About me

Hi, my name is Dr Stephen McGrail. I am an interdisciplinary researcher based in Melbourne, Australia. My work is eclectic but these days mostly entails being a sociologist examining issues related to climate change and energy, and also exploring way of working in what’s been broadly termed a ‘culturalist cognitive paradigm’ of social inquiry.

One interest of such an approach to inquiry is studying how cognition and related day-to-day practices can be “as much socioculturally scripted as they are innately inscribed” (Cerulo, 2002). A related growing interest is the links between cognitive mechanisms (and related cognitive processes) and sociocultural contexts, and the implications of such socio-cognitive dynamics.  More broadly, in looking for social patterns and seeking to understand them, I often find it productive to give an unusual amount of attention to their potential cognitive roots, the social dimensions of our cognition, and associated socio-cognitive processes. This can provide both a guiding analytical perspective and, as other scholars have shown, it can also inform new ways of theorising aspects of social life (see Brekhus, 2007).

I have a diverse professional background in academic research (applied social research), professional services (e.g. management consulting), and sustainability-oriented fields. This has included being a Research Fellow at a number of universities: at Monash University (post-doctoral Research Fellow in Sociology), and Swinburne University with the Institute for Social Research [now the Centre for Urban Transitions]), and as a Research Assistant at the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (which was based at the University of Melbourne). Prior to this I also worked as Sessional Lecturer at Swinburne University.

My research/work (often as part of teams I’ve been grateful to be part of) has been published in a number of academic journals including the Journal of Cleaner Production, Sustainability, Futures, Evaluation Journal of Australasia, International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy, On the Horizon, and Journal of Futures Studies. I have also been an invited reviewer for a number of leading journals including Sustainability Science, Geographical Review and Environment, Systems and Decisions, as well as providing reviews as part of journal special issues (e.g. for the journal On the Horizon).

My early career experience in the advertising industry (after completing a marketing degree) and as a freelance writer enables me to incorporate strategic communications.

Blog aims: This blog was originally used to reflect on my PhD journey, share emerging insights, and comment on related issues and events that emerge from time to time (most posts between 2013-2018/19 reflect this original focus). Currently, the blog has shifted to reflect my current research interests. I have a particular interest in the use of forward-looking participatory processes (which I term ‘prospective exercises’) and related knowledge practices (which I term ‘prospective knowledge practices’), environmental sociology, and the social studies of science (see my research statement). The blog will also occasionally comment on broader topics relevant to sustainability-oriented action, such as debates related to climate policy and trends in environmental movements.

For further information on my other writing and research see the ‘Publications’ page and page on ‘My research history and future research agenda’.

Preferred contact via email: stephen.mcgrail@gmail.com