Karen joined the OU in March 2016 as a Research Fellow in Collaborative Governance in the Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise (PuLSE). She is involved with one of the University's priority research areas aimed at addressing 21st century global challenges, Citizenship and Governance, rethinking the changing relationships between states, markets and citizens in the 21st century and the challenges of governance and leadership - including climate change.
With a background in environmental management and planning, Karen initially worked in practice at the Forestry Commission and as Local Authority Planner, involved in the development of regeneration partnerships and task groups across departments, government agencies and stakeholders (flood risk, water quality, access, natural environment). It was due to the institutional challenges experienced as a practitioner, endeavoring to implement novel policy in natural flood risk management, that she returned to academia and was drawn to interpretative policy analysis methods to challenge environmental policy transition and transformation. Previously lecturing in the Department of Geography and Planning (University of Liverpool), Karen is now extending her interdisciplinary research to collaborative governance theory, to gain further insight into the challenges faced by practitioners and policy makers involved in water management, wider environmental partnerships and climate change adaptation.
Education and qualifications:
Karen's research explores environmental change through theoretically informed, interpretative and comparative policy analysis. She sees herself as a ‘pracademic’, connecting theory to effect practice; to understand policy implementation deficits and the feasibility of environmental change within the limits of dominant neo-liberal and techno-centric discourses. Her aim is to question current governance models and institutionalised thinking and (within the limits of current governance models) to clarify practitioners’ ‘obstacles’ in order to facilitate policy transition and transformation.
Her particular area of expertise is the integration of spatial planning and flood risk management, particularly natural flood management, understanding the socio-political forces that increase flood risk, how spatial planning policy can contribute to risk governance in hazard-prone areas, how planners can integrate with neighbouring sectors and stakeholders to bring about land use change and resilience to climate change. As her own academic background spans the natural and social sciences, in addition to being applied and practitioner facing, she is drawn to transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, working with engineers, physical geographers, ecologists, environmental scientists and other disciplines within and external to the OU.
Achieving Urban Flood Resilience in an Uncertain Future (EPSRC funded research):
Karen is currently working with OU colleague Dr. Tudor Vilcan and a multi-disciplinary research consortium on the EPSRC-funded research project - 'Achieving Flood Resilience in an Uncertain Future', led by Professor Colin Thorne, University of Nottingham. The multi-disciplinary project aims to enable the coordinated planning, design and operation of closely coupled urban water systems necessary to achieve transformative change in urban flood risk and water management. Karen and Tudor's aim in WP5 is to establish how resilient urban flood risk management service can be put at the heart of urban planning and how barriers to innovation can be overcome despite uncertainties in future urban climates, land-use, development and political leadership.
Open University PI (Lead - University of Nottingham), £270k, EPSRC (2016-2019)
Previous research projects and activity include:
Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis; Journal of Flood Risk Management; International Journal of Water Governance; Town Planning Review; Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy & Management
Primary PhD Supervision:
Elizabeth Hammett: Institutional Resilience? Developing an Enhanced Model for Catchment Based Governance, in partnership with the Ribble Rivers Trust, (2015-ongoing)
Thea Wingfield: Developing a ‘Toolbox’ for Natural Flood Risk Management, NERC, (University of Liverpool, 2014-ongoing)
Lecturer, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool (2011-2016)
Karen previously contributed to the continued development of a varied portfolio of UG, PGT and PGR modules and programmes in Planning, Geography and Environmental Management. Module co-ordinator for Masters Dissertations (50-100 students), 2nd yr UG Environmental Sustainability (100-180 students), contribution to Spatial Planning in Action, Cities and Regions,Human Impacts on the Environment, Green Infrastructure, Making Plans and Planning Practice Placement. She was Director of Postgraduate Research for Planning, with overarching responsibility for 34 PhD students, moderator for Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) China modules and former discipline Assessment Officer, delivering on and advising on the University's design, implementation and review of assessment, e.g. academic integrity policy, progression requirements, Module Review Boards and the External Examination process.
Karen's pedagogical research explored interdisciplinary perspectives in ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ and the lecturer’s challenge of implementing the University strategy of internationalisation of the curriculum at the ‘chalk face’. She was Co-I in the University of Liverpool Faculty Teaching Pilot (Environmental Sustainability), 'After the earthquake adapting to large changes in student cohorts' (2015).
Karen is a member of the Defra/EA/WG/NRW Thematic Advisory Group (TAG) for Flood Risk Management Policy, Strategy and Investment (2014-present). Theme Advisory Groups (TAGs) support Defra/EA/WG/NRW Joint Programme of flood and coastal erosion risk management research and development in a horizon scanning capacity and in the development of research proposals.
Karen is working with the Ribble Rivers Trust and Ribble Life as part of DEFRA's more holistic catchment-based approach to better engage with people and organisations in river basin management, with PhD researchers, Beth Hammett and Thea Wingfield, and colleagues Carol Jacklin-Jarvis (OU) and Neil Macdonald (University of Liverpool).
Karen is also a long standing member of the River Restoration Centre (2005 – present), British Hydrological Society (2007 – present) and was previously Chair and Deputy Chair of the RTPI Cymru/Wales Policy and Research Forum (2010 – 2017).
Honorary Research Fellow, University of Liverpool (Geography and Planning).