Research

Research interests

  • Global Environmental Politics
  • Practices, discourses and institutions in international biodiversity politics
  • Institutions interfacing science and policy & global environmental assessments
  • Knowledge and power in international politics
  • Data policies and politics
  • (International) Marine Biodiversity Politics

Current Research

The Politics of Marine Biodiversity Data: Global and National Policies and Practices of Monitoring the Oceans (MARIPOLDATA)

  • Duration: November 2018 – October 2023
  • Role: Principal investigator
  • Third party funded by: European Research Council- Starting Grant

In order to protect marine biodiversity and ensure that benefits are equally shared, the UN General Assembly has decided to develop a new legally binding treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Marine biodiversity data will play a central role: Firstly, in supporting intergovernmental efforts to identify, protect and monitor marine biodiversity. Secondly, in informing governments interested in particular aspects of marine biodiversity, including its economic use and its contribution to biosecurity. In examining how this data are represented and used, this project will create a novel understanding of the materiality of science-policy interrelations in global environmental politics as well as develop the methodologies to do so. This is crucial, because the capacities to develop and use data infrastructures are unequally distributed among countries and global initiatives for data sharing are significantly challenged by conflicting perceptions of who benefits from marine biodiversity research.

The central objective of MARIPOLDATA is to develop and apply a new multiscale methodology for grounding the analysis of science-policy interrelations in empirical research. An interdisciplinary team, led by the PI, will collect and analyse data across different policy-levels and spatial scales by combining 1) ethnographic studies at intergovernmental negotiation sites with 2) a comparative analysis of national marine biodiversity monitoring policies and practices and 3) bibliometric and network analyses and oral history interviews for mapping the field of marine biodiversity science.

Job Vacancies

Research Administrator (Application Deadline 23rd of Novemebr 2018)

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Past Research

Improving Biodiversity Knowledge – Conflicts & Controversies

  • Duration: May 2015 – June 2018
  • Role: Principal investigator
  • Third party funded by: Austrian Science Fund (FWF) – Erwin Schrödinger grant

My current project aims at investigating the epistemic and political dimensions of emerging institutional arrangements at the interface between conservation science and biodiversity politics and policies. Specific emphasis is placed on institutional arrangements related to: 1) the integration of in-situ observation and remote-sensing, 2) the development of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs), and 3) the establishment of global observation networks for biodiversity.

Case studies include

  • The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
  • The Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observation (GEO)
  • The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON)

The project combines participant observation at intergovernmental negotiation sites with semi-structured interviews and document analysis to explore the practices of legitimizing and authorizing new concepts (e.g. ecosystem services, essential biodiversity variables, biocultural diversity) emerging within international negotiation settings related to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. This project examines the conflicts and controversies over the relevant knowledge, legitimate experts and scientific disciplines in the production of knowledge in and to global biodiversity politics (e.g. the role of the social sciences and humanities, the representation of local and indigenous knowledge, the emerging role of big data and remote –sensing).

Project related outcomes

Understanding the establishment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) (PhD thesis)

  • Duration: October 2009- June 2013
  • Role: Principal investigator
  • Third party funded by: University of Vienna through the dissertation completion grant, 2012

The establishment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) points to the crucial role attributed to science and knowledge for the successful implementation of biodiversity politics by both scientists and policy-makers. With the increased importance of biodiversity in international politics, and in part inspired by the success the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has had in raising awareness of global warming, the call for an ‘IPCC for Biodiversity’ was successful. The aim of this research was to analyse the process of the IPBES implementation as finalised in 2013. To this end, I participated in several events relevant to the IPBES establishment and conducted more than 70 interviews with government representatives, scientists, and representatives of NGOs, IGOs and scientific organization. In order to theoretically underpin the observed institutional and discursive developments in the early IPBES history, I developed an innovative conceptual framework that puts this specific case into a more general perspective of international (biodiversity) politics and relations. The concept of “epistemic selectivities” describes how the use of science and expert knowledge to underpin strategic action leads to hegemonic patterns in the way in which (scientific) expert knowledge is related to particular claims of policies and facts.

Project related outcomes

What is the value of Nature? – Expert review for the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

  • Duration: June 2011- January 2012
  • Role: Principal Investigator
  • Third party funded by: The Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

The expert review ‘Valorisation of Biodiversity‘ (Inwertsetzung der Biodiversität) was jointly carried out by adelphi research (Berlin) and the ICCR Foundation (Vienna and Paris) on behalf of the German Bundestag –Office for Technology Assessment (Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag –TAB).

The topics addressed were the following:

  • The discourse on the valorisation of biodiversity at the UN Rio+20 Conference;
  • The relevance of the economic assessment of the valorisation and protection of biodiversity, both in the international and the German national contexts and,
  • The role of the concept of ‘ecosystem services’ in this discourse.

The political discourse on the use of market-oriented instruments in environmental policies, i.e. economic assessment, the accounting approach to ‘natural capital’ and the integration of the private sector in the implementation of these policies, enjoy an increasing relevance in the political discourse. The valorisation of biodiversity and the concept of ecosystem services are two key elements in the debate. The aim of this study was to analyse the “valoraisation discourse” in Germany and link it to current international developments in the framework of Rio +20 and the 11th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). To this end, interviews with key political, scientific and societal actors were conducted and systematically analysed. The aim was to differentiate between positions, representations, arguments and forms of legitimization used by different German actor in relation to biodiversity valuation approaches.

Project related outcomes

Grants, Awards & Fellowships

 2016

Ars Docendi (Nomination), Austrian State Price for Excellence in Teaching in Higher Education for the Interdisciplinary Master Seminar “Sustainability Challenge”

2015- 2018

Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship for young and especially highly qualified scientists of any discipline, Austrian Science Fund

2014

Marshall Memorial Fellowship of the German Marshall Fund of the United States

2012

Dissertation Completion Fellowship, University of Vienna

2011

Conference Travel Fund to participate in SDN-Conference at Harvard University from the University of Vienna

2010

Research Travel Grant to conduct research at the third multi-stakeholder meeting of IPBES, Busan, Rep. of Korea, Austrian Ministry for Science and Research

2008- 2009

Erasmus Grant to study Philosophy, Political Theory and Philosophy of Science at the Université Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris, France

2008

Research Travel Grant to conduct research at the 10th conference of the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Austrian Ministry for Science and Research

2008

Research Grant, Austrian Ministry for Science and Research

Conference presentations and lectures (*invited speaker)

  • “Remote-sensing and in-situ observations for biodiversity conservation and science”. (PAPER PRESENTATION). Biodiversity and its Histories, University of Cambridge, Cambridge/UK, 24.03.2017.
  • “IPBES between Theory and Practice: How weighted concepts travel” (PAPER PRESENTATION together with Dr Hannah Hughes). International Studies Association- ISA Annual Convention, Baltimore/US, 22.02.2017.
  • *“The Politics of the Group on Earth Observations” (INVITED TALK)). C-EENERG Seminar: Hosted by Department of Land Economy: Environment, Law & Economics, Cambridge University, Cambridge/UK, 16.02.2017.
  • “On the Logic of the Social Sciences in Biodiversity Politics and Policies” (INVITED TALK). 5th National Forum on IPBES organised by the German IPBES Coordination Office, Bonn/Germany, 09.02.2017.
  • “IPBES between Theory and Practice: How weighted concepts travel” (together with Dr Hannah Hughes: PAPER PRESENTATION). Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff/UK, 30.09.3016.
  • * “Causes of and solutions to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) disciplinary imbalance” (PAPER PRESENTATION). European Ecosystem Services 2016 conference, University of Antwerp, Antwerp/Belgium, 26.09.2016.
  • “The Power of Fragility: Destabilisation and fragmentation of Science in International Environmental Politics” (PAPER PRESENTATION). 24th World Congress of Political Science, Poznań, Poland. 26.07.2016.
  • * “Protecting biodiversity on the planet: the sociology of the IPBES” (BOOK PRESENTATION). The first international conference on natural and cultural heritage organised by the Intelligence des Patrimoines programme, Tours, France. 30.09.2015.
  • * “Interfacing conservation science and biodiversity politics: what impact the IPBES, what impact the individual researcher?” (PAPER PRESENTATION). 13th European Ecological Federation (EEF) Symposium S.25 Ecologists’ strategies at science-policy interfaces: How can social sciences help? Rome, Italy: 22.-25.9.2015.
  • * “Constitution of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)- A boundary organisation for biodiversity?” (PAPER PRESENTATION). Workshop “Boundary Organizations in International Affairs” Univérsité de Louvrain, Brussels, Belgium. 26.08.2015.
  • * “The role of the social sciences in the making of the IPBES” (PAPER PRESENTATION). Seminar “Quels regards des sciences sociales sur IPBES?”, Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier/France, 01.04.2015.
  • * “Improving Biodiversity Knowledge” (LECTURE). 10th Generation Anniversary-Public Lecture Series”, Freiburg University, Germany, 12.12.2014.
  • * “L’IPBES Gouvernance internationale de la biodiversité : autour du livre The Politics of Knowledge and Global Biodiversity” (BOOK PRESENTATION). “Gouverner le vivant. Savoirs, cultures et politiques de la biodiversité”, Institut des sciences de la communication CNRS, Paris-Sorbonne, UPMC, Paris/ France. 23.05.2014.
  • * “The Politics of Knowledge and Global Biodiversity” (BOOK PRESENTATION) Seminar Series “Gouverner par les norms”, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des géosciences et de l’environnement- Institut de géographie et durabilité/ Switzerland. 16.09.2014.
  • “Regularities and disruptions in the interrelations between biodiversity science and policy: Struggles over IPBES, struggles over knowledge?” (PRESENTATION OF BOOK CHAPTER) 8th Pan-European Conference on International Relations “One International Relations or Many? Multiple Worlds, Multiple Crises, University of Warsaw, Warsaw/Poland. 18.09.2013.
  • “Towards a re-conceptualization of knowledge in International Relation Theory: “Epistemic Selectivities(PAPER PRESENTATION). 8th International Interpretive Policy Analysis Conference (IPA) “Societies in Conflict: Experts, Publics and Democracy”, 05.07.2013. University of Vienna, Vienna/Austria.
  • “Knowledge production, convergence, and automation in the diagnosis of neurological diseases. An ethnographic study in an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit in Vienna” (PAPER PRESENTATION). ENSN final conference “The Mutual Challenge of Neurosciences and Public Health”, Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London, London/ UK. 25.04.2012.
  • “Health Identities, Scientization and the ‘Normal’ Brain” (PRESENTATION OF PROJECT RESULTS). Final Conference “Health Governance Matters: How to Govern Medical Knowledge, Converging Technologies and Neurological Disorders”, European Parliament, Brussels/Belgium, 16.05.2012.
  • “New institutional spaces of biodiversity knowledge production and use: the case of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)” (PAPER PRESENTATION). Conference „Biodiversity and Society“, University of Göttingen, Göttingen/Germany.
  • “Framework for an Epistemic Governance of Biodiversity: The discourse on a science policy-interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services.” (PAPER PRESENTATION). 10th meeting of the “Science and Democracy Network”, Kennedy School- Harvard University, Boston/USA, 30.06.2011.
  • “Epistemic selectivities of international biodiversity politics. Knowledge, Power, and hegemony in the Nagoya Protocol and the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services” (together with Prof. Ulrich Brand: PAPER PRESENTATION). Workshop “Fairness and Bio-knowledge”, University of Warwick, UK, 17.6.2011.
  • “The Science-Policy Interface for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Opportunities for Science to enter in Policy Environments” (PRESENTATION OF RESEARCH RESULTS). 2nd annual conference of Qualitative Research for Policy-Making, University of Belfast, Belfast/UK, 26.05.2011.

Drawings by Alice Vadrot