Research

My current interests are in developing a critical account of 'self-care' in relation to health and medicine. Ongoing research in this area include work using discourse analytic approaches to understand how different self-care techniques are made the subject of research (what interventions and outcomes are deemed relevant) (with Dr Richard Tutton at Lancaster University and Dr Kate Weiner at University of Sheffield), work on expectations and practices of self-monitoring with devices acquired away from the clinic (with Dr Kate Weiner and Professor Flis Henwood) and a consideration of allergy markets and online information (with Professor Helen Smith in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Dr Piera Morlacchi in business and Management at Sussex). I am also becoming increasingly interested in the ways in which 'the home' is featured as a site for health promotion and maintenance.

These projects on self-care build on previous research that I've done on preventive healthcare and consumer health, including an ESRC funded project on 'DIY Heart Health' the use of low-dose statins, investigating responses to both over-the counter and prescribed drugs for cardiovascular risk reduction, and work funded by the Leverhulme Trust on functional foods for cholesterol reduction, where margarine featured heavily as a mundane health technology, both with Kate Weiner. We have published a number of papers from this work including discussions of the interrelation between pharmaceutical and 'consumer' products in people's lives and the ways in which different technologies are domesticated, found a place in everyday routines and practices. I remain very interested in the ways in which people move between understanding themselves as a 'patient' or a 'consumer', or how the practices associated with these identities may be knit together, aligned or simply co-exist. But I also want to pay attention to different opportunities for activism in health and resistance to public health, from the work of building social movements around particular issues, including evidence in medicine, to more everyday forms of resistance and subversion of health policies and prescriptions.

Debates about evidence in healthcare are a key site for the contemporary politics of health, and Science and Technologies Studies offers a powerful way into understanding these. In 2010 I published an edited collection on clinical trials with Dr Tiago Moreira at Durham University entitled Medical Proofs, Social Experiments: Clinical trials in shifting contexts with Ashgate, in which we brought together diverse ethnographic accounts of trials to illustrate their diverse effects and their power. Since then I have pursued this interest through work with the  National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on the ways in which reimbursement decisions may be made, and in particular the ways in which 'social values' may be invoked and operationalised. I have also enjoyed debates engendered by the Spaces of Evidence network on intersections of politics, measurement and evidence-based policy in health, development, economics, medicine and beyond.

In my own work on evidence, I have explored knowledge claims for medical trials and their meanings for policy makers, clinical researchers, clinicians and patients, and I have recently supervised several postgraduate projects on patient and patient organisations' involvement in research (with funding from the Wellcome Trust through Labtec: the London and Brighton Translational Ethics Centre). 

Postgraduate supervision

I would be happy to hear from potential graduate students with an interest in studying social movements and activism, evidence or policy making in different fields (not limited to health), especially where they touched upon issues of quantification, prevention, fairness or redistribution and inequality. I am also interested in more typical medical sociology projects for example relating to medicine use, pharmaceuticals and pharmaceuticalisation, preventive health, consumer products and well-being, health and self-care.

I have supervised four doctoral project to completion, including: 

Anna Grinsbergs: Public Ethics, Social Movements? Stakeholder Perspectives on Experimental Neuroscience. (now employed with the Alzheimer's Society working on patient and public involvement).

Shadreck Mwale: Exploring regulatory and ethical dimensions of human research participation in Phase 1 (first in human) clinical trials in the United Kingdom (recently appointed to a Lecturership at the University of Brighton)

Jane Peek: The lived experience of Parkinson's - a footprint in every room

I am currently working with the following students on graduate projects:

Kate Spiegelhalter: Creative interventions in mental health: a critical analysis of the mindfulness agenda

Eilis Lawlor: Revaluing Progress: Building an alternative indicator of progress for Ireland

Aaron Gain: Employee ownership in healthcare 

Jennifer Spicer: Deliberative democracy, the case of the Food Security Act in India