IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The social and political lives of zoonotic disease models: Narratives, science and policy


  • Leach, Melissa
  • Scoones, Ian


Zoonotic diseases currently pose both major health threats and complex scientific and policy challenges, to which modelling is increasingly called to respond. In this article we argue that the challenges are best met by combining multiple models and modelling approaches that elucidate the various epidemiological, ecological and social processes at work. These models should not be understood as neutral science informing policy in a linear manner, but as having social and political lives: social, cultural and political norms and values that shape their development and which they carry and project. We develop and illustrate this argument in relation to the cases of H5N1 avian influenza and Ebola, exploring for each the range of modelling approaches deployed and the ways they have been co-constructed with a particular politics of policy. Addressing the complex, uncertain dynamics of zoonotic disease requires such social and political lives to be made explicit in approaches that aim at triangulation rather than integration, and plural and conditional rather than singular forms of policy advice.

Suggested Citation

  • Leach, Melissa & Scoones, Ian, 2013. "The social and political lives of zoonotic disease models: Narratives, science and policy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 10-17.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:88:y:2013:i:c:p:10-17
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.03.017

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Ebola


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Giles-Vernick, Tamara & Owona-Ntsama, Joseph & Landier, Jordi & Eyangoh, Sara, 2015. "The puzzle of Buruli ulcer transmission, ethno-ecological history and the end of “love” in the Akonolinga district, Cameroon," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 20-27.
    2. Tschakert, Petra & Ricciardi, Vincent & Smithwick, Erica & Machado, Mario & Ferring, David & Hausermann, Heidi & Bug, Leah, 2016. "Situated knowledge of pathogenic landscapes in Ghana: Understanding the emergence of Buruli ulcer through qualitative analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 160-171.
    3. Wallace, Matthew L. & Ràfols, Ismael, 2018. "Institutional shaping of research priorities: A case study on avian influenza," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(10), pages 1975-1989.
    4. Lapinski, Maria Knight & Funk, Julie A. & Moccia, Lauren T., 2015. "Recommendations for the role of social science research in One Health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 51-60.
    5. James D. Ford & Tristan Pearce & Graham McDowell & Lea Berrang-Ford & Jesse S. Sayles & Ella Belfer, 2018. "Vulnerability and its discontents: the past, present, and future of climate change vulnerability research," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 151(2), pages 189-203, November.
    6. Brookes, Victoria J. & Degeling, Chris & Ward, Michael P., 2018. "Going viral in PNG – Exploring routes and circumstances of entry of a rabies-infected dog into Papua New Guinea," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 196(C), pages 10-18.
    7. Wallace, Robert G. & Bergmann, Luke & Kock, Richard & Gilbert, Marius & Hogerwerf, Lenny & Wallace, Rodrick & Holmberg, Mollie, 2015. "The dawn of Structural One Health: A new science tracking disease emergence along circuits of capital," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 68-77.
    8. Paige, Sarah B. & Malavé, Carly & Mbabazi, Edith & Mayer, Jonathan & Goldberg, Tony L., 2015. "Uncovering zoonoses awareness in an emerging disease ‘hotspot’," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 78-86.
    9. Steve Hinchliffe & Andrea Butcher & Muhammad Meezanur Rahman, 2018. "The AMR problem: demanding economies, biological margins, and co-producing alternative strategies," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-12, December.
    10. Bardosh, Kevin & Inthavong, Phouth & Xayaheuang, Sivilai & Okello, Anna L., 2014. "Controlling parasites, understanding practices: The biosocial complexity of a One Health intervention for neglected zoonotic helminths in northern Lao PDR," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 215-223.
    11. Helliwell, Richard, 2018. "Where did the marginal land go? Farmers perspectives on marginal land and its implications for adoption of dedicated energy crops," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 166-172.

    More about this item


    Zoonoses; Modelling; Uncertainty; Ebola; H5N1;

    JEL classification:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:88:y:2013:i:c:p:10-17. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Haili He). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.