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Dr Kerry Holden


Lecturer in Human Geography

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 5405
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 106


My work sits within the fields of social studies of science and technology, and contributes to the burgeoning field of geographies of science. My research interests explore several themes that include the moral and political economies of science in relation to scientific careers and institutional management. Another area of interest concerns the co-production of science and political cultures in South East Asia and East Africa. Through my teaching I explore science policymaking and urbanism in the UK and US. Prior to coming to Queen Mary, I completed my MA and PhD in human geography at King’s College London. I completed my BA at Goldsmiths’ College in Anthropology.

Key Publications

  • Holden, K., (forthcoming), Lamenting the golden age: Labour, love and loss in the collective memory of scientists, Science as Culture
  • Holden, K. and Demeritt, D. (2008) ‘Democratising Science? The Politics of Promoting Biomedicine in Singapore’s Developmental State,’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26 (1) 68–86


I teach three undergraduate modules that reflect my research interests:

In Introducing Qualitative Research Methods students are asked to think about how knowledge in human geography is made; what makes it believable and convincing? There are lots of philosophies that form the foundations of research in human geography. As active researchers, members of staff use these philosophies regularly to support their work. The trouble is that students don’t often see how research is made; they only have access to the finished product of a book or journal article. In this module students’ have the opportunity to create knowledge by working in groups on a mini-research project that they themselves oversee, from setting out the research questions, to designing and conducting interviews, to analyzing data and writing a report. Students’ will progress through the research process while getting to know each other and the teaching staff. In previous years, students have found the theoretical lectures challenging and interesting, and enjoyed putting what they have learnt into the practical aspects of the course.

What previous students liked about the module:
Learning the skills that are important for qualitative research in a clear way, for example, guidance for interviewing was clearly constructed and very useful

2013/14 is the first year Boston Reworked: the Making of an American City will run. The module will be taught by three of staff members – Professor Miles Ogborn, Dr Alastair Owens and myself – each looking at a different aspect of the city’s development since its founding in the 17th Century. My focus will be to introduce students to Boston as an internationally recognized hub of scientific research. We’ll look at the development of universities such as MIT and Harvard, as well as community based participatory science and technology that challenges the big institutions of science. The module includes a field trip to Boston to experience and explore the city first hand.

Geographies of Science is about relations between science and society. The module introduces students to the history of social studies of science and its impact in geography.  In particular, students are encouraged to think about science differently and to see it as socially constructed. The teaching is based on a lecture-seminar model, with the lecture developing questions for discussion. Students are required to read designated texts and to develop their learning through lively seminar discussions. I also use films, art and literature to demonstrate how relations between science and society have taken shape in different parts of the world and at different historical moments: for example, we consider the biotech revolution in South East Asia in relation to nationhood, identity and cultural norms. We also look at capacity building in science and technology in East Africa in relation to postcolonial criticism and histories of science. Previous students have found the module challenged their preconceptions of science and society, and stimulated their critical thinking.

Students testimonials:
“I think it was a good innovative module that has helped me to think about the world differently. It has allowed me to open my mind up to practices of science around the word”


Research Interests:

My research interests are in geographies and anthropologies of science and technology. I am currently focused on two pieces of research: moral and political economies of science; and science and political deliberation in Uganda.

Moral and political economies of science
My concern is to revitalize rather dated studies in the professional ethos and norms of science and scholarship. I am interested in the management and governance of research environments, such as universities, and its subjective effects with particular reference to the reproduction of scientific and intellectual labour and the formation of professional ethics and norms. This work is based on my PhD thesis that used ethnographic and narrative based interviewing with scientists working in one research center to show how contemporary research environments are characterized by a tension between science as vocation and science as a job; between what might be understood as myths of science and the everyday materialities of financialised and managed institutional environments. Drawing on work in the history of science, my work focusses on the dialectics of this tension with regard to labour, value and identity.

Trans-national expertise, political deliberation and science capacity building in East Africa
I am currently developing research on science and political deliberation in Uganda. I have worked in collaboration with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology to examine capacity building on science and technology in the Ugandan parliament. The 2000s represented a decade of major donor interest in Uganda’s handling of science and technology. My interest is in the status of transnational expertise on science communication and policymaking, the modes of representation and intervention used to legitimate capacity building and the kinds of professionals that make up this sector. I combine this ethnographic research with archival and theoretical work in the history of science in Africa to develop a thick description of how scientific and technical knowledge and expertise imbricate with political deliberation within a legislative arena.

Scientists on Public Engagement
I previously worked on the ScoPE Project (Scientists on Public Engagement) at London School of Economics funded by the Wellcome Trust. This research involved interviewing 30 established biomedical scientists about their experiences and perspectives of public engagement in science. The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust’s stream on public engagement. A key finding to emerge from the research concerned the impact of public engagement, and the requirement to do it, on science as a vocation, which many interviewees noted now included more ethical reflection of the social use and value of research. The end of project report, Public Culture as Professional Science is available to read here.


  • Holden, K., (forthcoming), Lamenting the golden age: Labour, love and loss in the collective memory of scientists, Science as Culture
  • Holden, K. and Demeritt, D. (2008) ‘Democratising Science? The Politics of Promoting Biomedicine in Singapore’s Developmental State,’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26 (1) 68-86


  • Burchell, K., Franklin, S. and Holden, K. (2009) Public Culture as Professional Science, London: London School of Economics

Public Engagement

I currently work with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) to evaluate their POST in Africa programme. This involves collaborating with practitioners and researchers in the UK and Uganda to assess the impact and influence of capacity building work in the Ugandan parliament.

Previously, I evaluated the impact and efficacy of POST in the UK parliament. This involved interviewing over 50 MPs and Peers about the use of scientific information in parliamentary business.  

I also co-authored the MASIS report on science and society relations in the UK. The report is available to view here: MASIS Report

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