Dr Hugh Williamson

Research Fellow

Byrne House SF6

Social Anthropologist and Research Fellow on the Alan Turing Institute-funded project "From Field Data to Global Indicators: Towards a Framework for Intelligent Plant Data Linkage". The project is a historical, sociological and philosophical investigation of contemporary data linkage efforts in plant science, with particular focus on crop and agricultural research.

Based within the Data Studies group at Egenis, the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences.

Research interests:

  • Plant, agricultural and ecological sciences
  • Plant breeding and biotechnology
  • Quantitative genetics and selection theory
  • Conservation and rural development
  • Romania and Anglo-Romanian relations

Research group links

Research interests

My research interests have long been shaped by themes from within the anthropology of science and STS, especially studies of the biomedical sciences, although this has taken me to a range of different places. Currently, I am focused on the history, philosophy and anthropology of plant science, and in particular the sciences of crop diversity and their connection to global paradigms of development and conservation. A crucial axis of this research is understanding plant and related scientific data and their management, and I am an active participant of the Data Studies group within Egenis. The research project has a strong collaborative and interdisciplinary emphasis.

For my doctoral research at Cambridge, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in an agroecological conservation area in Transylvania, Romania. This work focused on the history of British conservation and rural development projects, and the way in which young, educated Romanians were engaging with and transforming these.


I initially studied for a BA in anthropology at Durham University (2010-2013), an interdisciplinary course which encompassed anthropology's social, medical and biological/physical subfields, during which I first became interested in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and the social study of the biosciences in particular. I then moved to the University of Cambridge, where I received an MRes (2013-2014) and PhD (2014-2018) in social anthropology. My doctoral thesis was an ethnography of conservation and rural development in Transylvania, Romania, that focused on the multifaceted and sometimes peculiar history of Anglo-Romanian relations that underpinned local conservation programmes and how—via a succession of cultural, architectural and ecological holisms—these came to be a conduit for liberal politics among young Romanians in the Transylvanian coutryside.

At Exeter, I am Research Fellow on the Alan Turing Institute-funded project ‘From Field Data to Global Indicators: Towards a Framework for Intelligent Plant Data Linkage’ (2019-2021), where we are studying the development of infrastructures and standards for crop research data, drawing out—and connecting the dots between—the epistemological, sociological, political and ethical dimensions of this field.

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