Dr. Brian Cook


Brian before grey hair

Brian is originally from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. He has a BA (Honours) in Geography from the University of Victoria, Canada, an MA in Geography from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and a PhD from the Institute of Hazard, Risk, and Resilience (part of the Geography Department) at Durham University, UK. He is presently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne. Before coming to the University of Melbourne, he held a Postdoctoral Researcher position at the UNESCO Centre for Water at the University of Dundee, UK.


Brian’s research explores the topics of water, risk, scientific knowledge, expertise, and sustainable development. His recent research emphasises the role of scientific knowledge in environmental governance, situating the work at the science-society interface. He explores the (often) hidden power embedded in the knowledge used to inform governance, most often relating to water and flood management. He is an applied social scientist with interest in the geographies of risk and development. He uses environmental controversies as entry points, exploring the prevailing or dominant knowledges that inform policy and practice. He employs mixed methods, primarily qualitative, to engage with knowledge construction, calculation, and transfer in both developing and developed world contexts. His research is situated in multiple contexts (i.e., Australia, Cambodia, Canada, the UK, and Bangladesh) and across multiple scales.

Brian and his important people.

Brian uses the social sciences to analyse how and why particular forms of knowledge become established and persist. This has enabled collaboration and engagement with NGOs, scientists, engineers, and policy makers. It is through an understanding of practitioners’ expertise and experiences that a better understanding of  governance is possible. Using science and technology studies (STS) and human geography as a foundation, his research is driven by recognition for the increasing complexity of sustainable development due to social, economic, political, and climate change. These themes coalesce around the disaster-development relationship, contributing to the wider issue of sustainable development.

Cambodian Project

Brian’s efforts for this project involve overseeing the activities, updating the website (far too irregularly), and ensuring delivery of the outputs. Broadly, the project aligns with Brian’s wider research focus on expert knowledge,

Brian picking mung beans.

decision-making, participation between publics-experts, and his long-standing work on risk. Like Brian’s other projects, this work is developing and testing (empirically) different models of interaction and engagement, with his wider hope being improved relationships between those struggling to improve and those with the power to help.