Karen Anderton’s report

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting — Seattle April 2011
Photo of Karen Anderton

I am a D.Phil student at Oxford University. My research examines the development and implementation processes involved in delivering transport-related climate change policies at the sub-national level. It is an international comparative study.

I was most appreciative of the travel grant awarded by the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation, as it allowed me to attend the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference in Seattle in April 2011. At the conference I presented a paper on the preliminary findings of my doctoral research. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, as I was able to obtain valuable feedback on my work as well as learn more about the research activities of leading scholars in the field.

Founded in 1904, the Association of American Geographers (AAG) is a scientific and educational society which furthers understanding over the broad spectrum of theory, methods and practice in geographic thought. AAG members are geographers and related professionals from across the globe working in the public, private, and academic sectors. The Annual Meeting of the AAG hosted an estimated 7,000 delegates and over 1,000 sessions during the 5 day conference.

The conference provided me with an opportunity to share the first set of findings from my research with an audience from diverse academic backgrounds. My presentation was entitled “Examining sub-national governance: interaction and collaboration in reducing the climate impact of cars”. It was part of a session which focused on the “climate change challenge and geographies of transport and mobilities.”

My primary research question was: “Does a lack of dialogue and collaboration between state government departments and across levels of government on addressing transport-related climate change prevent effective policy implementation?” It was principally concerned with investigating the processes and stakeholders involved in the development and implementation of policies, an area which is little investigated or understood. As an action-based piece of research, it has potential to inform future policy making. My paper highlighted the key findings from my 4 international case studies and the synergies and differences between them.

My work uses applied theories of institutional interplay and multi-disciplinary governance in combination. It is the first of its kind to borrow the emerging “middle-out” perspective from energy-related research and apply it to transportation research. Using this perspective I posited that the state level of government has influence over local/grassroots action and also on the higher echelons of government (national, supranational like the EU, and even international), which means that there is potential for this level to deliver policy innovation which offers significant lessons for all levels.

In addition, I also presented a paper co-written with my colleague Nihan Akyelkan, also from Oxford University, which was entitled: “Internalization of external costs in freight transport”.

I attended several sessions, by leading academics, concerned with emerging ideas and theorising around governance as well as some of the latest research concerned with transport and climate change. It was a hugely valuable conference for me to attend.

Whilst time was short, I also took some time to run along the Washington state shoreline as I was training for my first marathon during the conference and it was a fantastic way to see the city.

I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation for making the trip possible and I am heartened by their commitment to support the development of research in this area.

Karen Anderton
D.Phil Candidate
University of Oxford, Transport Studies Unit
School of Geography and the Environment