research directory

Science Education

Johnston, Ronald

United Kingdom
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Dr Ronald Johnston received his PhD from University of Wales, Cardiff in 1998. This studied the soil chemistry and plant / soil interrelationships in upland moorland habitats in Wales, UK. This was a progression of his undergraduate studies at University of Stirling where he gained BSc Ecology (Joint Hons Biology & Environmental Science) in 1994.

From 2000 – 2016 he was Subject Leader for Science and Senior Lecturer on undergraduate and post-graduate biology and chemistry education programmes in the Faculty of Life Sciences and Education with the University of South Wales. Running parallel with his teaching career he has maintained his research in the fields of Landscape Ecology, Ecosystem Studies and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

From 2016 – 2018 he joined UNESCO: Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development, as lead author for the science chapter of the UNESCO 2017 publication: “Textbooks for sustainable development- a Guide to Embedding”.  2017-2018 he was UNESCO MGIEP science adviser with a team of other subject specialists in Sikkim in Himalayan India – supporting science teacher research groups in curriculum reform embedding ESD using the concepts underpinning this work.  

He has published widely on embedding science education in Education for Sustainable Development and his work in applied soil chemistry. He is currently an independent academic and research fellow retaining close links with University of Wales.

Partly influenced by his work in Sikkim with multi-faith science teachers, he has been drawn to the value of non-evidence-based knowledge bound up in faith-based interpretations of the natural world.  His current activities focus on the ethical obligations of science as a cultural enterprise and its role in Education for Sustainable Development. Of particular interest is the concept of socio-scientific issues (SSIs) – (those unintended consequences arising from the (mis)application of increasingly powerful science-led technologies) – and how their resolution necessitates the re-integration of science with other disciplines and cultural perspectives as a moral compass to guide their application.