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Biography

Frans Berkhout is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy and Professor of Environment, Society and Climate at King’s College London. He joined King’s in 2013.

He was previously Director of the Future Earth programme, based at the International Council for Science (ICSU) in Paris, and Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at the VU University Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Before that, he held posts at SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), University of Sussex, and was Director of the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s Global Environmental Change and Sustainable Technologies programmes.

Frans holds a BSc in Geography (Leeds, 1983) and a PhD in Science and Technology Policy Studies (Sussex, 1989). He completed his post-doctoral research at Princeton University.

Amongst other advisory roles, Frans was a lead author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 4th and 5th Assessment Reports (2007 and 2014) and a member of the Social Science Panel of the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

He sits on the editorial boards of Research Policy, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning and The Anthropocene Review. He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the IPCC.

Frans’ early research was concerned with the economic, political and security aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. Since then, his work has been concerned with science, technology, policy and sustainability, with a focus on climate change.

Research

  • Systems innovation: the theoretical, methodological and empirical study of change in large socio-technical systems, including energy, transport, agro-food and urban systems. His work is informed by the history, economics and sociology of technical change and is concerned with understanding and informing ‘transitions’ towards more sustainable systems of provision. His recent work has sought to bridge between modelling, transitions studies and action research approaches to understanding transition processes, and to understand the mobility and wider influence of sustainability experiments.
  • Climate change adaptation: research on the incentives, constraints and limits to adaptation by organisations and other social actors. His work is informed by behavioural organisational theory and policy studies, understanding that the adaptive capacity of actors is institutionally-situated. His interest flows from his work in the IPCC on ‘limits to adaptation’ and the application of a risk-based approach that he helped develop for the problem of ‘loss and damage’ in the UNFCCC. He is interested in developing approaches to specifying limits to adaptation that may inform novel approaches to the governance of losses suffered as actors reach such limits.
  • Co-production of knowledge: sustainability science and research deals with deep and complex problems and aims to inform awareness and change. Environmental knowledge is distributed and changes in policy and practice are more likely when researchers and practitioners collaborate in producing knowledge. He has promoted and written about this more integrated approach to knowledge, and his current focus is through PATHWAYS, a Wellcome Trust-funded project aiming to improve urban health equity.

Frans has extensive research, research management and research training experience across a number of fields. His early research was concerned with the economic, political and security aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive waste management. His more recent work has been concerned with science, technology, policy and sustainability, with a focus on climate change.

Teaching

PhD supervision

  • Climate change adaptation: measuring effectiveness
  • Limits to climate change adaptation: a risk approach
  • Governance responses to ‘loss and damage’ as a result of climate change
  • The geography of socio-technical transitions
  • Linking analytical approaches for analysing socio-technical transitions
  • Experimenting for sustainability transitions

Further details

See Frans' research profile