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Dr Kevin Collins

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a senior lecturer in Environment & Systems and have a BSc in Geography & Environment and a PhD in Sustainable Development from the University of London (UCL).  My research and teaching focusses on systems concepts and practices and social learning for improving environmental situations, especially water governance.

As well as involvement in a range of international and national research projects, I also contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching on environmental management and systems.

Research interests

My research and scholarship explores the dyanmic relationships between a society and its environment.  I use theories of social learning and systems ideas to design social learning systems for transforming.  Much of my work is action research, involving policy-makers, stakeholders and practitioners in many different governance contexts and scales from catchments to national and international policy and practice.  A central theme is the managing and governance of water. 


Current and recent projects include:

  • 2019-2021       Agricultural and Knowledge Innovation Systems (AgriLink) (EU Horizon 2020)
  • 2013-2016       Drought Impacts: vulnerability thresholds in monitoring and early-warning research   (DRiVER) (Belmont Forum/NERC)
  • 2012-2015       Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance: Reconciling food security, renewable energy and the provision of multiple ecosystem services (CADWAGO Riksbankens and Volkswagen foundation)
  • 2011-2012      Evaluating the Water Framework Directive Pilots (DEFRA)
  • 2011-2012      Approaches to Secure Sustained Behaviour Changes to Deliver Multiple    Environmental Benefits Though Sustained Agricultural Land Management (DEFRA)
I am interested in supervising PhDs in the following areas:
  • social learning
  • systems thinking and practice
  • environmental and water resource managing
  • natural resource managing and governance.

Teaching interests

My teaching includes contributions and teaching on variety of modules centred on environmental managing and systems approaches.

Undergraduate: I am co-author of T219 Environmental Management 1 and Environmental Management II

Postgraduate:  T802 Research Project;  TU812 Managing Systemic Change; T891 Making Environmental Decisions 

I am also a co-author of a Guide to Systems Diagramming and Achieving Wisdom in Online Groups (graphic novel)

I currently chair two modules: T219 Environmental Management 1 and T802 Research Project

External collaborations

I am expert member of the OECD Water Governance Intiative contributing to development and use of water governance principles. 

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Open Systems Research GroupGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Externally funded projects

A Review of Approaches to Communicating Drought Status and Risk - WT15124 Tender Reference: itt_6641
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead24 Feb 202024 Jan 2021DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs)

Working with CEH to explore drought communication strategies in the UK. Involving national organisations and regional groups. OU will be subcontractor to main applicant CEH advising on design of workshops and co-facilitation of workshops.

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Jun 201730 Nov 2021EC (European Commission): FP (inc. Horizon Europe, H2020, ERC)

H2020 project to stimulate sustainability transitions in European agriculture through better understanding the roles played by farm advice in farmer decision-making. OU participation in monitoring and supporting learning within ‘Living Labs’, including a web engagement strategy and development of some distance learning material