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"I am interested in the patterns and practices of everyday life, and how they shape the governance of, and change towards, more sustainable consumption, and more effective drought and climate change adaptation.”

Dr Alison Browne

Research Fellow

Alison Browne is a Research Fellow at the Sustainable Consumption Institute and Geography at The University of Manchester. Alison has a number of active and interdisciplinary research projects on everyday practice and sustainable consumption; dirt, cleanliness and freshness; and the governance of water resources, drought, and climate change adaptation. Alison is the 'Knowledge Exchange Coordinator' for the SCI, with knowledge exchange and 'co-produced' interdisciplinary, stakeholder engaged science strongly defining much of her work. Alison has held previous appointments as a Senior Research Associate at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK (2010-2012); Research Fellow at the Research Centre for Stronger Communities, Curtin University, Western Australia (2009-2010); and as a research scientist at the CSIRO, Australia (2007-2009).

Alison’s current research is structured around the following research projects focused on transitions towards sustainable water consumption, demand management, and climate change adaptation:

  1. The Unilever/SCI Strategic Research partnership on Environmental Leapfrogging with Dr David Evans started in 2013. This project is funded by Unilever and considers the key mechanisms for change towards sustainable water consumption for the Global South with an emerging regional focus on India and China.
  2. The INTERREG DROP project on drought adaptation and governance which was started in January 2013 and will continue until Summer of 2015. Alison leads the UK governance Case Study of Somerset, and has also participated in the 5 other case study visits (Germany, France, Netherlands and Belgium). This project aims to provide a litmus test of where water scarcity and drought adaptation governance ‘is at’ in North West Europe, and to work with non-academic project partners to enhance the adaptation measures being taken in these 6 regions, and North West Europe more generally. For a first reflection on the difficulties of the Somerset case study in context of dealing with the climatic extremes of flood and drought please refer to the following blog:
  3. Cultures of Hygiene and Cleanliness in the UK. Through a range of methodologies (e.g., focus groups, in-situ interviews, observation) and case studies (e.g., experience of disruption at festivals), this project explores the dynamics of cultures of cleanliness and hygiene, experiences of disruption, and considers influences to the trajectories of water (and related resource) sustainability linked to hygiene and cleanliness. Part of this project focused on Festivals is done in collaboration with Dr Russell Hitchings (UCL) and Tullia Jack (Lund).
  4. InterDEW -  InterDEW is funded by the UMRI (University of Manchester Research Institute) pump priming fund which was developed to take forward the Manchester Strategic Vision 2020 goal of establishing the University as a key centre for interdisciplinary research.   The InterDEW project intends to nurture a network of interdisciplinary scientists and relevant stakeholders to co-define the research agenda(s) for understanding how the change in demand for energy and water can be understood, and projected, into the future and to highlight future opportunities for collaboration and agenda setting for demand based research in the UK and beyond.

Recently Completed Projects

  1. Sustainable Practices Research Group ‘Patterns of Water’ project  (co-funded by the ESRC and ESRC ARCC-Water project). This project explored through a quantitative survey and linked qualitative data the diversity and patterns of practice related to water consumption in the home in South and South East England.
  2. NERC Valuing Nature Network Project on Stocks and Flows of Natural and Human Derived Capital in Ecosystems Services.

Recent Publications

(Full list available at:

Browne, A.L., Medd, W., Anderson, B., & Pullinger, M. (2014 – accepted in press Nov). Method as intervention: Intervening in practice through qualitative and mixed methodologies. In Y. Strengers & C. Maller (Eds.)., Social practices, intervention and sustainability: Beyond behaviour change. Routledge.

Browne, A.L., Medd, W., Pullinger, M., & Anderson, B. (2014). Distributed demand and the sociology of water efficiency. In K. Adeyeye (Ed.)., Water efficiency in the built environment: A review of practice and theory. (pp. 78-84). UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Browne, A.L., Pullinger, M., Medd, W., & Anderson, B. (2014). Patterns of practice: A reflection on the development of quantitative/mixed methodologies in capturing everyday life related to water consumption in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17 (1), 27-43.

Pullinger, M., Anderson, B., Browne, A.L., & Medd, W. (2013). New directions for understanding household water demand. AQUA – Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology, 62(8), 496-506.

Dessai, S., Browne, A.L. & Harou, J.J. (2013). Introduction to the Special Issue on “Adaptation and Resilience of Water Systems to an Uncertain Changing Climate” Water Resources Management, 27(4), 1013-1035. 

Browne, A.L., Anderson, B., and Medd, W (2013). Developing novel approaches to tracking domestic water demand under uncertainty – A reflection on the “up scaling” of social science approaches in the United Kingdom. Water Resources Management. [This article received a highlighted commendation in the British Sociological Society ‘Climate Change Study Group’ Article Prize 2013].

Current PhD Students

Beth Brockett – Interdisciplinary approach to agricultural grassland management for ecosystems services delivery (Funder: NERC/Living with Environment Change)

Claire Hoolohan – Place based programs for water efficiency (Funder: ESRC NWDTC Case Studentship with Thames Water)


Twitter: @dralibrowne


Selected documents

Browne, A. L., Pullinger, M., Medd, W. & Anderson, B. (2013) 'Patterns of practice: A reflection on the development of quantitative/mixed methodologies capturing everyday life related to water consumption in the UK', International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17 (1), pp. 27-43.

This paper reflects, critically, on the attempt to scale a practice-based perspective into a quantitative survey on water consumption and practice in homes in the south and South-East of England.

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Browne, A. L., Anderson, B. & Medd, W. (2012) Developing novel approaches to tracking domestic water demand under uncertainty - A reflection on the "up scaling" of social science approaches in the United Kingdom, Water Resources Management, 27(4), pp. 1013-1035.

A journal article on climate change, socio-demographic change and changing patterns of ordinary consumption are creating new and unpredictable pressures on urban water resources in the UK.

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Browne, A. L., Medd, W., Pullinger, M.,& Anderson, B. (2013) Patterns of Water: laundry, bathroom and gardening practices of households in the South East of England in Britain in 2013, ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council): London.

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