Dr Sally Atkinson

Academic staff

Amory 313

I’m a social anthropologist working in the fields of science, technology and biomedicine. My current work examines the interaction of cultural, political and economic structures in the emergence of scientific knowledge and practice.

I am currently working with Professor Susan Molyneaux-Hodgson on a study Responsible Research and Innovation in the DETOX study around synthetic biology and biomanufacturing.

My work combines ethnographic research with interviews, focus-group and document and material culture analysis.

Research group links

Research interests

My research looks at scientific knowledge across 3 levels: evolving policy, governance and regulation, on-the-ground emerging research practices, and locating these elements in socio-cultural context. To date I have explored these issues in the development of national research agendas, clinical trials, diagnostics and recruitment practices in neuroscience and neurodegenerative disease. 

I combine my interest in scientific knowledge with work on the lived experiences of in aging, chronic illness, and advances in digital technologies, bioinformatics and neuro-immunology. My recent projects involve working collaboratively with UK and EU research infrastructures around innovations in bioinformatics and experimental medicine. 

I am currently developing a project examining how novel digital platforms are being used to develop recruitment for clinical trials, and the impact of evolving data science approaches on engagement with and experiences of experimental and clinical medicine for dementias. 

Modules taught


2017- 2018 Research Associate

Exeter University

PI: Professor Susan Molyneux-Hodgson

Funding Body: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Summary: Lead qualitative researcher on the role of Responsible Research and Innovation in synthetic biology and bio-manufacturing


2015 – 2017 Research Associate

University of Cambridge

PI: Dr. Shirlene Badger & Professor Carol Brayne

Funding Body: Medical Research Council

Summary: Lead qualitative researcher on the ethical, legal and social implications of the development of the MRC Dementias Platform UK.


2014 Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology

Durham University

Thesis: “Piece of Mind: A study of networks, collaborations and participation in dementia research”

Funder: Economic & Social Research Council and the Post-graduate fund for women graduates

Advisors: Professor Bob Simpson & Dr. Yulia Egorova

Summary: Qualitative study on the evolution of dementia research in the UK.

Teaching: Tutor 1st year Health & Human Sciences Module, Guest Lectures: 1st Year Medical Anthropology, 2nd Year Research Methods and Practice, Resident Tutor: Undergraduate & post-graduate study skills, post-graduate funding applications.


2009-2010 Research Assistant

Durham University

Project title: Writing Across Boundaries

PI: Professor Bob Simpson & Professor Robin Humphrey

Funder: Economic & Social Research Council

Summary: Qualitative study of writing interdisciplinary research.


2009 – 2010 MA (distinction) Research Methods in Social Anthropology

Durham University

Dissertation: “Becoming ‘at home’ in research: A reflection on the development of an anthropological project”

Advisor: Prof. Bob Simpson


2007-2009 Supporting People Administrator

Praxis Care, Northern Ireland, Research Department


2006 – 2007 Research Assistant

Queen's University Belfast
Department: Social Anthropology & Ethnomusicology

Projects: Facts, Fears & Feelings

PI: Dr. Rosellen Roche

Funder: Community Relations Council

Summary: Cross community study of young people’s experiences of sectarianism and intra-community violence.


1999 – 2007 BA (Hons) 1st Social and Cultural Anthropology

Queen's University Belfast
Department: Social Anthropology & Ethnomusicology

Dissertation: “‘Babies’ and ‘Bad Girls’: An anthropological study of perception and identity management between children and adults in a West Belfast community” – Anne Maguire Prize


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