Dr Warren Pearce (he/him)

BA (Hons), MA, MA, PhD, FHEA

Department of Sociological Studies

Senior Lecturer in Digital Methods, Science and Society

Research Excellence Framework (REF) Lead

Director, Digital Technologies, Communication and Artificial Intelligence Pathway, White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership

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+44 114 222 6454

Full contact details

Dr Warren Pearce
Department of Sociological Studies
The Wave
2 Whitham Road
S10 2AH

Warren joined the University of Sheffield in 2016 as a Faculty Fellow in iHuman and an ESRC Future Research Leader, researching the communication of climate change on social media. Prior to this, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham’s Institute for Science and Society, as part of Making Science Public, a major interdisciplinary programme examining the changing politics of science in societies. In 2012, he was awarded a PhD in Public Policy, researching the implementation of local climate change policies in the UK. 

His academic career began at the University of Sheffield, with a BA in Geography & Politics, after which he pursued a career in the music business, working for a range of retail and distribution companies before running his own distribution company specialising in dance music vinyl. In 2005, he left the music business to start a new career in research, working for the regional research observatory Intelligence East Midlands, and gaining distinctions in two MA degrees (Public Policy, Research Methods) before beginning his PhD.

Research interests

Research interests
Warren’s research is engaged with ‘science in public’: how science is organised, presented and reported by government, experts and media. His research is currently located within three areas:

  1. How is science used by publics and policymakers?

Starting from his PhD work on climate policy, Warren has a long-standing interest in how science, and other types of evidence, is put to use in the pursuit of the ‘public good’. He has worked with a wide range of collaborators to interrogate the many public faces of climate change, including science communication, the tension between meaning and scientific certainty, climate deadlines, and the future of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Warren led ‘Beyond Counting Climate Consensus’, an Environmental Communication article challenging the centrality of consensus in public-facing climate communication programmes. The article is in the journal’s top 10-most read articles of all time and prompted an influential journal forum with Naomi Oreskes and John Cook. 

Beyond climate change, Warren has researched a wide range of scientific controversies including autism, Covid-19, plant genome editing, randomised controlled trials in policy, responsible innovation and science advice for global challenges. In 2022, he co-edited a book with colleagues in iHuman, Being Human During Covid-19, which distilled cutting-edge academic thinking on the pandemic into short chapters aimed at a broader public audience. 

Warren’s research in this area is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of an international project investigating why governments in the UK, Germany and Australia do not follow their own ethical advice in times of crisis. The research focuses on how issues become ‘ethical’ in public discourse, including on social media, and how ethics advice is used by policymakers. 

  1. How are digital platforms changing expertise?

Digital platforms such as search engines and social media have disrupted established hierarchies of knowledge and communication, facilitating fast and frictionless access to a seemingly infinite supply of knowledge and expertise. This has led to increasing concerns regarding public exposure to misinformation on topics such as climate change and Covid-19, prompting a huge volume of research defending against such content, such as debunking methods, but relatively little on where, why and how experts are building trust with publics on social media platforms. 

Warren’s research addresses this gap, with a particular focus on how a new generation of experts are harnessing social media platforms to curate and communicate both scientifically verified and ‘lay’ knowledge, and what this means for the future production and consumption of expertise in digital societies. Previously he has focused on climate change, with highly cited research on Twitter discussions of the IPCC, the ‘Climategate’ controversy, growing Twitter polarisation on climate change and what the transformed media landscape means for the IPCC’s communication strategy. In a project supported by the British Academy, Warren’s research in this theme has expanded to cover new issues, studying TikTok as a site for the circulation of evidence related to three policy controversies: monkeypox, low traffic neighbourhoods and gene editing. 

  1. What role do images play in online science communication?

As the technical capabilities of digital platforms increase, so images and visuals play an ever-increasing role in online communication. In this area of work, Warren has worked with a cross-disciplinary range of experts on methods for studying images across different social media platforms and, with Carlo De Gaetano, produced a range of posters on climate change visuals which combine empirical research, digital methods ‘recipes’ and innovative data visualisations. Warren and Carlo developed this research further with an exploration of how humans are absent from the visual representation of climate change in Google Images search results, an area that is being expanded upon in a new cross-country comparative project on the visual epistemologies of climate change and biodiversity.  

This work is being developed within Cultural Climate Models, a three-year interdisciplinary project supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, investigating how cultural forms model climate change. Warren’s work on the project, in conjunction with Yuting Yao  and Carolin Schwegler (University of Cologne) focuses on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to show how images and texts work together to articulate ethics and values, moving between ostensibly neutral climate facts (‘models of’) and normative social values (‘models for’).


Edited books

  • Martin P, de Saille S, Liddiard K & Pearce W (Eds.) (2022) Being Human During Covid-19. Bristol: Bristol University Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • Martin P, Saille SD, Liddiard K & Pearce W (2022) Introduction, Being Human During COVID-19 (pp. 1-10). Policy Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams R (2022) “I’ve Got People’s Spit All over Me!” Reflections on the Future of Life-Saving Stem Cell Donor Recruitment In Martin P, Liddiard K, Pearce W & de Saille S (Ed.), Being Human During COVID-19 (pp. 100-107). Bristol: Bristol University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Arthur KNA, Amanatidou E, Saille SD, Birabi T & Pandey P (2022) Where Will an Emerging Post-COVID-19 Future Position the Human? (pp. 117-123). Bristol University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Røstvik CM, Kennedy H, Aiello G & Anderson CW (2022) The Role of Everyday Visuals in ‘Knowing Humans’ During COVID-19, Being Human During COVID-19 (pp. 28-35). Bristol University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Martin P, Saille SD, Liddiard K & Pearce W (2022) Introduction (pp. 1-10). Bristol University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Martin P, Saille SD, Liddiard K & Pearce W (2022) Conclusion: Thinking about ‘the Human’ during COVID-19 Times (pp. 147-155). Bristol University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ballo R & Pearce W (2022) Making Models into Public Objects (pp. 13-19). Bristol University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Martin P, Saille SD, Liddiard K & Pearce W (2022) Conclusion: Thinking about ‘the Human’ during COVID-19 Times, Being Human During COVID-19 (pp. 147-155). Policy Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Martin P, Saille SD, Liddiard K & Pearce W (2022) Conclusion: Thinking about ‘the Human’ during COVID-19 Times, Being Human During COVID-19 (pp. 147-155). Bristol University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Martin P, de Saille S, Liddiard K & Pearce W (2022) Introduction, Being Human During COVID-19 (pp. 1-10). Bristol University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Vicari S & Yang Z (2022) Humans, COVID-19 and Platform Societies In Martin P, de Saille S, Liddiard K & Pearce W (Ed.), Being Human During COVID-19 (pp. 36-41). Bristol: Bristol University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2022) , Rethinking Food System Transformation Springer Nature Switzerland RIS download Bibtex download
  • Cook J & Pearce W (2019) Is emphasising consensus in climate science helpful for policymaking? In Hulme M (Ed.), Contemporary Climate Change Debates: A Student Primer (pp. 127-145). Abingdon: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Pearce W & Nerlich B (2018) ‘An Inconvenient Truth’: A social representation of scientific expertise. In Nerlich B, Hartley S, Raman S & Smith A (Ed.), Science and the Politics of Openness: Here be Monsters (pp. 212-230). Manchester: Manchester University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Pearce W & Nerlich B (2018) An Inconvenient Truth: a social representation of scientific expertise, SCIENCE AND THE POLITICS OF OPENNESS (pp. 212-229). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Pearce W & Paterson F (2017) The Influence of Policy, Public Service, and Local Politics on the Shift to a Low-Carbon Economy in the East Midlands, The Low Carbon Economy (pp. 33-57). Springer International Publishing RIS download Bibtex download


  • Hartley S, Pearce W, McLeod C, Gibbs B, Connelly S, Couto J, Moreira T, Murphy J, Smith R, Staykova M & Walls J (2016) The TERRAIN tool for teaching responsible research and innovation View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download


  • Borie M, Bruschi L, Chen A, Dell'Orto D, Hanchard M, Pearce W, Pilipets E, Quets A & Xu Z (2022) According to Google Images: Visual epistemologies of climate change and biodiversity loss. University of Amsterdam. RIS download Bibtex download

Theses / Dissertations

  • Pearce W The meanings of climate change policy: implementing carbon reduction in the East Midlands. RIS download Bibtex download



Research group

Warren is a frequent peer reviewer for journals in the fields of STS, public policy, digital media, and in climate change research across multiple disciplines.

ESRC Peer Review College, Member

Science in Public, Board member

Public Data Lab, Member

Engaging Science. Technology and Society, Editorial Board member

Humanities & Social Science Communication, Editorial Board member

Science, Technology and Medicine in Society (STEMiS) theme, Member

Postgraduate supervision
Warren has examined four PhDs in the UK and Australia and supervised three PhDs to successful completion.  Warren welcomes approaches from students who would like to study for a PhD broadly within the fields of science and technology studies (STS) and/or science communication, with a particular focus on digital methodologies, expertise on digital platforms, climate change and social media, environmental imagery, computer vision or the governance of climate knowledge. You can find general information about PhD studies in the department here.

Current PhD students: 

Jake Allcock: Understanding global sustainability communication on YouTube. Co-supervised with Ros Williams. Funded by University of Sheffield.

Ryan Hartfield: Infrastructure as Public Relations: Investigating the Intersection of Activism, Media and Carbon Dioxide Removal. Co-supervised with Ozge Ozduzen. Funded by White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership. 

Completed PhD students:

Zheng Yang - Citizen Science Communicators, Boundary-Work and Scientific Authority: Struggle for Discourse Authority between Scientists and the Public in the Digital Media Environment of China. Co-supervised with Stefania Vicari. Funded by Sheffield–China Scholarships Council PhD Scholarship Programme. Zheng is now Assistant Professor at Soochow University. 

August Lindemer – Planetary Fever: Climate Change and the Medical Profession. Co-supervised with Kate Dommett and Tom Stafford. Funded by Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. August is now Content Designer at Open Systems Lab.

Yu-Ning Chuang: Construction of risk society: A corpus-based analysis of climate change, global warming, and air pollution in Taiwanese political talk shows. Co-supervised with Jamie Coates. Self-funded.


Just Futures? An Interdisciplinary Approach to Cultural Climate Models (2023-26), AHRC/DfG (£273,774). Co-investigator. Lead investigators: David Higgins (Leeds), Julia Hoydis (Klagenfurt).

Ethics and Expertise Beyond Times of Crisis: Learning from international varieties of ethics advice (2023-26), ESRC (£870,978). Co-investigator. Lead investigator: Jessica Pykett (Birmingham).

Decolonising digital methods teaching: identifying opportunities for more inclusive curricula (2023), Faculty Education Support Fund (£4,296). Lead investigator.

Under What Conditions is Science Considered Relevant and Authoritative in Policy-Making? (2022-23), British Academy (£85,558). Co-investigator. Lead investigator: Kathryn Oliver (LSHTM).

Making Climate Social: Contributors, Content, Connections and Contexts in Social Media Climate Change Communication (2016-19), ESRC (£216,134). Lead investigator.

Responsible Research and Innovation: Challenges and Opportunities for Governance (2014), University of Nottingham Bridging the Gaps (£7,173). Lead investigator.

Teaching interests

Warren convenes Advancing with Digital Methods (SCS2019), a second year core module within the Digital Media and Society BA. The module introduces students to advanced tools, techniques and protocols for doing digital research; how to use them, how to evaluate them, and the context for their emergence and decline. The module currently focuses on three platforms, Google Search, YouTube and TikTok, demonstrating methods for each stage of the research process: 

  • designing research questions and queries, 
  • extracting and analysing platform data, 
  • crafting research protocols for robust data collection, and 
  • tools and techniques for data visualisation. 

Throughout the module, students gain confidence using digital methods, working both in groups and independently, presenting research results to their peers and writing research reports. In doing so, they learn how to interrogate how platform algorithms influence the visibility of different types of content, and so profoundly influence how public controversies are presented and debated online. Warren’s teaching is underpinned by cutting-edge research with a wide range of international collaborators, as well as an ongoing collaboration with the world-leading Digital Methods Initiative at University of Amsterdam. He also leads a project to decolonise digital methods teaching at the University of Sheffield, having won Faculty funding that enhanced student voice on the issue.

In his workshop-based teaching, Warren aims to foster a learning environment where students can discuss their ideas fearlessly, supported by the expertise he brings both from his own research and his classroom experiences. Coupled to this, he communicates the importance of an experimental approach in digital methods, where mistakes are important parts of learning. In these ways, Warren helps students to develop their own ways of thinking about the world, as opposed to memorising and recalling information with a focus on examinations, a key challenge of the transition from school to university learning.

In 2020, Warren was awarded the Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, recognition that his teaching attains the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and learning support in higher education. He is also an Academic Tutor to both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Partnerships, engagement and impact

Warren was a Contributing Author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Assessment Report 6. He contributed to a new section within Working Group 1’s report on Communication, Values and the IPCC Process which helped provide key social context through a reflective analysis of the organisation’s role and the reception and impact of its scientific assessments. 

Together with Suay Özkula, Warren led an event at the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. This was the first ever event on social media communication of climate change at the UN conference, showcasing research from the Making Climate Social project to an international, cross-disciplinary audience. The presentations included results of experimental ‘real-time’ research into social media activity at the conference itself.

In 2021, Warren was an invited member of the Government Office for Science Working Group on Trust in Public Institutions, which aimed to improve UK resilience after the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of the group, he contributed to identifying existing research, synthesising existing evidence and identifying research gaps in need of future investment. Report findings have informed the development of Areas of Research Interest, a key method for facilitating collaboration between academics and the UK government.