Department of Sociology

Research impact and public sociology

Our research is driven by a desire to create social change, and we are committed to communicating our findings in accessible and varied ways. Some recent examples of our impact and public engagement are presented below.

We give regular interviews and comments to national and international media, and have also written for outlets such as the Times Higher Education, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, DIE ZEIT, Funke Mediengruppe and The Conversation. The work of the department has also been featured on radio programmes such such as BBC Breakfast, Thinking Allowed, Woman’s Hour, Archive on 4, The One Show, and The World at One. Many staff also maintain blogs: for instance, Lizzie Seal and Alexa Neale’s Race and the Death Penalty project, Gerard Delanty’s blog on Brexit and Alison Phipps’ blog Genders, Bodies, Politics. Ben Fincham has presented his work on the sociology of fun at a number of festivals such as Latitude, Secret Garden Party, and Obonjan festival in Croatia. He was also the subject of an interview with Hannah Ewens in Vice magazine entitled, ‘I spent a day with the professor of fun to find out how to make life less miserable.’

Listen to Susie Scott on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed, talking about her work on the sociology of nothing.

BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed sociology of nothing - Susie Scott

Listen to James Hardie-Bick on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed, talking about his work on skydiving. 

BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed Teen Bedrooms Skydivers - James Hardie-Bick

Our research has also had demonstrable social impact. For instance, Suraj Lakhani’s Home Office-funded research, carried out as part of an international academic consortium, has made a substantial contribution to measures disrupting global extremist and terrorist activity online. It has: ensured a better informed, more targeted, approach by the UK Government to disrupting violent extremism online; directly enabled senior Home Office staff to increase research budgets and commission wider analysis; and impacted social media, whereby the online reach of companies such as Twitter has been widened to target groups that had previously operated with relative freedom.

Phipps’ research on lad culture and sexual violence in higher education has put these issues on the agendas of universities, government bodies and NGOs, and supported initiatives to create change at over 75 institutions in the UK and overseas. It initiated a National Union of Students (NUS) intervention programme and – through heavy media coverage and awareness raising – helped inspire and define national policy for Universities UK (UUK), the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) and the Office for Students (OfS). As a result, UUK has concluded that the sector has seen a ‘profound change’ in how it deals with sexual violence; this is reflected in a rise in reported incidents, indicating systems are improving and violence is no longer being tolerated.

Professor Alison Phipps on sexual violence on campuses


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