Health and Life Sciences

Research on the social aspects of health and medicine has a long history within Newcastle Sociology. This long-established cluster – in which the work of the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre (PEALS) forms a central part – engages in work spanning three broad areas:

  • The production of new theoretical and empirical understandings of the social impacts of medical knowledge, practice, and technology, including scrutiny of their ethical challenges
  • Investigation of embodiment and identity, involving work on the body, ageing, disability and reproduction
  • Health system challenges in developing countries

Cluster members are involved in numerous collaborative relationships with colleagues in the social, medical and life sciences, within Newcastle University and beyond.  We work with numerous partners in Europe, as well as in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Singapore, and in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Much of this research directly addresses societal and political challenges, and engages with policy-making at national and transnational levels. Specific current and recent research projects have investigated (mostly with partners, who are not listed here):

  • Relationships between medical diagnoses, treatment, classification, care and identity (McLaughlin)
  • Role of religious belief in people’s ethical evaluations of new reproductive and genetic technologies (Scully)
  • The socio-ethics of using new life sciences technologies (e.g. DNA profiling) to identify the victims of armed conflict, atrocities and disasters (Scully, Haimes)
  • Socio-ethical aspects of the provision and acquisition of human reproductive and other tissue for stem cell and other clinical research (Haimes, Taylor, Woods)
  • Bringing tissue providers’ voices into the ethical governance of clinical research (Haimes, Taylor)
  • The governance and ethical oversight of life-science research (Woods)
  • Health risks associated with new biotechnologies and medical device regulation (Degnen, McCormack)
  • Experiences of ageing from the perspective of older people themselves (Degnen)
  • Women’s experience of reproductive loss, health technology assessment and the experience of prenatal diagnosis (Graham, Lie)
  • Patient participation in research infrastructure for rare disease (McCormack)
  • The organisation of health systems related to the management of non-communicable diseases in the Middle East (Phillimore)
  • Capacity building for public health research on the challenges of non-communicable diseases in the Middle East (Phillimore) 
  • The potential of mobile phone technologies to support chronic disease management in rural areas of India and the UK (Phillimore)

The co-ordinator of this cluster is Peter Phillimore (email , supported by Benet Reid ( as postgraduate co-convenor.


University staff members active within the cluster include:

Dr Emma Clavering

Dr Cathrine Degnen

Dr Ruth Graham

Professor Erica Haimes

Dr Jackie Haq

Dr Mabel Lie

Dr Pauline McCormack

Professor Janice McLaughlin

Professor Peter Phillimore

Dr Jackie Leach Scully

Dr Ken Taylor

Dr Simon Woods


PhD (and MD) students in this cluster

Lisa Crowe: Termination of Pregnancy for non-lethal fetal anomalies: Professional perspectives.

Mohar Goswami: Should we be freezing embryos?

Stamatios Karavolos: Psychosocial experiences of men diagnosed with infertility.

Alexis Paton: Bioethical issues surrounding the use of fertility preservation techniques by cancer patients in Canada and the UK.

Benet Reid: The Discourse of Evidence-Based Healthcare (1992-2012). Power in Dialogue, Embodiment and Emotion.

Sarah Skyrme: Research decisions: Living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.


Conferences and Events – Recent and Forthcoming


2013 (March): PEALS 14th Annual  International Symposium on Privileged Embodiments: Securing and Resisting the ‘Valuable’ Body, Newcastle (organisers)

2013 (May) RESCAP-MED 1st International Symposium on Social Determinants of NCDs in Mediterranean Countries, Istanbul, Turkey (joint organisers)

2013 (June): Annual national meeting of the UK childhood disability research network, Newcastle (lead organiser)

2013 (October): European Academy of Childhood Disability Annual Conference, Sage Gateshead, (member of Organising and Scientific Committee)

2013 (October): Being Active, Staying Healthy: Disabled Young People’s Workshop, Sage Gateshead (joint organiser)


2014 (April): 15th PEALS Annual International Symposium on Technologies of identification and responses to mass death: a symposium on the social and ethical aspects of Disaster Victim Identification, Newcastle (organisers)

2014 (June): International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics World Congress, Mexico City, 23-25 June 2014, "Health Care Ethics: Local, Global, Universal" (conference organiser co-chair)

2014 (December): RESCAP-MED 2nd International Symposium on Socio-political Transformations in the Arab World: Challenges for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Prevention and Control, Beirut, Lebanon (joint organisers)