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Thomas (Tom) D. Beamish


  • Ph.D., Sociology, UC Santa Barbara, 1999
  • M.A., Sociology, UC Santa Barbara, 1992
  • B.A., Sociology, Western Washington University, 1990
  • Minor, Social Psychology, Western Washington University, 1990


I am a Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis, a research affiliate at the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC), and currently a board member and a faculty affiliate of the UC Davis Designated Emphasis in Environmental Humanities. My research interests and expertise focus on risks & hazards; the environment; community politics & movements; and institutions, organizations, & economy. I have also studied technological innovation in the commercial construction, real estate, and petroleum industries. As a sociologist of risk and organizations, my research has taken shape through two books, with a third currently in the works and many papers published in leading journals. Across my career, within these broad areas of interest, I have focused on the collective construction of rationality and how situated membership(s) in organizations, communities, and social movement groups shapes interpretation, expectations, and preferences in ways that can result in risks, hazards, disasters as well as resistance to innovation and change. 

The National Science Foundationthe California Energy Commission, the UC Toxics Research and Teaching Fellowship, and the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation are just some of the institutions that have funded my research. I have also published books at top publishers like MIT Press and Stanford University Press and in professional journals such as the Annual Review of Sociology, The Journal of Social Problems, The American Behavioral Scientist, Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy, The Brooklyn Law Review, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, and Organization and Environment.

​Additional information on graduate studies at UC Davis, my research publications and ongoing projects, and my teaching, both graduate and undergraduate courses (see below), can be accessed using the provided jump links or by scrolling down within this webpage. 

Research Focus

Professor Tom Beamish’s research interests and expertise includes a focus on Risks, Hazards, & Environment; Community Politics and Social Movements; Institutions, Organizations, & Economy; and Science, Technology, & Innovation Studies. As an environmental and organizational sociologist, and as a sociologist of risk, Professor Beamish’s research has generated two books and many papers published in leading journals. Throughout his career, within these broad areas of interest, Professor Beamish has focused on the collective construction of rationality and how group or situated memberships shape interpretation, expectations, and preferences in ways that result in profound social and material consequences. “Memberships” – reflected in the places people live, the formal and informal groups and organizations that people belong to, and the social categories and identities people are given or with which they self-identify – always involve the intersection of institutions, organizations, and interpretive work that gives rise to distinctive “collective rationalities.” For instance, in his first book he focused on the social and organizational responses to an oil spill disaster titled, Silent Spill: The Organization of an Industrial Crisis (MIT Press). In his second book, titled, Community at Risk: Biodefense and the Collective Search for Security (Stanford University Press), he compares local community based civic politics in three different communities surrounding a controversial and risky government biodefense proposal. Professor Beamish has also researched and written extensively about organizational and institutional aspects (and impediments) to “green” innovation(s) and regarding metropolitan level governance in California as the state has responded to urban growth and climate change. Professor Beamish has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the California Energy Commission, a UC Toxics Research and Teaching Fellowship, and the Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation













Selected Publications


Beamish, T.D. (2015) Community at Risk? Biodefense and the Collective Search for Security. Stanford University Press: Palo Alto, CA.
Beamish, T. D. (2002) Silent Spill: The Organization of an Industrial Crisis. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.


Beamish T. D., & Biggart, N. W. (Forthcoming) Capital and Carbon: The Shifting Common Good Justification of Energy Regimes. Research in the Sociology of Organizations. 
Beamish, T.D., Niemeier, D. A., & Grattet, R. (Forthcoming) Climate change and legitimate governance: Land use and transportation law and policy in California. Brooklyn Law Review. Volume 82, Number 2. 
Niemeier, D., Grattet, R., & Beamish, T. D. (2015) Blueprinting for climate change? When promise of regional transportation and land use planning outruns performance outcomes. Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy. Volume 17, pp. 1600-1617.
Beamish, T. D., & Luebbers, A. J. (2009) Alliance-building across social movements: Bridging difference in a peace and justice coalition. Social Problems. (2009) November, Volume 56, Number 4.
Beamish, T. D. (2007) Economic sociology in the next decade and beyond. American Behavioral Scientist. Vol. 50, No. 8, 993-1014.
Beamish, T. D., & Biggart, N. W. (2003) The economic sociology of conventions: habit, custom, practice and routine in market order. Annual Review of Sociology. Volume 29, pp. 443–64.


Professor Beamish teaches courses at UC Davis in Sociology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels focused on Society and Environment (SOC295 & SOC160), Organizational Studies (SOC280 & SOC180A),and Collective Behavior/Collective Action & Social Movement (SOC148).


2015 Dean's Innovation Award for exceptional innovation in research and scholarship, College of Letters and Science, Division of Social Sciences, University of California, Davis.

2014 Mentoring Award, Mentorships for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters, and Science (MURALS). Office of Student Affairs, College of Letters and Science, University of California, Davis.

2012/2013 Environmental Governance and Climate Change.(Co-organizer w/ Debbie A. Niemeier and Ryken Grattet) National Science Foundation, Grant Number #1244252, Law and Social Sciences Directorate, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.

2005-2009 Grant recipient, “Biosafety or Biohazard: Organizational Pursuit and Community Response to a Safety and Preparedness Initiative.” National Science Foundation. Grant Number #0509812, Division of Civic, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation, Subsection Infrastructural Systems Management and Hazard Response, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.

2003-2005 NSF Fellow, Hazards and Disaster Research Fellowship Program, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA. (see http://www.ncsu.edu/project/nextgen/)

2004 Excellence in Education Award. Associated Students, Academic Affairs Commission, University of California, Davis.

2000 Best Dissertation of 2000, “Silent Spill.” Dissertation Competition, Organizations and the Natural Environment, Academy of Management.