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Science, technology and risk

Science and technology studies is a key area in British sociology and we are one of the leading centres of excellence in Europe.

We have several programmes of work in science and technology studies;

The first, centring on the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise and Science (KES) has led to new ideas about expertise and to the development of an innovative research method - the Imitation Game – which has been the centre of extensive European Research Council funding. KES Staff have supervised a number of PhDs applying ethnographic and interview methods to scientific settings, including biotechnology, economics, technology transfer, climate change science and theoretical physics.

Our second programme of work focuses on the sociological analysis of new biomedical technologies and builds on the legacy of the ESRC Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics which ran from 2002-2012. Current work in this area explores: the clinical challenge of next generation sequencing technology, the development of reproductive technologies involving mitochondria transfer, the relationship of neuroscience to diagnoses like autism, and prenatal screening for Down's syndrome.

A third strand of work involves collaboration with the ‘Understanding Risk’ group and focuses on how environmental and socio-cultural change has implications for understanding questions of identity and risk in late modernity.

Finally, we have a strand of work involving research conducted by members of the Digital Sociology Research Group, which builds on the work of the Collaborative Online Social Media Observatory. Work in this area is dedicated to understanding the risks, challenges and opportunities associated with new disruptive and transformative technologies (e.g. social media, big data, new forms of manufacture, robotics and drone technology), exploring and operationalising collaborative problem solving and theory building, methodological development and innovation, digital pedagogies, scoping the parameters of networked labour and a theoretical, empirical and comparative understanding of digital citizenship and identity.

Research within this theme has received strong support from the ESRC, the Wellcome Trust and the Health Care Trust. Since 2008 we have received over £10 million in external research grants.

Significant projects

  • IMGAME – A new method for cross-cultural and cross-temporal comparison of societies (Funded by the European Research Council)
  • The social boundaries of scientific knowledge: A case of 'green' open access (Funded by the British Academy)

Centres and groups