Dr John Downer

Dr John Downer

Dr John Downer
Senior Lecturer in Risk and Resilience

2.04, 11 Priory Road,
11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol
(See a map)


Telephone Number (0117) 331 7597

School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Personal profile

Ph.D. Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University 2007. Research Officer, London School of Economics' ESRC Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (CARR) 2007-9; Lecturer in Science Technology and Society, and Fellow: Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC); Stanford University 2009-20012. Lecturer in Risk and Reslience, Bristol, SPAIS, since 2012.



I have broad interests in the nexus between science, risk and governance. My work focuses on issues relating to the nature of expert authority, and the role of experts in debates about environmental and technological risk. I work closely with the Science and Technology Studies (STS), and the Sociology of Knowledge literatures in this regard. 

In previous work I have looked at engineering debates about testing, safety and regulation in the civil aviation and nuclear spheres. My current research focuses on the risks of complex technological infrastructures (particularly nuclear power), and on the technopolitics of environmental debates (particularly radiological pollution). 



Environment and Society (UG)

Understanding Risk (MA)

Science, Terchnology and Social Values (UG)

Key Social Thinkers (UG)

I welcome applications from prospective Ph.D. students with a range of interests relating to science, risk or the environment broadly concieved.

Fields of interest

Science and Technology Studies; Sociology of knowledge; Expertise; Disaster studies; Environment; Risk; Science; Engineering; Epistemology; Technology assessment.

Latest publications

  1. Downer, J, 2019, ‘On Ignorance and Apocalypse: A Brief Introduction To ‘Epistemic Accidents'’. in: Jean-Christophe LeCoze (eds) Safety Science Research: Evolution, Challenges and New Directions. CRC Press, Boca Raton
  2. Downer, J & Harrington, A, 2018, ‘Homo Atomicus: An Actor Worth Psychologizing?: The Problems of Applying Behavioral Economics to Nuclear Strategy’. in: Jeffrey Knoff, Anne Harrington (eds) Behavioral Economics and Nuclear Weapons.. University of Georgia Press
  3. Downer, J, 2017, ‘The Aviation Paradox: Why We Can ‘Know’ Jetliners But Not Reactors’. Minerva, vol 55., pp. 229-248
  4. Downer, J, 2016, ‘Resilience in Retrospect: Interpreting Fukushima’s disappearing consequences.’. in: A Herwig, M Simoncini (eds) Law and the Management of Disasters: The Challenge of Resilience. Routledge, pp. 42
  5. Downer, J, 2015, ‘The unknowable ceilings of safety: Three ways that nuclear accidents escape the calculus of risk assessments’. in: Behnam Taebi, Sabine Roeser (eds) Ethics of Nuclear Power: Risk, Justice and Democracy in the post-Fukushima Era. Cambridge University Press, pp. 17
  6. Downer, J, 2014, ‘Fukushima and the institutional invisibility of nuclear disaster’. The Ecologist.
  7. Downer, J, 2014, ‘In the shadow of Tomioka: On the institutional invisibility of nuclear disaster’. London School of Economics: Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation, pp. 1-33
  8. Downer, J, 2014, ‘Rationalising The Meltdown’. in: Peter Ladkin, Christoph Goeker, Bernd Sieker (eds) The Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident.. LIT Verlag, Munster, pp. 79-96
  9. Downer, J, 2014, ‘Disowning Fukushima: Managing the credibility of nuclear reliability assessment in the wake of disaster’. Regulation and Governance, vol 8., pp. 287-309
  10. Downer, J, 2013, ‘Bird strikes could ground Boris Isle of Grain airport plan’. The Conversation.

Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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