Dr Alexandra Plows

BA London PhD Wales

Dr Alexandra Plows
Part Time Research Fellow
01248 383200
Room 109, Neuadd Ogwen


Dr. Alexandra Plows (Alex) is a part time Research Fellow working on the AHRC funded Research project Hydrocitizenship http://www.hydrocitizenship.com/. This project is undertaking arts- based participatory approaches to issues of water and citizenship in specific localities, including a North West Wales case study.  Alex is also working with Dr Tony Dobbins, Bangor Business School, on a project entitled Anticipatory responses to mass redundancy in the Welsh nuclear power industry , which is mapping stakeholder and worker responses to the forthcoming closure of Wylfa  nuclear power station, Anglesey.

 She was previously a Research Fellow at  WISERD (The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods), School of Social Sciences, Bangor University.  Between 2003-2009 she worked at Cardiff University as a Research Associate in the Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen), identifying and theorising public engagement with human genetics/ genomics and related areas of bioscience such as nanotechnology and stem cells. Prior to these appointments she undertook post doc work (Bangor University/ Welsh Assembly Government), defining and evaluating sustainable development criteria at a regional level; and also worked for Keele University on a project researching activist networks, as part of the Democracy and Participation programme. Her PhD focused on UK environmental direct action networks.

Research Interests

I am an interdisciplinary social scientist, with long standing research interests in public engagement, social justice, and the environment, and in undertaking mixed methods, place- based and participatory approaches to my research.  Broadly, my academic research has covered environmental and social justice activism, public engagement with new genetic technologies, and communities, labour markets and regional inequalities, particularly in North West Wales. I have a broad research remit which combines wide ‘reach’ across a spectrum, with research ‘depth’ and unique areas of specialist expertise. Key areas of theoretical interest include Social Movement Theory (SMT) and Science and Technology Studies (STS). I have published widely in key peer reviewed journals, and been a guest speaker at a number of academic conferences and stakeholder events. I am a highly experienced qualitative and mixed methods researcher.

I have a particular interest in the issue of public engagement as theoretical concept, as policy practice, and as social phenomenon, and I have researched public participation across a spectrum from green protest movements to the governance of emerging technologies and associated citizen participation initiatives. I have a strong record of “research impact”- research which is stakeholder- orientated, both from participatory research design to research dissemination to stakeholders in “real life” settings, such as a recent report on my research on mass redundancies on Anglesey Aluminium. I have a strong track record of organising stakeholder and public events.

Research Projects

My  current research  projects are:

smART Cities and Waste Project

Principle Investigator on 2-year AHRC funded project.

The ‘smART cities and waste’ network aims to identify ways in which different disciplines can inform each others’ practice and experience, and facilitate innovation and ‘best practice’ through structured knowledge exchange, including innovative methods for public engagement. Read the press release.

Visit the smART Cities and Waste project Wiki.

Hydrocitizenship Project

Co-Investigator on the AHRC funded project Hydrocitizenship http://www.hydrocitizenship.com/.  This project is  undertaking arts- based participatory approaches to issues of water and citizenship in specific localities, including a North West Wales case study.

Anticipatory responses to mass redundancy in the Welsh nuclear power industry

I am a researcher on  the Leverhulme/ British Academy funded project Anticipatory responses to mass redundancy in the Welsh nuclear power industry  (lead: Dr Tony Dobbins, Bangor Business School) which is mapping stakeholder and worker responses to the forthcoming closure of Wylfa A nuclear power station, Anglesey.

Research Activities

Feb 2015:  Presentation at Natural Resources Wales workshop, Plas Tan y Bwlch An Ecosystem Approach for Biodiversity and Human Well-being.  Presentation title: Cultural Ecosystems Services and the “Hydrocitizenship” project. Click here to view the presentation.

For an overview of my previous research activities at WISERD please click here.

Research News

Feilzer, M., Plows, A. and Williams, K. (2010-2011), collaborative project of WISERD and WCCSJ (Welsh Centre for Crime and Social Justice), Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities.
An evaluation of the Women’s Turnaround Project in North Wales

The Women’s Turnaround project aims to engage women offenders so that they make necessary changes to stop offending, following a holistic, woman-centred, service model recommended by the Corston Report in 2007. The research will explore the women’s and stakeholder’s perspectives on what women need and whether the Turnaround project in North Wales has helped women to move forward in achieving their targets. Using a mixed methods approach, the research will evaluate whether the project has altered the behaviour/life-styles of the women participating in the research and how far any changes were internalised (from the perspective of the women) rather than just an external perception (on the part of workers). The research explores these questions in relation to the Women’s Turnaround project based in the Women’s Centre in Rhyl, North Wales.

Previous Project Work

The Emerging Politics of New Genetic Technologies Cesagen, Cardiff University (Principal Investigators Dr Ian Welsh, Dr Robert Evans)

SCEnE: Sustainability, Community, Environment, Economy – Bangor University (part of the WAG TASK programme. Principal Investigator: Professor John Farrar)

Radical Participation: Protesters Identities and Networks in Manchester, North Wales and Oxford (Principal Investigator: Dr Brian Doherty)


Journal articles

  • Dobbins, T & Plows, A (2014) Regional economic transition in Wales: the role of Labour Market Intermediaries. Bangor Business School Working Paper
  • Dobbins, T, Plows, A & Lloyd-Williams, H (2014) ‘Make do and mend’ after redundancy at Anglesey Aluminium: critiquing human capital approaches. Work, Employment & Society, August 2014 28: 515-532
  • Forthcoming Mann, R, Plows A & Patterson, C (2011) Civilising Community? A Critical Exploration of Local Civil Society in North West Wales Forthcoming Nov 2011 in Voluntary Sector Review
  • Plows, A (2010) What is public engagement with human genetics and what is it for? Differentiating between policy practice and ‘social movement’ The Menai Papers 2010-01, Working Papers Series, School of Social Sciences, Bangor University
  • Plows A (2008) Towards An Analysis of the “Success” of Green Protest in the UK in British Politics, Feb 2008
  • Plows A (2008) Social Movements and Ethnographic Methodologies: An overview of key issues using case study examples in Sociological Compass, August 2008
  • Evans, R and Plows, A (2007) Listening Without Prejudice? Re-Discovering the Value of the Disinterested Citizen Social Studies of Science, 2007, 37
  • Doherty B, Plows A and Wall D (December 2007 ) Environmental Direct Action in Manchester, Oxford and North Wales: A Protest Event Analysis
    in Environmental Politics Environmental Politics, Volume 16, Issue 5 November 2007 , pages 805 - 825
  • Welsh I, Plows A and Evans R, (2007) Human rights and genomics: science, genomics and social movements at the 2004 London Social Forum New Genetics and Society Volume 26, Issue 2 August 2007 , pages 123 – 135
  • Plows A and Boddington B, (2006) ‘Troubles with biocitizenship? In Genetics, Society and Policy. Vol 2, No3 http://www.gspjournal.com/
  • Plows A, Wall D and Doherty B, (2004) Covert Repertoires: Ecotage in the UK, Social Movement Studies, 3, 2, 2004, ISSN 1474-2837
  • Doherty B, Paterson M, Plows A and Wall D (2003)- Explaining the Fuel Protests, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 5 (2003) 1-23 ISSN 1369-1481
  • Doherty B, Plows A and Wall D (2003)- The Preferred Way of Doing Things: The British Direct Action Movement, Parliamentary Affairs 56 (2003) 669-686 ISSN 0031-2290

Research Notes

  • Plows A, (2006)‘Blackwood 2004: An Emerging (Re)Cycle of UK Eco-Action?’, Environmental Politics, Vol 15, No 3, June 2006, pp 474-484, ISSN 0964-4016


  • Plows A (2010) Debating Human Genetics: Contemporary Issues in Public Policy and Ethics, Routledge

Book Chapters

  • Seifert , Franz and Plows, Alex (2014) Nano-Watch Campaigners in the UK and Germany: Anti-Biotech Spin-Offs as Rudiments of a Foretold Movement in Coenen et al (eds) Innovation and Responsibility: Engaging with New and Emerging Technologies. IOS Press, BV Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft AKA GmbH, Berlin.
  • Plows, A.(2012) Public Engagement with human genetics: a social movement approach (Eds: O’Doherty, Kieran and Einsiedel, Edna) Publics + Emerging Technologies: Cultures, Contexts + Challenges. Vancouver & Toronto: UBC Press.
  • Forthcoming: Plows, A (2011) Public Engagement with human genetics: a social movement approach (Eds: O’Doherty, Kieran and Einsiedel, Edna )Publics + Emerging Technologies: Cultures, Contexts + Challenges ). Vancouver & Toronto: UBC Press.
  • Forthcoming: Plows, A and Reinsborough, M (2011) Encountering 'the politics of technology': public engagement from the bottom up (editors@ S.Net) Quantum Engagements - Social Reflections of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies. IOS Press/ AKA.
  • Plows A (2008) ‘Egg Donation in the UK: Tracing Emergent Networks of Feminist Engagement in relation to HFEA policy shifts in 2006’ Forthcoming in Molfino, Francesca and Zucco, Flavia (2008) Women in Biotechnology; Creating Interfaces, Scrivener Press
  • Plows A and Reinsborough, M (2008) Nanobiotechnology and ethics: converging civil society discourses in Jotterand, Fabrice (ed) Emerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in Bionanotechnology, Springer Academic Publishers, Scrivener Press)
  • Evans R, Welsh I and Plows A, (2007) Towards an Anatomy of Public Engagement with Medical Genetics: Strange Bedfellows and Usual Suspects, New Genetics, New Identities (Glasner and Atkinson eds) Routledge
  • Plows A, (2004) Activist Networks in the UK - Mapping the Build-Up of the Anti-Globalization Movement, Anti-Capitalist Britain, Carter J and Morland D (Eds), New Clarion Press, Cheltenham, (2004), pp 95-113, ISBN 1-87379-744-3

Research Students

Alex is happy to supervise postgraduate students who have an interest in her research areas. She teaches qualitative software methodologies on the Research Methods MA and has contributed lectures on protest movements to BA sociology modules. She is currently preparing (with colleague Dr Roger Slack) an MA module for accreditation entitled ‘Science, Environment and Society’ which subject to validation and take-up will be available from 2011/12. She is available to give lectures and seminars on aspects of her research across all departments.

Other activities

Recent Conferences

  • 2-4th Sept 2010 paper presented at EASST, Trento. Paper title: ‘Unpacking public engagement with human genetics: An ethnographic approach’. Grant of  £500 awarded by Cesagen (Centre for the Social and Economic Aspects of Genomics) towards costs of attendance.
  • ”11-17 July 2010, XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology: Sociology on the Move, Gothenburg, Sweden.  Presented two papers (1) Public Engagement with Human Genetics as Policy Practice and as “social Movement”” and  (2) (joint paper with RM and Corrina Patterson) Locating the “local”: Methodological Issues in researching of grass-roots civil society
  • 5-8 July 2010, presented a paper (jointly with Robin Mann) at the 2010 ESRC Research Methods Festival entitled ‘’ Convergence space: Researching civil society networks at the local level’’
  • 28-29 June 2010, presented two papers at the WISERD Annual Conference, entitled, "Exploring the local life of civil society: A pilot study of a north Wales locality" (in collaboration with Corinna Patterson and Robin Mann) and “Stakeholder Perceptions of Place Shaping and Geographies of Participation" (in collaboration with Stephen Burgess)
  • Poster presentation at WISERD Annual Conference “Knowing Wales: People, Place, Policy” on “An evaluation of the Women’s Turnaround Project (WTP) in North Wales” with M Feilzer, M., A Plows, J Yates and K Williams, K. The project is a collaboration between WISERD and WCCSJ (Welsh Centre for Crime and Social Justice), at Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities
  • WISERD Localities @ Bangor Poster presentation at WISERD Annual Conference “Knowing Wales: People, Place, Policy” on The A55 Corridor Localities in North Wales
  • 7 April 2010, presented a paper (jointly with Robin Mann) at the BSA Annual Conference: Inequalities and Social Justice entitled ‘’ Emergent Hybridization? A Case Study of Grassroots Civil Society in North Wales’’
  • October 2009 The future of public participation: cultures, contexts and challenges.  Paper title: Challenging [DNA] codes: Public Engagement with Human Genetics Outside the Policy Process
  • June 2007 Women in Biotechnology, http://www.wonbit.net/ Paper Title Egg Donation in the UK; Tracing Emerging Networks of Feminist Engagement
  • June 2007 International Sociological Association Research Committee on Social Classes and Social Movements: Globalisation, Conflict and the Experience of Localities.
    Paper title: Embodied and local resistance to genetic bioscience within the global ‘bio- economy’
  • March 2007 4th CESAGen/CSG International Conference: Genetics and Society - Retrospects and Prospects.
  • October 2006 Gender Research Forum seminar, Queens University, Belfast.
    Paper title Women in the Frontline? Feminist Issues in Genetic and Reproductive Technologies.

Recent Events Organised

Recent Policy and Stakeholder Engagement

  • Delivered talk on behaviour change at workshop organised by The Wales Rural Observatory, August 10th 2011, attended by a range of academics and practitioners (drawing on findings from the WISERD localities programme, previous research on environmental protest, and feedback from the Participation Cymru workshop on behavior change organised earlier in 2011)
  • Organised ‘Community, Environment and Sustainability in Wales’ WISERD Networking Event, June 2011. This event brought together grassroots activists, NGOs, policy makers and academics from across Wales and further afield, with interests in local community sustainability and environmental campaigns and initiatives. www.bangor.ac.uk/so/full.php.en?nid=5097&tnid=5097
  • Organised Behaviour Change panel for Participation Cymru residential training event, June 2011; knowledge transfer for policymakers and practitioners drawing on findings from the WISERD localities programme http://www.wiserd.ac.uk/2011/06/
  • March 2011 Delivered presentation (with colleague Dr Robin Mann) to Bangor WISERD Associates and invited stakeholders on Knowing Localities: Making use of the Stakeholder Interview Series, feeding back research findings and identifying availability of dataset for WISERD Associates
  • February 2011: Online article for science communication research centre ‘Observa – Science in Society’. Article title: The Emerging Politics of Human Genetic Technologies webmounted 22/02/2011 http://www.observa.it/view_page.aspx?ID=1006&LAN=ENG
  • Jan 2008 briefing to the Sustainable Development Commission on the implications of synthetic biology and Converging Technologies (powerpoint available)
  • June 2007 responded to UK Gov consultation on stakeholder engagement Effective consultation: asking the right questions, asking the right people, listening to the answers.
  • March 2007 responded to review of Police and Criminal Evidence Act specifically in relation to retention and use of DNA samples
  • November 2006 responded to the HFEA consultation: Donating eggs for research: safeguarding donors through a variety of public engagement and stakeholder- led outputs.
  • 2004 responded to the Human Genetics Commission public consultation Choosing the Future: Genetics and Reproductive decision-making

Media Engagement