Sam Rowan

Mr Sam Rowan

Job Market Candidate

Research topic:
International politics of climate change
Degree course:
Curriculum vitae:

Research Themes:
Environment and Climate Change Global governance International law International cooperation International organisations International organisations 

Academic Profile

Sam Rowan is a doctoral candidate in International Relations at Christ Church, University of Oxford. His research focuses on international cooperation, particularly institutionalized cooperation in climate change. His doctoral thesis is provisionally titled "Does participation in international institutions affect cooperation? New evidence from the climate regime" and is supervised by Professor Duncan Snidal.

Sam's doctorate investigates the relationship between state participation in climate governance institutions and states’ international commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. After decades of stalemate, the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change has breathed new life into climate governance. Yet, the Paris Agreement, while important, is not the only institution involved in addressing climate change. In fact, states are members of over 65 different climate governance institutions. How does membership in these other forums relate to states’ willingness to contribute to mitigating climate change?

Sam argues that membership choices across 65 climate institutions are driven by evaluations of cooperative progress in the United Nations-led climate governance process. When states are dissatisfied with cooperative outcomes, theories of international cooperation argue they may establish alternative institutions that attempt to shift the trajectory of cooperation in their favour. And yet, existing theory under-specifies the nature of dissatisfaction. Climate governance demonstrates that states may be dissatisfied when cooperative progress proceeds too slowly (e.g., vulnerable small island states), while others may be dissatisfied when cooperative progress proceeds too quickly (e.g., states dependent on fossil fuel rents). Accordingly, he argues that states may be dissatisfied when cooperative progress proceeds too quickly as well as when it proceeds too slowly. Each type of state will join climate institutions in attempts to change cooperative bargains, but membership decisions stem from opposing motivations.

Crucially, Sam argues states with diverging evaluations will join different institutions from each other. Sam collects new data on state membership in 65 climate institutions and use a statistical measurement model (item response theory) to recover these two motivations from membership decisions. In statistical tests, he shows that states with less ambitious targets join different types of institutions than states with more ambitious targets. This challenges existing arguments about how international institutions screen states by type by focusing on membership at the level of the issue-area rather than individual institutions. This finding also helps illuminate the nature of the self-selection problem with respect to membership in international institutions, as states may join international institutions to support effective governance, while others may join to undermine it.

Sam uses ideal point estimation to scale state participation in climate governance and regression models to predict the characteristics of states with the most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets in the Paris Agreement. He finds that participation in institutions that facilitate implementation and capacity-building is associated with more ambitious greenhouse gas targets in the Paris Agreement, whereas participation in general is unrelated to targets.

Sam is a Q-Step scholar and teaches quantitative methods in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. Sam previously completed the MPhil in International Relations at the University of Oxford and has a BA (Honours) in Political Science from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He is a former managing editor of St Antony's International Review (2014/15).

More information is available on Sam's website or on his Oxford Q-Step profile.

Sam's CV is available here.

Teaching specialism, interests and experience

Research interests and expertise:

  • International institutions
  • Global politics of climate change
  • New forms of international cooperation
  • Empirical analysis of international treaties
  • Ideal point estimation

Teaching experience:

  • Statistical methods for the social sciences (lab sessions, graduate level), University of Oxford (2017/18, 2018/19)
  • History and Politics undergraduate thesis supervision, University of Oxford (2017/18)


  • Joint graduate studentship (scholarship) in Politics and International Relations from the Department of Politics and International Relations and Christ Church (University of Oxford)
  • Q-Step scholar (2017/18, 2018/19), departmental writing up award (2017/18), departmental travel grant (2017/18), college travel grant (2017/18)
  • Goel Prize in Political Science, Trek Excellence Scholarship, President’s Entrance Scholarship (University of British Columbia)

Conference Papers and Presentations

"Participation and cooperation in global climate governance: new evidence from the regime level"

  • American Political Science Association (APSA) annual conference, Boston, USA, August 2018 (paper presented)
  • International Studies Association (ISA) annual conference, San Francisco, USA, April 2018 (paper presented)
  • Political Economy of International Organizations (PEIO) annual conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison, February 2018 (paper presented)
  • International Political Economy Society (IPES) annual conference, University of Texas at Austin, November 2017 (paper presented)
  • INOGOV workshop on climate governance after Paris, Durham University, March 2017 (paper presented) as "Participation in climate governance and the revealed preferences of states"

"Who joins? Explaining membership in formal and informal intergovernmental organizations" (with Charles Roger, University of Toronto)

  • International Studies Association (ISA) annual conference, San Francisco, USA, April 2018 (paper presented)

COP23 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 23rd annual meeting), Bonn, Germany, November 2017 (party delegate, country of Georgia)