Matthew joined the Environment Department as a Lecturer in Human Geography in September 2016, having previously held lecturing positions in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield, and the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.  He holds a PhD in Environmental Science (UEA), an MSc in Social Research Methods (Teesside), and a BA in International Studies and Political Science (Birmingham).

His research interests lie in the social and ethics dimensions of environmental issues. In particular, he researches issues of environmental justice and the role of public and stakeholder participation in environmental policy and planning decisions around energy and waste infrastructure and natural resource extraction. He has published research using a range of qualitative and quantitative social research techniques on issues of nuclear power, shale gas extraction, petrochemicals, onshore wind, electricity transmission and distribution systems, and radioactive waste management.


Research Funding

Histories of Nuclear Energy and Society (HoNESt), Horizon 2020/Euratom Nuclear Fission Research Program, led by Dr Albert Presas i Puig, Universitat Pompeu Fabra – €3,052,269 (Co-Investigator, October 2015-September 2018).

Acting Together Against Climate Change (ATACC) PhD training Network, funded by the Grantham Institute for Sustainable Futures and University of Sheffield Future 2022 programme (Co-principal investigator, 3x fully funded 4-year studentships, 2015-2019).

Risk, Resilience and Responsibility in Public-Private Partnerships in the Green Economy Network, funded by the Grantham Institute for Sustainable Futures, Carbon Plus Capital and the University of Sheffield Researcher Enterprise and Innovation Fund (Co-investigator, 3x fully funded 4-year studentships October 2015-2019).

Exploring public moral values of intergenerational environmental justice. Toyota Foundation Research Grant Programme “Exploring New Values for Society”- ¥700,000/ (£4,550) (Principal investigator, May 2015-July 2016).

Infrastructure and planning, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, led by Dr Aidan While - £42,837 (Co-investigator, September 2014-May 2015).

Decommissioning, immobilisation and storage solutions for nuclear waste inventories (DISTINCTIVE), funded by the RCUK Energy for a Low Carbon Future programme and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Consortium bid led by Prof. Michael Fairweather, University of Leeds – £8,000,000+, Grant no. EP/L014041/1 (Knowledge exchange/impact researcher, February 2014 - November 2018).

Programme of Research on Preparedness, Adaptation and Risk (PREPARE) project, funded by Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – £720,184. Consortium bid with AEA Ricardo and Ipsos Mori, project number ERG1211; academic lead - Prof. Suraje Dessai, University of Leeds (Co-investigator, September 2012 - May 2013).

Engaging communities on the social and ethical aspects of radioactive waste and nuclear site decommissioning. Funded by the RCUK Roberts Fund for public engagement with research and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Radioactive Waste Management Directorate - £3,700. (Principal investigator, September 2006-September 2007).

Selected Major Publications


Journal articles

Cotton M (2016) Fair fracking? Ethics and environmental justice in United Kingdom shale gas policy and planning. Local Environment, 1-18. View this article in White Rose Research Online. Online first.

Renzi BG, Cotton M, Napolitano G & Barkemeyer R (2016) Rebirth, devastation and sickness: analyzing the role of metaphor in media discourses of nuclear power. Environmental Communication, 1-17. Online first.

Cotton MD (2015) Environmental values in the petrochemical industry: A Q-method study in South West Iran. Environmental & Socio-economic Studies(4), 1-10. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Cotton MD (2015) Stakeholder perspectives on shale gas fracking: a Q-method study of environmental discourses. Environment and Planning, 9(47), 1944-1962. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Cotton M (2015) Structure, agency and post-Fukushima nuclear policy: an alliance-context-actantiality model of political change. Journal of Risk Research, 18(3), 317-332. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Cotton MD & Mahroos-Alsaiari AA (2015) Key actor perspectives on stakeholder engagement in Omani Environmental Impact Assessment: an application of Q-Methodology. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 58(1), 91-112. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Cotton M, Rattle I & Van Alstine J (2014) Shale gas policy in the United Kingdom: An argumentative discourse analysis. Energy Policy, 73, 427-438. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Cotton MD (2014) Environmental justice challenges in United Kingdom infrastructure planning: Lessons from a welsh incinerator project. Environmental Justice, 7(2), 39-44. View this article in White Rose Research Online

Cotton M (2013) Deliberating intergenerational environmental equity: A pragmatic, future studies approach. Environmental Values, 22(3), 317-337.

Cotton M & Devine-Wright P (2013) Putting pylons into place: A UK case study of public perspectives on the impacts of high voltage overhead transmission lines. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 56(8), 1225-1245.

Cotton MD (2013) NIMBY or not? Integrating social factors into shale gas community engagements. Natural Gas & Electricity, 29(9), 8-12.

Cotton MD (2012) Industry and stakeholder perspectives on the social and ethical dimensions of radioactive waste management options. The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies, 1(11), 8-26.

Cotton M & Devine-Wright P (2012) Making electricity networks "visible": Industry actor representations of "publics" and public engagement in infrastructure planning. Public Understanding of Science, 21(1), 17-35.

Cotton M & Devine-Wright P (2011) Discourses of energy infrastructure development: A Q-method study of electricity transmission line siting in the UK. Environment and Planning A, 43(4), 942-960.

Cotton M (2010) Discourse, upstream public engagement and the governance of human life extension research. Poiesis & Praxis, 7(1-2), 135-150.

Cotton M (2009) Ethical assessment in radioactive waste management: a proposed reflective equilibrium‐based deliberative approach. Journal of Risk Research, 12(5), 603-618.

Cotton M (2009) Evaluating the 'Ethical Matrix' as a Radioactive Waste Management Deliberative Decision-Support Tool. Environmental Values, 18(2), 153-176.


Environment Field Project 

Megacities and Urbanisation 

External Activity

He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers

Contact details

Dr Matthew Cotton
Lecturer in Human Geography
Environment Department
University of York
Wentworth Way
YO10 5NG