Photo of Dr David Benson

Dr David Benson

Research Interests

David Benson is an interdisciplinary social scientist with a background in both political and environmental sciences. His main areas of research are environmental politics, policy and governance in different national contexts.

Current research projects include:

Participatory approaches for enhancing transboundary cooperation on river basin flood management: the Lower Brahmaputra in Bangladesh

The lack of cooperation in managing transboundary water resources between India and Bangladesh is exacerbating downstream flood risk in the latter, thereby impacting its socio-economic development. One approach to enhancing transboundary cooperation is to involve multiple stakeholders, including the public, in managing flood risks. However, current transboundary river basin management institutions are top-down and government agency focused, with little input from flood affected local stakeholders. The project, supported by ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) funding, therefore aims to co-produce policy recommendations for better integrating public participation within transboundary river basin management institutions, in order to reduce flood risks, thereby enhancing socio-economic development.

Knowledge transfer on the sustainability benefits of concentrated solar water purification in India

India is experiencing chronic water shortages that are impacting its socio-economic development. Around 11% of its people currently do not have affordable access to clean water. Over-abstraction of groundwater and water pollution are widespread. Southern states such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are particularly impacted by water shortages. One potential policy response is to promote photovoltaic technology for desalination of water resources, particularly in rural areas with no energy grid connections. Scaling up of prototype technology to the national scale is at a preliminary stage, providing significant opportunities for influencing national and local policy. The aim of this interdisciplinary project, supported by  ESRC Impact Accleeration Account (IAA) funding, is therefore to transfer knowledge to policy makers in India on the potential sustainability benefits of concentrated photovoltaic and thermal (CPV/T) membrane desalination (MD) as a basis for policy learning and innovation.

Integrated water resouces management as an approach for climate adaptation: comparative lesson drawing

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the research will develop a multi-national network of scholars to examine the capacity of integrated water resources management (IWRM) as a governance strategy for addressing adaptation to climate change. The network will collaborate with researchers and policy makers in Bangladesh to establish adaptation issues in this country. Comparative research will then be conducted into how IWRM in the UK, Italy, Germany, Canada and India is being employed to manage such impacts as a basis for lesson drawing for Bangladesh. This research will commence in September 2014.

Transnational Network Governance: Greening EU Africa Relations?

This research, supported by the British Academy Newton Fund, is led by Dr Camilla Adelle (GovInn, University of Pretoria). The funding will enable collaboration between researchers in the UK and South Africa to further develop analyses of the effectiveness of European Union policy transfer networks in Africa, with a focus on water and climate change network governance.


Recent completed research projects include:

Floods governance in the UK

Supported by the University of Exeter Discretionary Fund, this research will compare floods governance in two case study areas: the South West and East Anglia. Of particular interest to the research aims is how local actor preferences are integrated into central government flood management priorities.

Collaborative floods governance

This research project, funded by the ESRC's Impact Cultivation Award scheme, will seek to disseminate existing research on UK collaborative floods governance to stakeholders such as the Environment Agency and local government. Generation of research 'impact' will include the production of a research report, policy note and feedback sessions for policy actors.

Lesson-drawing on climate governance between the UK and Mexico

Conducted in collaboration with colleagues at the Free University of Berlin and the University of East Anglia, this research will examine how lessons on climate policy were transferred between the UK and Mexico via trans-national networks of policy actors. It will focus primarily on how the UK Climate Change Act 2008 influenced the development of Mexican national-level climate policy, which was adopted in 2013. The aim of the research is to determine the factors facilitataing transfer on climate policy innovations in order to make recommendations to other countries on how they could learn from UK approaches. The research is sponsored by the University of Exeter and will involve interviewing policy-makers in Mexico and the UK.

Catchment management in Brazil

Dr Benson is also Co-investigator on the CONFAP-RCUK Newton Fund project 'Participative governance and collaborative integrated management at catchment scale for sustainable intensification of smallholder family farming' which is led by Prof Laurence Smith, SOAS, University of London. The research aims to transfer lessons on multi-stakeholder participation in catchment management to Brazil from partners in the UK.

Comparative climate governance and lesson drawing

This research, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office under its China Prosperity Strategic Programme Fund, was conducted in conjunction with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Jinan University. The research compared evaluative mechanisms for assessing the effectiveness of UK and Californian climate policy as a basis for drawing lessons for potential transfer to the China context. Results will help inform provincial level policy in Guangdong and will also aid development of the next national five year plan.

Assessing the regulatory framework for algal biomass production in the EU

This research was conducted in partnership with InCrops at the University of East Anglia and Cambridge University as part of the EU INTERREG EnAlage project. The research compared national regulatory contexts for algal biomass production in six EU states and Switzerland in order to help provide recommendations for promoting future development of this emerging industry.

Constructing the green economy: integrating sustainability for governance?

This research, sponsored by the ESRC under its Research Seminar Scheme, examined how well the green economy is developing in the UK and other countries. It was particularly concerned with understanding the extent to which government fiscal cycles, businesses and social policy were integrating long term sustainability in order to achieve a 'greening' of the wider economy.

Dr Benson is also currently engaged in research into: collaborative catchment management; EU energy and transport policy; PV technology regulation; and policy tools development.