Department of Sociology

Research projects

Our staff have been involved in many major projects, funded by research councils, the European Commission, Wellcome and Leverhulme, as well as other organisations. Some recent examples are below.

Projects on crime and transgression 

Disrupting Daesh was a project undertaken for the UK Home Office to examine how Twitter and other social platforms deal with terrorist content online. It made use of a large dataset and used a semi-automated methodology consisting of machine learning combined with researcher analysis. This research, the first to involve a systematic and empirical analysis of disruption measures on Twitter, tracked the status and age of accounts and any suspensions. There were three key findings. First, that contrary to public and government perceptions, Twitter was successfully disrupting pro-IS content and accounts to a high level. Secondly, that differential disruption was occurring, with pro-IS accounts disrupted at a much greater rate than other pro-jihadist groups.

‘Black Books: The Institutional Memory of Hanging and Mercy at the Home Office’ concerns micro-narratives of capital murder cases in England and Wales as recorded by civil servants. The project explores the significance of evidence and circumstances of the crime in deciding who received mercy and who went to the gallows, versus hidden factors such as precedent, perceptions of public opinion, contemporary politics of capital punishment and stereotypes of gender, race and sexuality mapped against the figures of defendant and victim. It builds on the project Race, Racialisation and the Death Penalty in England and Wales, 1900-1965, which also used archives of crime sources for twentieth-century Historical Criminology.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, looks at the impact of legal aid cuts on applications made to the CCRC. It examines whether it is possible to identify trends in the number of applications being submitted; whether such trends reflect changes in legal aid provision; and whether it is possible to detect a change in the quality of the preparation of applications which are submitted. The research will inform policy developments in access to justice, and will provide the CCRC with guidance about their processes so that they are able to operate in the most effective and efficient way for applicants. It will also add to a growing body of literature on access to justice, will provide lawyers with information that will enable them to ensure they are operating as effectively as possible for their clients and will inform applicants and their families about the way that legal aid operates when making applications to the CCRC.

Projects on gender and inequalities 

Private Places, Public Spaces is a narrative project exploring the experiences of disabled women and non-binary people of non-consensual touching in public. It involves narratives submitted online and in-depth interviews. The project examines: how disabled women and non-binary people experience touching in public and how this might be intrusive, unwanted or non-consensual; the ways in which this might impact on or limit the freedom of movement that disabled women and non-binary people have and what measures they take to avoid it; the deeper intersectional nature of these experiences.

Changing University Cultures (CHUCL) is an ongoing project helping universities tackle intersecting inequalities and address issues such as bullying, harassment and violence. The team works with university staff, leaders and students to encourage deep thinking and reflection on issues and build capacity to deal with them. The project’s methodology blends sociology and organisational development and involves both research and action. CHUCL research develops in-depth understandings of institutions using a mix of methods, and makes recommendations for structural and cultural change. CHUCL interventions – which include action inquiry, open space, education and coaching – are built on research findings and work towards building more equal and caring institutions.

USVReact (or Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence), funded by the European Commission Daphne programme, was a major pan-European intervention with 7 partner universities and 16 associate partners (universities and other organisations) across 6 European countries. This research, the first of its kind, developed, piloted and evaluated sexual violence disclosure training for university staff across the entire partnership, to build capacity and create more supportive institutional cultures.

Projects on heath, medicine and care

Marginalisation and the Microbe, funded by Wellcome, compares past, present and evolving responses to infections in sexual and reproductive health, including those more likely to affect groups made marginal due to a combination of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, poverty and class. The research offers a novel discussion of responses to anti-microbial resistance in scientific and clinical practice in the UK and US, contrasting more and less publicly visible infections. Careful comparisons of action by policy makers, scientists, clinical professionals – and patients where relevant – give a critical edge to analysis of political and social factors shaping this field, and different ways of responding to inequality and stigma. 

TB-PRACTECAL is Medecins San Frontieres' cutting-edge phase II/III clinical research trial that aims to use the first new TB drugs in 50 years to find short, tolerable and effective treatments for people with drug-resistant tuberculosis. The PRACTECAL PRO is a mixed-methods sub-study that aims to examine participant-reported outcomes on the TB-PRACTECAL trial. Both studies are being conducted at six sites in Uzbekistan, South Africa and Belarus. The PRACTECAL PRO uses both a generic (SF-12) and disease-specific (SQRG) quality of life (QoL) questionnaire at four fixed timepoints from recruitment to 12 months to capture participant outcomes. Semi-structured interviews with participants in each country aim to understand what factors enable a novel treatment regimen to be tolerated or rejected by patients and provide an in-depth account of the perceptions, expectations and experiences of innovative TB treatment regimes. 

Generosity in a Time of Covid is funded by the British Academy and explores people’s experiences of human giving during the pandemic. It is collecting these stories via narratives submitted online and in-depth interviews and focus groups. The project pays attention to the broader issues in UK society – for instance, how cuts in social and health services have created inequalities that affect how people have experienced the pandemic and associated social and economic crises.

Projects on migration and human rights

The MIRNet project focuses on migration and integration research and networking. The overall objective of this Horizon-2020 funded project is to establish Tallinn University as an internationally renowned centre of expertise on migration and migrant integration issues, in cooperation with three internationally leading counterparts; the University of Sussex, Roskilde University and the University of Tampere. It aims to build up better networks and research excellence in Estonia, which is also ideally positioned to address the issues of East-West migration together with a truly interdisciplinary consortium of partners.

Reaching Out to Close the Border: The Transnationalization of Anti-Immigration Movements in Europe (MAM) studies contemporary European anti-immigration movements. It focuses on: interaction (forms and consequences); framing (political-ideological underpinnings); and outcomes (on migration policies). A comprehensive analytical state-of-the-art framing will be followed by a pilot study to trace transnational outcomes in Europe, five comprehensive studies of most different cases (Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, UK), and a major synthesizing comparison. A Methodology Lab, including leading scholars with various specialties, will be engaged to inform the ambitious multi-methods design, with process-tracing as the key methodology aiming for theory development. 

Trafig is a Horizon-2020 funded project investigating long-lasting displacement situations at multiple sites in Asia, Africa and Europe and analysing options to improve displaced people’s lives. It aims to generate new knowledge to help develop solutions for protracted displacement that are tailored to the needs and capacities of people affected by displacement. TRAFIG looks at how transnational and local networks as well as mobility are used as resources by displaced people to manage their everyday lives.

Projects on social theory, identity and culture

The Narratives of Nothing project, funded by Leverhulme, is collecting personal stories about things that are absent, lost, missing, silent, invisible, empty, motionless, have not happened or have not been done, and how these experiences affect our lives. These stories of the ‘great undone’ are being used to theorise a ‘sociology of nothing’.

The CulturalBase project created a social platform on Culture, Heritage and European Identities aimed at exploring the potentials and problems of culture and identity in Europe. Funded under the Horizon 2020 work programme “Europe in a changing world: inclusive, innovative and reflective societies”, the platform developed new research agendas and policy recommendations co-created by academics and stakeholders from across the culture sector. To help try and make sense of Europe’s plurality, and the sheer breadth of the importance of culture in contemporary society, the project’s teams focused on three research themes: cultural memory, cultural inclusion and cultural creativity. Through a series of workshops, discussion papers, consultations and conferences the two-year project supported and created research and policy agendas to help further investigate Europe’s complex and intertwined histories and difficult contemporary realities.