Professor Jon Shaw

Professor Jon Shaw

Associate Head of School

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)


I am Associate Head (Geography) of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. In essence, this means I'm responsible for running the Geography subject area, seeking to make sure we do what we're supposed to do to the very best of our ability. 

Although a fair proportion of my time is spent in this management role, I continue to teach classes and conduct research in my specialist field of transport, travel and mobility.  This research ultimately ends up being published as books, academic journal articles and policy and / or consultancy reports. My latest book, The Transport Debate, was published by Policy Press in 2014.


I have a BSc (Hons) in Geography, a PG Dip in Social Science Research and a PhD in Human Geography.

My academic career has come full circle: I started out in Plymouth as an undergraduate in 1992, before spells in the United States and Scotland (and shorter stays in Australia and Germany). I moved north to become a Lecturer in Geography at the University of Aberdeen, and stayed in the Granite City for seven years. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2003 and served as the Head of Geography & Environment in 2005 and 2006. I returned to Plymouth in 2006 to take up a Readership in Human Geography and was promoted to Professor in 2008. 

Throughout my career I have tried to fashion a profile as an 'all round' academic, engaging myself in research, teaching and administration in more or less equal measure. Thus in addition to writing books, journal articles and reports, I have developed a varied teaching portfolio and held numerous managerial roles including Research Group Leader, Research Centre Director, Head of Department and Associate Head of School.

Professional membership

I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

Teaching interests

In my career I have taught numerous aspects of human geography. Because my PhD focused on transport and travel issues, I have always been involved in teaching Transport Geography modules, but my time at the University of Idaho in the 1990s gave me a lifelong love of the American West. Over the years I've written classroom-based modules on the USA and set up a field trip to the Pacific North West, a variant of which in 2016 will be running for the 12th time. I also teach political and economic geography. 

At the moment I teach on four undergraduate modules (I'm taking a temporary break from postgraduate teaching):

GGX1200 Geography Matters
In this module we aim to address the fundamental questions, what is geography? And why is it important? In its simplest form, I suppose, geography is the study of where things are, why they're there, and what they mean. We use a variety of local, national and global examples to introduce students to key themes and debates in contemporary human and physical geography.  

GGX1201 Introducing Geographies 1: Society and Environment
This is a wide-ranging module which exposes students to a variety of topics studied by geographers and the different ways we go about studying them. I teach the political and economic geography sections of the module, dealing with ideas of states, nations, territory, governance and state restructuring, electoral geography, firms, labour and world trade.  

GGH2204 Transport, Travel and Mobility
This is the module in which I get to focus on my specialist research area. The basic points I'm trying to get across are that: a) modern transport technology and the mobility it affords are splendid, but the way we go about consuming this mobility imposes social, economic and environmental costs on society that we don't need to impose on ourselves; and b) that geographers are ideally placed to help square the circle of making our current transport trends less costly and more sustainable. I introduce and assess the main components of what we might call the 'transport debate' and then use the idea of the journey to promote critical thinking about our travel trends and experiences, and the impacts of these. All students have to make and report on their own journeys, and relate these to key issues in the transport debate. 

GGX3201 Advanced Fieldwork in Geography: The Changing American West
The result of having lived in the USA and developing many professional contacts and friendships across the Pond, this module involves between 20 and 40 students boarding a plane to Seattle to experience and learn about the Pacific Northwest for two weeks. We split the trip into two halves: the first week involves students investigating a different geographic theme each day (for example, we investigate 'conflict' in the deserts and mountains around Baker City, Oregon, and 'society and nature' in the Columbia River Gorge). In the second week students divide into groups of 4-5 and undertake a project of their own design.  

Research interests

My research mainly focuses upon the geographical implications of mobility / accessibility, and issues to do with transport and governance. Together with colleagues at Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany, I recently completed a project on Transport Needs in an Ageing Society - the so-called 'TRACY' project (all European Union-funded projects have increasingly jaunty and progressively tangential acronyms). At the other end of the spectrum I've also of late been involved with work on jogging (something I now do rather less than I probably should).   

In my career I've been involved in research into all manner of things to do with transport, travel and mobility. I started out in the 1990s with a project on the privatisation of British Rail, in which I got to interview key politicians and civil servants involved with the controversial policy. 'Getting my hands dirty' in research terms has always been one of my favourite aspects of my job, but sadly as I have become more senior (both in years and professionally) I have found that opportunities to actually go out and do my own research have become fewer and further between. In an attempt to put this right, together with Iain Docherty (Glasgow) and Danny MacKinnon (Newcastle) I embarked upon a project about the impact of devolution on UK transport policy in which we deliberately involved no research assistants 'in the field'; getting to interview the main protagonists in this area was fascinating and we wrote up the results as a book for Elsevier Science, Diverging Mobilities

One of the other aims of the devolution project was to bring together two usually completely separate areas of literature, namely those of political geography and transport geography. In my latest book with Iain Docherty (The Transport Debate, published by Policy Press) I've sought to do this again, this time attempting to pull together the work of transport geographers and transport studies specialists with that written by scholars working in the sociologically-inspired 'new mobilities paradigm'.

A common thread to my work has been transport policy - its impacts, complexities and appropriateness and, in British terms at least, the extent to which it is fit for purpose. I have recently been able to play a small part in influencing transport policy of late thanks to a partnership with Andrew Seedhouse of South West Smart Applications Ltd, where we've obtained more than £4m of government funding to help put our (or, I suppose, the government's) money where our mouth is. For years in my work I have been advocating various improvements to the UK transport system, and one of these is the nationwide introduction of 'smart' ticketing as a means of making public transport more appealing (users of the Oystercard will know what I am talking about). This is difficult in provincial Britain because of the structure of our transport industry, but thanks to Andrew and his team we are making progress: almost all the buses in the South West England (with the notable exception of those run in certain places by one operator) have been equipped with ticket machines compatible with smart ticketing, and a (very) slowly increasing number of smart ticketing options is starting to appear. Gratifyingly, the REF 2014 panel judged this work to constitute a 4* Impact Case Study. 

Grants & contracts

Grant awards in the previous Research Evaluation Framework (the UK government's mechanism for evaluating the quality of British-based academics' research work) period include:

Gather, M; Shaw, J; Aragall, F; Aslaksen, F and others (2011) EUR 633,600 from the European Commission for the project, Transport needs for an ageing society

Shaw, J and South West Smart Applications Ltd (2010) £1.85m from the South West Improvement and Efficiency Partnership Capital Fund for the project, Introduction of ITSO smart ticketing into strategically significant cities and towns in south west England.

Shaw, J and the South West Smartcard Forum (2009) £40,000 from the South West Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership Enterprise Fund for the project Delivery framework for the introduction of a shared, regional, open access Smartcard Back Office System.

Shaw, J and the South West Smartcard Forum (2009) £20,000 from the South West Regional Development Agency for the project Southwest regional smartcard development project.

Docherty, I; Shaw, J; Preston J and others (2008) £73,800 from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport for the project High speed ground transport – Glasgow-Edinburgh corridor.

Shaw, J; Gray, D and Yarwood, R (2008) £5,430 from the Commission for Rural Communities for the project Transport futures: the potential impacts of road pricing on rural areas.

Shaw, J; Charlton, C and Burningham, R (2008) £55,200 from Great Western Research, Looe Valley Railway Company and First Great Western for the PhD studentship A critical evaluation of community rail policy and practice.

I have tried throughout my career to produce different types of publications from the research I have undertaken. Some of these, inevitably, are academic in orientation but others are much more widely accessible. My latest book, The Transport Debate, was very much written with a broad readership in mind.

A selection of my most recent books, academic journal articles and other chapters / reports are listed here:

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2014) The transport debate. The Policy Press, Bristol. 240pp.

Rodrigue, J-P; Notteboom, T and Shaw, J (2013) (eds) The Sage handbook of transport studies. Sage, London. 464pp.

MacKinnon, D; Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2008) Diverging mobilities? Devolution, transport and policy innovation. Elsevier Science, Oxford, 243pp.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (eds) (2008) Traffic jam: 10 years of ‘sustainable’ transport in the UK. The Policy Press, Bristol. 250pp.

Knowles, R; Shaw, J and Docherty, I (eds) (2008) Transport geographies: mobilities, flows and spaces. Blackwell, Oxford, 293pp.

Academic journal articles

Cook, S; Shaw, J and Simpson, P (2016) Jography: exploring meanings, experiences and spatialities of road running. Mobilities, available online.

Dawson, D; Shaw, J and Gehrels, R (2016) Sea-level change and transport infrastructure: the case of the coastal railway line at Dawlish, England. Journal of Transport Geography 51, 97-109.

Andrews, G; Parkhurst, G; Susilo, Y and Shaw, J (2012) The grey escape: investigating older people's use of the free bus pass. Transportation Planning and Technology 35 (1) 3-15.

Shaw, J and Sidaway, J (2011) Making links: on (re)engaging with transport and transport geography. Progress in Human Geography. 35 (4) 502–520.

Shaw, J and MacKinnon, D (2011) Moving on with 'filling in'? Some thoughts on state restructuring after devolution. Area 43 (1) 23-30.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (2011) The transformation of transport policy in Great Britain? The New Realism and New Labour's decade of displacement activity. Environment and Planning A 43 (2) 224-251.

Yarwood, R and Shaw, J (2010) ‘N-Gauging’ geographies: indoor leisure, model railways and craft consumption. Area 42 (4) 425-433. 

MacKinnon, D and Shaw, J (2010) New state spaces, agency and scale: devolution and regionalisation of transport governance in Scotland. Antipode 42 (5) 1226-1252.

Shaw, J and Hesse, M (2010) Transport, geography and mobilities. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (3) 305-312.

MacKinnon D, Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2010) Devolution as process: institutional structures, state personnel and transport policy in the United Kingdom. Space and Polity 14 (3) 271-287.

Cumbers, A; MacKinnon, D and Shaw, J (2010) Labour, organisational rescaling and the politics of production: union renewal in the privatised rail industry. Work, Employment and Society 24 (1) pp. 127-144.

Shaw, J; MacKinnon, D and Docherty, I (2009) Policy convergence or divergence? Devolution and transport in the United Kingdom. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 27 (3) 546-567.

Docherty, I; Shaw, J; Knowles, R and MacKinnon, D (2009) Connecting for Competitiveness: the future of transport in UK city regions. Public Money and Management 29 (5) pp. 321-328.

Bristow, G; Farrington, J; Shaw, J and Richardson, T (2009) Developing an integrated appraisal methodology: the Accessibility Policy Assessment Tool. Environment and Planning A 41 (1) pp. 48-62.

Graham, B and Shaw, J (2008) Economy versus the environment? Low cost carriers and sustainable transport. Geoforum 39 (3) 1439-1451.

Chapters and other papers
Cook, S: Shaw, J and Simpson, P (2016) Running order: urban public space, everyday citizenship and sporting subjectivities. In Koch, N (ed) Critical geographies of sport: space, power and sport in global perspective. Routledge, London. In press.

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2014) Geography and Transport. In Adey, P; Bissell, D; Hannam, K; Merriman, P and Sheller, M (eds) The Routledge handbook of mobilities. Sage, London, 25-35.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (2011) The governance of transport. In Kemp, R; Lyons, G; Dudley, G and Geels, F (eds) Automobility in Transition? A socio-technical analysis of sustainable transport. Routledge, Abdingdon. In press.

Docherty, I and Shaw, J (2011) Transport in a sustainable urban future. In Flint, J and Raco, M (eds) Sustaining success: the new politics of sustainable urban planning. The Policy Press, Bristol. In press.

Letherby, G and Shaw, J (2009) Dear diary: auto/biography, respect and mobility. In Vaninni, P (ed) Routes less travelled: the cultures of alternative mobilities. Ashgate, Aldershot, 111-126.

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2009) Railways. In Thrift, N and Kitchin, R (eds) International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. Elsevier Science, Oxford, vol. 9, 91-99.

Shaw, J; Knowles, R and Docherty, I (2008) Transport governance and ownership. In Knowles, R; Shaw, J and Docherty, I (eds) Transport geographies: mobilities, flows and spaces. Blackwell, Oxford, 62-79.

Reports & invited lectures

Some recent reports are: 

Gather, M; Aslaksen, F; Kritzinger, S; Shaw, J and Wilde, M (2016) Strategische Themenschwerpunkte in der europäischen Strassenverkehrssicherheitspolitik 2016-2020 (Main strategic themes of European transport safety policy). Verkehrspolitik und Raumplanung, Erfurt, 47pp.

Gather, M; Shaw, J et al (2013) Transport needs in an ageing society.

Shaw, J and Stokes, G (2010) Rural transport in 2030: scenarios and implications for transport policy. Commission for Rural Communities, Cheltenham.

Selby, D, Shaw , J et al. (2009) Moving forward: from travel plan to transport policy. Centre for Sustainable Futures Occasional Paper 2. CSF, Plymouth, 62pp.

Shaw, J; Gray, D and Yarwood, R (2008) Transport futures: the potential impacts of road pricing on rural areas. Commission for Rural Communities, Cheltenham, 18pp.

Docherty, I; Shaw, J; Knowles, R and MacKinnon, D (2008) Connecting for competitiveness: the role of transport in the UK’s city regions. Grant Thornton, London, 28pp.

And some invited lectures I have put people through:

Shaw, J (2016) Commuting trends and behaviour (and what we can do about them). Keynote talk presented at the Committee for Perth's 'Get a Move On' business luncheon, Perth, Australia, 16 June.

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2014) Transport geography and the 'new' mobilities: coming together through debate? Brian Hoyle Lecture presented at the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), London, 27 August.

Shaw, J and Docherty, I (2014) The transport debate. Presented at the University of Oxford, UK, 4 March.

Shaw, J (2013) Do as I say, not as I do: writing about sustainable transport with a silver Executive Club card. Presented at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK, 11 November.

Shaw, J (2010) Mobilising mobility: transport, geography and the ‘mobilities turn’. Presented at the Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, 16 June.

Shaw, J (2009) Devolution, transport and policy innovation. Presented at the IPPR conference, Devolution in a Downturn: Divergent approaches to sustainable economic prosperity? Belfast, UK, 22 June.

Other academic activities

I was the Associate Editor (UK & Ireland) of the Journal of Transport Geography (2004-2011), and was the Chair (2001-2005) and the Secretary (2005-2009) of the Transport Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

I acted as the Specialist Adviser to the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons for its inquiry into the major road network; I am a member of the Great Western Railway Advisory Board; and I chair the Scientific Advisory Board of Econex Verkehrsconult. I am also an Ambassador for the City of Erfurt - it's a splendid place, and I highly recommend a visit!

I was also the joint winner (with Iain Docherty) of the 2006 Scottish Transport Award in the category of Young Transport Professional / Researcher.

I have acted as a referee for the ESRC, the British Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the European Union and for all major geography and transport journals.