Improving the consideration of uncertainty in environmental impact assessment (BONDA1_U18SF)

University of East Anglia
September 13 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) field is currently debating the effectiveness of this decision-making tool (Bond et al., 2014), and this research aims to contribute to this debate. A particular issue is that EIA aims to predict the outcomes of a project, and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) the outcomes of plan or policy interventions. All these cases involve considerable uncertainty; and this is troublesome for decision makers.

Decision making generally involves what is called ‘normal' science, which involves straightforward scientific problem-solving, and the ‘normal' transfer of objective scientific knowledge into policy (Ravetz, 1999). Normal science cannot be applied to uncertain problems as cause and effect are not clear; and policy-making is not considered to take place in an objective way.

Therefore Funtowicz and Ravetz (1994a; 1994b) argued for the application of post-normal science to situations where either uncertainty, or decision stakes (or both) are high (for example, climate change). This research aims to identify how post-normal EIA and SEA might work in practice.

The project will rely on case study approaches and engagement (through interviews and focus groups) with a series of stakeholders to validate post-normal approaches to EIA and/or SEA capable of accommodating the uncertainty associated with prediction into the future.

This research approach will help to develop the following skills:

  • Literature review and analysis

  • Focus group organisation and analysis

  • Interview techniques

  • Competence in use of software analysis packages including NVivo and R for statistical analysis

  • Theory development

The research will be embedded in the 3S (Science, Society and Sustainability) research group ( within the School of Environmental Sciences.

Opportunities are also available for UK students, and others who are eligible for Research Council studentships, to apply for ESRC funding to work on similar topics in this area. Please see for more information and contact Alan Bond ( if you are eligible.

Funding notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources.  Details of tuition fees can be found at

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research.  The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess

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