more than 10 intergovernmental negotiation sites, including Conferences of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD),  plenaries and working group session of IPBES and the Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and sessions of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. I could observe how scientific and non-scientific knowledge forms -including local and indigenous knowledge- compete for legitimacy at the intergovernmental level, shaping how nature is represented, governed, and regulated at the global scale. Struggles over the concept of ecosystem services are one example. Another example is how remote-sensing can be used to support the development of essential biodiversity variables for modeling biodiversity loss. The production of global environmental knowledge is inherently political and needs attention in our study of contemporary international politics and (science) diplomacy.

In November 2018, I started my ERC Starting Grant project MARIPOLDATA, which has the objective to develop and apply a new methodology for grounding the analysis of science-policy interrelations in empirical research. The interdisciplinary and multiscale approach of the project tackles barriers between political science research and the social studies of science, with the objective to understand how we will govern Oceans in the future and how inequalities related to science and data infrastructures can be addressed, studied, and reduced.

For further information on MARIPOLDATA, please visit