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Research programmes

As well as grouping our research into three overarching themes, we further highlight our broad areas of expertise with 12 distinct research programmes. Each programme is representative of the diverse interdisciplinary research taking place at the University, and underscores our commitment to carrying out work that can truly impact the world for the better.

Ageing and Dementia

The world's population is living longer, presenting challenges to health, long-term care and economies. By investigating the health and social wellbeing of communities, our research results in positive change. We conduct social, economic and health research that supports national and international study, and informs policy debate. Through an in-depth analysis of health and social circumstances, digital technology and evaluation of policy initiatives, we enable healthier and wealthier lives for our ageing population, and deliver support for people with dementia and their families.

Academic Lead: Professor Catherine Hennessy

Being Connected

Social division and exclusion are increasing worldwide. We tackle inequality by analysing social networks, geographies and big data technologies. We leverage well-established computing and mathematical techniques, and apply them to new settings to promote equality, inclusion and fairness. For example, we use spatial analysis to detect patterns of inequality. This could be modelling health inequality and access to the sea, parks or woodland; or establishing a correlation between dementia rates and proximity to busy roads. By combining existing research strengths in social networks, geographical analysis and big data technologies, we analyse population and country-scale datasets to highlight social issues on a global scale.

Academic Lead: Dr Alexander Brownlee

Research Development Officer: Fiona Millar 


Cultural Heritage

Heritage is central to our identity, wellbeing and resilience in the face of global challenges. We make a difference to society by offering new perspectives on relationships between past, present and future. The way we understand, conserve and represent heritage has important social, environmental, political and economic implications, and is particularly vital to identity, memory, and sense of place. We examine how ideas of a shared past are created and contested through diverse forms of tangible and intangible heritage. Integrating research in the humanities and the sciences, including digital and museological approaches, we work with communities, heritage professionals and policy-makers, to create sustainable futures through collaborative heritage practices.

Programme contacts

Contextual Learning in Humans and Machines

Intelligent machines are making increasingly sophisticated decisions, but, without context, they bring risk. We seek to enhance machine-based decision-making to positively impact society. Machines are being asked to make more complex decisions, but these decisions are fragile if the context in which they are to be made is lacking. Humans use context to make decisions. By exploring the role of context in relation to human behaviour, we develop computational and machine learnings and capabilities to the point where decision-making becomes more effective and, therefore, more beneficial to society as a whole.

Academic Lead: Professor Bruce Graham

Digital Society and Culture

Digital technologies – electronic technology that generates, stores and processes data such as mobiles, social media and online applications – pervade our everyday lives. Promoting effective and engaged use of digital technology is at the core of our work in this area. From a social science as well as an arts and humanities perspective, we explore the way digital technologies, connectivity and innovation interact with society and culture, focusing on the overall impact on individuals, institutions and communities.

Academic Lead: Dr Terrie Lynn Thompson

Environmental Change

Driven by human influence, environmental change is accelerating. We explore sustainable solutions for a more resilient future. Human life is having a lasting influence on the earth's landscapes, ecosystems and environments. Population growth places increased demands on global natural resources and coincides with increasing stresses on environmental systems due to climate and land use change. Our research develops socially-inclusive practices for environmental protection, conservation, economic growth and social wellbeing.

Academic Lead: Professor Andrew Tyler

Extremes in Science and Society

Extremes can range from bereavement to flooding; disease to social unrest. We research how societies and ecosystems might better respond to extremes and prepare for the unexpected. We seek to enhance resilience at all levels, from societal to individual, and thereby influence policy. By enhancing resilience, those affected by extremes are better able to cope; communities are given a voice; and risk and vulnerability on local, national and global scales are reduced.

Academic Lead: Dr Sandra Engstrom and Dr Tony Robertson

Research Development Officer: Fiona Millar

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Health and Behaviour

Human behaviour is having an impact on health. We explore behaviours that can improve lives, and influence policy to drive change. By understanding the link between behaviour and health, and through ground-breaking initiatives in relation to physical exercise, tobacco control and addiction studies, we challenge behaviours that negatively impact health and wellbeing. Our research can drive policy change that will, in turn, to influence behaviour and improve people’s lives.

Programme contacts

Global Food Security

The global population is expected to rise from 7.6 billion to 9.8 billion by 2050. Our ambition is to ensure that there is enough food for future generations. We seek to achieve a balance between food security and biodiversity conservation. Using our international expertise in aquatic food security, in combination with our social, economic and ecological research, we provide a holistic analysis of the challenges associated with maintaining a sustainable interface between people, their food supply and the environment.

Academic Lead: Professor Rachel Norman

Research Development Officer: Pauline Bell

See more about Global Food Security research in the Institute of Aquaculture.

Home, Housing and Community

Millions across the world remain homeless. Focusing on social justice, we influence the agenda for policy and practice, promoting a safe and secure home for everyone. We investigate the economic and social development of communities. From the allocation of social housing and sustainable design through to town regeneration, our research enables a full understanding of people's lived experiences. 

Academic Lead: Professor Isobel Anderson

Research Development Officer: Pauline Bell

Human Security, Conflict and Cooperation

Regional and international conflicts, driven by climate change, pose a serious threat to world stability. We explore the impact of climate change on human security to manage and identify ways to resolve these conflicts. Climate change has a direct impact on human security. It is the cause of mass migration and property rights disputes, and places huge pressures on infrastructures and public services. These, in turn, lead to the further degradation of the human environment, exacerbating existing problems and leading to conflicts, or civil war and military interventions. Our research explores, from a variety of perspectives, how humans have dealt with these challenges in the past, highlighting the role of human nature, animals and conservation.

Academic Lead: Professor Holger Nehring

Mobile Cognition

By investigating how human brains work in the real world, we offer a new perspective on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions. Human behaviour has traditionally been examined under laboratory conditions. Our work moves psychology out of the lab to investigate and understand human behaviour. We use pioneering brain imaging technology to address problems and ask questions that haven't previously been explored. By doing so, we understand more about a wide range of neurological conditions, such as dementia, autism and abnormal brain development, than ever before.

Academic Lead: Dr Magdalena Ietswaart

Research Development Officer: Gordon Marshall

Centre for Mobile Cognition website

Research themes

Our research is encompassed within three overarching themes. Take a closer look. 

Research themes

Our faculties

Learn more about the wealth of innovative research taking place in our five academic faculties. 

Faculty research