Science, environment and health

Our work on science, environment and health develops sociological frameworks to examine a wide array of contemporary developments, with particular concentrations of effort on the applications of technologies in the social and natural sciences, sociology of the environment and sustainability, and the sociology of health and illness.

Research areas

Our work on science, environment and health develops sociological frameworks to examine a wide array of contemporary developments, with particular concentrations of effort on:

The Centre for Research in Social Simulation (CRESS) is a world leader in applying a complexity perspective to sociological problems using simulation methods. A series of EU funded projects have developed simulation methods to help in understanding policy issues in application areas as diverse as tax reforms, business strategy, the housing market, the management of drinking water, and the spread of information about epidemics.  

Current projects include ANTICIPATE - Actively anticipating the unintended consequences on air quality of future public policies. This NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) funded project forms part of its Clean Air Programme and brings together policy analysts and policy makers from UK central government, devolved administrations and local and regional authorities, stakeholders from business and civil society organisations, and academics and researchers.

FutureDAMS is an interdisciplinary research consortium working to improve the planning and governance of integrated water-energy-food- environment systems. The project is developing the knowledge base, tools and approach to enable system interventions to better support resilient and sustainable development in a warming world. FutureDAMS is an £8 million project, funded by RCUK as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund. It includes the development by Kavin Narasimham of an agent-based simulation model of Water User Associations in Ghana to understand their effectiveness in managing water from dams for irrigation.

The CANDID project explores how extended networks and peer communities are integrated (or not) in the development of 'smart' technology, and how various forms of knowledge may impact on framing and use scenarios. The project brings together researchers in the social sciences and humanities, practitioners from the ICT sector and a whole range of technology users, explorers and developers.

Kate Burningham is currently Deputy Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP). This was originally a five-year (2016-2020) ESRC-funded multi-institutional research centre to address the question of what prosperity can mean in a world of environmental, social and economic limits. CUSP has become a leading international network, drawing together expert partners from academic and non-academic institutions as co-producers of the work programme. As part of CUSP, Burningham is co-ordinating an international study (with partners in New Zealand, Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Japan and South Africa) considering what enhances young people’s sustainable wellbeing in cities. CUSP has recently been awarded transition funding (£1.2 million) for the period 2021 to 2025.

Tom Roberts is currently working on projects related to extreme hot or cold weather events.  

Health and illness has been a key area of expertise within the Department for many years – with Emeritus Professor Sara Arber making a significant contribution to our understandings of inequalities in health. 

Current research includes studies of artificial intelligence and recovery (Rob Meadows and Christine Hine), the mental health of parents (Ranjana Das and Paul Hodkinson) and how inequalities related to gender inequality relate to health (Andy King). Outputs of this work have included the first patient reported outcome measure for sleep in recovery from addiction (2019). This has now been included in the SURE Recovery app. Das and Hodkinson are currently working with the Institute of Health Visiting and the National Childbirth Trust on an ESRC funded impact project to develop resources to support the mental health of new parents.

We have been carrying out research on sleep for nearly 20 years. Current research focuses on the social patterning of sleep, recovery and sleep and sleep and digital technologies. More detail on our work can be found on our Sociology of Sleep site.