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 Dr. Sam Wong

Why I work at UCR:
The results of the EU Referendum in the UK (Brexit) seem to provide me with a confirmation of my decision to move to the Netherlands and work at UCR. Small class sizes and a low staff-student ratio in UCR are something in which UK universities will never be able to compete! My previous working experiences at Maasticht University and Universiteit Antwerpen in Belgium have also assured me that the Low Countries have achieved a high living standard!
What’s interesting about my discipline?
When I did my first degree at the University of Hong Kong, a Geography professor proclaimed that Geography was a discipline concerning ‘anything about the earth’. When I look back, this claim is, of course, a bit over the top because, by definition, Geography means ‘A Study of the Earth’. Yet, the long history of curiosity about the man-land interactions has inspired a wide range of innovations, ranging from GPS to Big Data. This explains why Geography remains one of the most popular subjects in tertiary education, at least in the UK. Geography graduates are always much sought after as new recruits in the BBC.


Research Interests and Achievements

I examine the ‘energy-water’ nexus dynamics in poverty reduction through sustainable innovations in developing countries. I have worked with engineers, social entrepreneurs, policy makers and NGOs in South Asia (Bangladesh and India) and Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria) to explore if, and how, involving local communities in the design of small-scale solar powered desalination machines and tri-generation projects helps improve their lives and livelihoods. My ethnographic, participatory approach to research methodology offers new insights into complex power dynamics over class, caste and gender.  I won the Development Studies Association’s New Ideas Initiative Competition (2012) and was awarded the Best PhD dissertation by IIAS (2005). I was interviewed by the BBC’s Radio 4 programme Thinking Aloud (2006). I am currently the External Examiner for the University of East London, UK, and the Convenor of the DSA’s Development Management Study Group.


Badminton, squash, art-house cinema and travel.


  • PhD (International Development), University of Bradford, UK (2000-2004)
  • MA (International Development), University of Bradford, UK (1998-1999)
  • BA (Geography), University of Hong Kong (1990-1993) 


  • Lecturer, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool, UK (2010-2016)

  • Visiting Scholar, University of Maastricht (Summer, 2014)

  • Lecturer, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds, UK (2006-2009)

  • Post-doc researcher, Department of Geographical and Environmental Studies, University of Bradford, UK (2004-2006)

  • Full-time journalist (1993-1998) 

Ten Most Significant Publications

  •  Wong, S. (forthcoming book) Renewable Energy Policies in South Asia: Making Solar Lighting Work. London: Routledge. 
  • Wong, S. (2016) ‘A Post-critical Perspective to Community Participation in Trans-boundary Water Governance – A Case Study of the Volta River Basin in West Africa’, Geoforum, 77:83-92.
  • Wong, S. (2016) ‘Can Climate Finance Contribute to Gender Equity in Developing Countries’, Journal of International Development. 28(3): 428-444.
  • Wong, S. (2012) ‘Overcoming Obstacles Against Effective Solar Lighting Interventions in South Asia’, Energy Policy, 40:110-120.
  • Sharp, L., McDonald, A., Sim, P., Knamiller, C., Sefton, C. and Wong, S. (2011) ‘Positivism, Post-positivism and Domestic Water Demand: Inter-relating Science across the Paradigmatic Divide’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36(4): 501-515 
  • Wong, S. (2010) ‘Whose Lives Are Worth More? Politicising Research Safety in Developing Countries’, Development In Practice, 20(7): 784-796.
  • Wong, S. and Sharp, L. (2009) ‘Making Power Explicit in Sustainable Water Innovation: Re-linking Subjectivity, Institution and Structure through Environmental Citizenship’, Environmental Politics, 18(1):37-57.
  • Wong, S. (2009) ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Technology: Re-linking Nature, Governance and Gender’, Gender and Development, 17(1):95-108.  
  • Wong, S. (2007) Exploring ‘Unseen’ Social Capital in Community Participation. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. [ISBN 9789053560341]
  • Wong, S. (2003) ‘Empowerment as a Panacea for Poverty – Old Wine in New Bottles? Reflections on the World Bank’s Conception of Power’, Progress in Development Studies, 3(4):307-322. 

Five Most Significant Successful Grant Applications

  • £2.1 million EPSRC’s ‘Energy for International Development’ Project in India (EP/E044360/1) (£121K to my social science work package) (2007-2010)
  • £52K EPSRC’s Pathways to Impact Grant (2014-2016)
  • £10K DIY Solar Thermal Water Pasteuriser in India, Bangladesh and Uganda (Liverpool University’s Research Themes Voucher, 2010-2011)
  • £10K Trans-boundary Water Governance in White Volta River Basin, Ghana (British Academy, 2007-2009)
  • £5K Sustainable Energy Management and Poverty in Bangladesh (British Council, 2007-2008)


Sam Wong photo for UCR.jpg

Human Geography


P.O. Box 94
NL-4330 AB Middelburg
Office hours: by appointment
Tel. 0118-655500 / fax 0118-655508