Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre

Staff Profile

Professor Jackie Leach Scully

Executive Director, PEALS



My first degree was in biochemistry, and my PhD in cellular pathology. I held research fellowships in oncology and neurobiology at research institutes in Switzerland, before moving to help establish the first interdisciplinary unit for bioethics at the University of Basel. Over the next few years I followed my developing research interests in the regulation of genetic and reproductive medicine, and in the more general areas of bioethics, disability, the social construction of moral issues, and in feminist and psychoanalytic approaches to understanding moral processes. Between 2002 and 2004 I was temporarily based at the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Institute at Newcastle with a Wellcome Trust-funded project investigating ethical issues in prenatal sex selection. In 2006 I returned to Newcastle to join Sociology, and in 2008 joined PEALS (the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre) as Director of Research.

I am a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and of the Royal Society of Arts.

Roles and Responsibilities

Executive Director, PEALS

University Senate member

Chair, University Disability Interest Group


BA in Biochemistry, University of Oxford, 1985
PhD in Cellular Pathology, University of Cambridge, 1989
MA in Psychoanalytic Theory, Sheffield University, 2008

Previous Positions

Postdoctoral research fellow, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Epalinges
Postdoctoral research fellow, Institute of Physiology, University of Basel
Tutor in Biology, with responsibility for European students, Open University
Lecturer, Institute for Applied Ethics and Centre for Gender Studies, University of Basel
Senior research associate, Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences, University of Basel, Switzerland
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Newcastle University

Reader in Social Ethics and Bioethics, Newcastle University 

Current External Roles

Editor in Chief, International Journal for Feminist Approaches to Bioethics

Chair, Independent Ethics Committee, EVERREST

Member, Genomics England Task and Finish Group on Genomic Volunteers


International Association for Bioethics
Feminist Approaches to Bioethics Network (Co-coordinator 2008-12, Chair of Congress Organizing Committee 2010-2014)
Swiss Society for Biomedical Ethics
Feminist Ethics and Social Theory
American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities

British Association for Human Identification


English, German, French, and a bit of BSL


Research Interests


Bioethics; moral reasoning and the formation of moral understandings; how personal and social identities shape and reflect moral understandings and responses; disability and embodiment; assisted reproductive and genetic technologies; identification technologies, especially in the context of natural and human disasters; feminist bioethics; neuroethics; empirical methodologies in ethics; public engagement in bioethical evaluation and policy making.

I have an overarching interest in the development of moral questions, frameworks of understanding, and identities in the bioethical arena. My most recent research is part of the ‘sociological move’ within bioethics, and reflects a longstanding interest in the responses of socially marginalised groups and religious groups to health and life science developments and policy.

A second, related research area is in the body, and the place of ‘normal’ and ‘anomalous’ embodiment in social and moral life, as well as the effect of biomedical and biotechnological innovations on the relationship between the body and identity. These areas of interest include a substantial amount of work on disability, and more recent activity looking at the socioethics of recovering and identifying human remains, in contemporary and historical contexts.

Much of my work uses or is based on empirical methodologies, and I have contributed to the bioethical debate about the use of empirical material in normative theory.

A large selection of my publications is available to download from Newcastle University's e-Prints service.

Current Work

From 2011-2014 I was Principal Investigator on an ESRC-funded project, "Faithful Judgements: the role of religion in laypeople's ethical evaluations of new reproductive and genetic technologies"  (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/peals/research/project/3979). Together with Dr Jackie Haq (PEALS), Professor Sarah Banks (Durham) and Dr Robert Song (Durham), this study explored the ways in which people who identify as Christian or Muslim deliberate and make bioethical judgements to do with new reproductive and genetic technologies such as egg donation or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. We also investigated the experiences of people of faith in the clinical setting of these technologies, and the opinions of faith group leaders involved in giving guidance on their use. We are currently writing and publishing a series of papers based on our findings, and devising policy and practitioner briefings.

I am collaborating with colleagues at Northumbria University's Centre for Forensic Studies (NUCFS) in an investigation of the socioethics of forensic identification in mass fatality events, especially but not exclusively the technique of DNA profiling. In December 2012 we convened an expert workshop, with support from the Fondation Brocher, Geneva, "Naming the dead: social, ethical, legal and political issues of disaster victim identification by DNA." This theme was developed further in PEALS 15th Annual International Symposium in April 2014, "Technologies of Identification and Responses to Mass Death", supported with funding by the Wellcome Trust. Part of this interest is being developed through my membership of the COST Action "Disaster Bioethics".

I continue to write and research in the general area of embodiment and disability, with a focus on disability as a factor forming moral evaluations and relationships. In this context I am a member of the international consortium "Practices of Responsibility in Change", funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (http://www.nwo.nl/en/research-and-results/research-projects/42/2300181442.html).

Research Roles

I am currently Executive Director of the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences (PEALS) Research Centre of Newcastle University.

Postgraduate Supervision

I would be happy to supervise students in any of the following areas: Bioethics in general, especially ethics of new reproductive and genetic technologies, neuroscience, pharmacogenomics, the pharmaceutical industry; moral reasoning and identity; disability; feminist bioethics; global bioethics.

Currently supervising:
Erica Timoney (self-funded), Falling through the gap: Muslim women and the construction of identities in tension. Supervision with Dr Stephanie Lawler and Dr Lisa Garforth. 

Jacqui Close (ESRC 3 funded), Ideals and expectations: Representations, practices and governance of contemporary motherhood. Supervision with Dr Stephanie Lawler and Dr Mark Casey.


Alexis Paton (self-funded), Oncofertility: the experiences of premenopausal breast cancer patients and their health care professionals of fertility preservation discussions. Supervision with Professor Erica Haimes.

Michelle Addison (ESRC1 3-funded), The classed and gendered contours of emotional labour. Supervision with Dr Stephanie Lawler.

Rouven Porz (Swiss National Science Foundation), Zwischen Entscheidung und Entfremdung: Patientenperspektiven in der Gendiagnostik und Albert Camus' Konzepte zum Absurden. University of Basel.

Regula Ott (Institute of Biomedical Ethics, University of Zurich, URPP funded), Cognitive neuroenhancement

Esteem Indicators and Professional Service

I am Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia, and was Visiting Professor in the Law Faculty at the University of Technology, Sydney, in November 2013. From September 2012 to January 2013 I was also Visiting Professor at the Institute of European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin.

I am Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, and serve on the editorial boards of New Genetics and Society, Disability and Society, and Quaker Studies.  I review regularly for a number of journals, among them Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness, Bioethics, Disability and Society, and the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.

I am a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and an International Assessor for the Australian Research Council.

I was an invited member of the Oversight Group for the HFEA's public consultation on prevention of mitochondrial disease in 2012-2013 (http://www.hfea.gov.uk/6896.html), and have been invited to give evidence or opinion to consultations organised by the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, the HFEA, and the Parliamentary Office of Science and technology. I also served on the ethics subcommission of the Swiss Academy for Medical Science which drew up the professional guidelines Behandlung und Betreuung von behinderten Menschen (Treatment and Care of People with Disabilities). 

I am currently Chair of the Independent Ethics Committee of EVERREST, a clinical trial investigating maternal gene therapy to improve foetal growth http://euram.ltd.uk/EVERREST/.

Recent funding

2018: Vulnerability and justice in global health emergency regulation: developing future ethical models. Wellcome Trust Seed Award to Dr Agomoni Mitra, Edinburgh. £66,060

2017: Baseline mapping of UK key stakeholders in genome editing and their views on ethical and social aspects of research and application of this field. GPS Small Research Grants. £975

2017: Faithful judgements in reflection and discernment. NE ESRC Impact Acceleration Award. £7760

2017: MusicEmbryo: using music to represent embryo morphology; Newcastle University Institute of Creative Practice/Faculty of Medical SciencesENGAGE. £4500

2016: Social and Ethical Aspects of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Sociology for Health and Illness Foundation Research Grant Development Award. £5919.38 

2016: Disabled in Disaster: disability inclusion in humanitarian aid responses. GPS Small Grant. £894.01

2014:  Faithful Judgements in Policy and Practice. NE ESRC Impact Acceleration Award. £8356.02

2011: Naming the dead: social, ethical, legal and political issues of disaster victim identification by DNA. Brocher Foundation, Geneva. Approx. CHF 25,000.

2011: Faithful Judgements: the role of religion in laypeople's ethical evaluations of new reproductive and genetic technologies. ESRC. £215, 954

2011: Known soldiers: the ethics of identifying military remains. School of GPS Research Committee Small Bids Fund. £800.

2009: Parenthood and non-parenthood in an age of assisted conception. British Academy Small Grant, with Dr Stephanie Lawler.

2005-2008: Ethical decisions about the fate of embryos: the views and approaches of couples undergoing IVF. Swiss National Science Foundation grant 1115-65990, Euro 233 917.00, and Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, Euro 31 550.00.


Current undergraduate teaching

SOC3097 Dissertation module (module leader)

SOC1030 Sociological Imagination (co-taught)

SOC2056 Sociology of Health and Illness

Previous undergraduate teaching

SOC1029 Doing Sociology

SOC2058 Understanding Social Change and Transformation

SOC3062 Sociology of Disability

SOC3074 Sociology of Evil

Previous postgraduate teaching

SOC8041 Feminist methodologies

SOC8133 Disability studies