Dr Warren Pearce
BA (Hons), MA, MA, PhD
Department of Sociological Studies
+44 114 222 6454
Full contact details
Department of Sociological Studies
Warren is Senior Lecturer within iHuman, leading the Institute’s "Knowing Humans" research theme. His academic interests began with a BA in Geography & Politics at Sheffield, where he developed an interest in environmental politics. On leaving the university, he spent a decade working in music retail and distribution, including his own wholesale business specialising in dance music. He then returned to academia, completing MAs in Public Policy and Research Methods at the University of Nottingham, while working for Intelligence East Midlands, a regional research observatory. He completed a PhD on the local implementation of climate change policy in 2013, where he found that carefully calibrated, scientifically-derived emissions targets had very different meanings at national and local levels, with significant implications for the implementation of climate policy.
From 2012-2016, Warren was a Research Fellow within the University of Nottingham’s Institute for Science and Society working on Making Science Public, a wide-ranging five-year Leverhulme Trust programme focused on the relationship between science, politics and publics. He then joined the University of Sheffield as a Research Fellow in 2016, as Principal Investigator on the ESRC-funded Future Research Leaders project ‘Making Climate Social’, focusing on how climate change is represented and discussed on social media and other digital platforms. In 2019, he was promoted to Senior Lecturer.
Warren is a Contributing Author for the Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), assessing the literature on the role of values in climate science and the communication of climate change on both mainstream and social media. This section of the report will, for the first time, frame the IPCC’s physical science assessment in terms of the social context for scientific knowledge, responding to a call from the IPCC leadership to attend more explicitly to such issues. He has also been an invited speaker at the United Nations’ COP23 conference, the Met Office and the Royal Society, written for The Guardian, and had his research reported across international media including Der Spiegel, De Volkskrant, Newsweek, Scientific American and The Independent.
- Research interests
Warren’s research explores how science is used in public debates about politics and policy, with a current focus on three areas:
- the use of scientific evidence, advice and assessment in policy work
- how digital platforms are changing experts and expertise
- the role of images in online science communication
He has researched these themes extensively through a series of journal articles examining the public life of climate change. He has also published research on other prominent cases such as plant genome editing, autism, responsible innovation and the use of randomised controlled trials in policy. Warren employs interpretive, digital and comparative research methods, collaborating with information designers to rethink approaches to visualisation for interpretive research. He has published in a wide range of high-impact academic journals across the natural, social and health sciences such as Nature, Nature Climate Change, Public Understanding of Science, Environmental Communication, PLOS-ONE, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Policy Sciences and Policy & Politics.
Warren is a team member of two international projects funded by the US National Science Foundation investigating expertise and science advice in the pandemic: CoMpCore based at Harvard and Cornell Universities and EScAPE based at the University of Colorado. He sits on the Board of Science in Public, the Steering Committee of Sheffield’s Digital Society Network, and is an enthusiastic public communicator of research via Twitter and blogs. He also contributes to the department’s STeMiS research theme.
- Trouble in the trough : how uncertainties were downplayed in the UK’s science advice on Covid-19. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 7(1). View this article in WRRO
- Learning the lessons of Climategate: A cosmopolitan moment in the public life of climate science. WIREs Climate Change, 11(6).
- Visual cross-platform analysis: digital methods to research social media images. Information, Communication & Society, 23(2), 161-180. View this article in WRRO
- View this article in WRRO Troubles in climate journalism. Issues in Science and Technology, 36(1), 12-13.
- Why setting a climate deadline is dangerous. Nature Climate Change, 9(8), 570-572.
- NGO perspectives on the social and ethical dimensions of plant genome-editing. Agriculture and Human Values. View this article in WRRO
- What do we know about public attitudes towards experts? Reviewing survey data in the United Kingdom and European Union. Public Understanding of Science. View this article in WRRO
- The social media life of climate change: Platforms, publics, and future imaginaries. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 10(2). View this article in WRRO
- Autism scientists' reflections on the opportunities and challenges of public engagement: a qualitative analysis.. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. View this article in WRRO
- Science advice for global challenges: Learning from trade-offs in the IPCC. Environmental Science & Policy, 80, 125-131. View this article in WRRO
- Reply to Tagliabue. EMBO reports, 19(4).
- Three lessons from evidence-based medicine and policy: increase transparency, balance inputs and understand power. Palgrave Communications, 3. View this article in WRRO
- Why are NGOs sceptical of genome editing? NGOs’ opposition to agricultural biotechnologies is rooted in scepticism about the framing of problems and solutions, rather than just emotion and dogma. EMBO Reports, 18(12), 2090-2093. View this article in WRRO
- A Reply to Cook and Oreskes on Climate Science Consensus Messaging. Environmental Communication: a journal of nature and culture, 11(6), 736-739. View this article in WRRO
- Beyond Counting Climate Consensus. Environmental Communication, 11(6), 723-730. View this article in WRRO
- Against the tide of depoliticisation: The politics of research governance. Policy and Politics. View this article in WRRO
- Transparency: issues are not that simple. Nature, 531(7592).
- Randomised trials in context: practical problems and social aspects of evidence-based medicine and policy. Trials, 16(1). View this article in WRRO
- Reply to 'Clarity of meaning in IPCC press conference'. Nature Climate Change, 5(11), 963-963.
- Communicating climate change: conduits, content, and consensus. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 6(6), 613-626.
- Tension between scientific certainty and meaning complicates communication of IPCC reports. Nature Climate Change, 5(8), 753-756.
- The new randomised controlled trials (RCT) movement in public policy: challenges of epistemic governance. Policy Sciences, 47(4), 387-402.
- Evidence and policy: discourses, meanings and practices. Policy Sciences, 47(4), 339-344.
- Scientific data and its limits: rethinking the use of evidence in local climate change policy. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 10(2), 187-203. View this article in WRRO
- Evidence and meaning in policy making. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 10(2), 161-165.
- An open letter toThe BMJeditors on qualitative research. BMJ, i563-i563.
- Climate Change on Twitter: Topics, Communities and Conversations about the 2013 IPCC Working Group 1 Report. PLoS ONE, 9(4), e94785-e94785. View this article in WRRO
- 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.
- ‘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.
- 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
- View this article in WRRO The TERRAIN tool for teaching responsible research and innovation
Theses / Dissertations
- Teaching interests
Warren convenes Advancing with Digital Methods, 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 (sometimes rapid) decline. Warren shares his expertise and practical experience of using digital methods gained during the Making Climate Social project, building on training and collaboration with the world-leading Digital Methods Initiative.
He is also a co-investigator on TERRAIN, a cross-university, interdisciplinary team of teachers and researchers who create resources for teaching social science concepts to postgraduate and doctoral STEM students. He also contributes to other modules within Sociological Studies and the Department of Geography. 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.
Warren aims to engender a learning environment where students can discuss their ideas fearlessly, supported by the expertise he brings both from his own research and his classroom experience. Coupled to this, he communicates the importance of an experimental approach in digital methods, where mistakes are important parts of learning. This ties in with a key principle for transitioning from school to university learning: the ability to develop our own ways of thinking about the world, as opposed to memorising and recalling information with a focus on examinations.
- Professional activities
- 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
- Engaging Science. Technology and Society, Editorial Board member
- Humanities & Social Science Communication, Editorial Board member
- Climate Visuals, Advisory Board member
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Contributing Author AR6 WG1
- PhD Students
Warren welcomes approaches from students who would like to study for a PhD that apply STS (science and technology studies) approaches to climate change, explore controversies over expert knowledge, critically study science communication, and/or employ digital visual methods. You can find general information about PhD studies in the department here.
Potential projects could include, but are not limited to:
- Re-drawing the boundaries of truth: science in press conferences from cold fusion to coronavirus
- Science advice to government: a feminist approach
- Making and breaking consensus within science for policy
- Image and imaginaries in online representations of climate change
- Do common modelling standards exist between different scientific disciplines?
Current PhD students:
August Lindemer: Planetary Fever – The Climate Change Communication of Health Professionals (funded by Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures)
Yu-Ning Chuang: Construction of risk society: A corpus-based analysis of climate change, global warming, and air pollution in Taiwanese political talk shows
Zheng Yang: Citizen Scientists, Boundary-work and Scientific Authority: Struggle for Discourse Authority between Scientists and the Public in New Media Environment of China