Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing
I joined the Department of Sociology at Durham University in 2018. Prior to that I was at Kent State University. Trained as a sociologist, clinical psychologist and methodologist, I am also an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry (Northeast Ohio Medical University); Co-Editor of the Routledge Complexity in Social Science series; Co-Editor of the International Journal of Social Research Methodology and on the editorial board for Complexity, Governance and Networks. In the Sociology Department, I am also a member of the HEALTH RESEARCH GROUP.
My areas of research are:
- the complexities of place and health
- communities and global civil society
- computational modeling and mixed-methods
- complexity theory and policy evaluation
- big data and digital sociology
As my publications demonstrate, I am resolutely international and interdisciplinary in my work, as I regularly publish with colleagues from across the entire academy – from maths and physics to medicine and environmental science – and around the world. My work is also juxtaposed between the theoretical, methodological and applied, with my research, at any given moment, moving variously from one emphasis to the other.
THEORY: A social psychology of global civil society: based on a critical integration of Freud and Foucault and a variety of areas within cognitive science, intersectionality theory and social psychology, as well as the globalisation work of Sylvia Walby and others, I have been developing an alternative account of why so many people — particularly in western society — are struggling with their global commitments to one another. I am also interested in how these challenges can be addressed, at the social psychological level, to help us better deal with the current global social problems we presently face. For more, see my recent book, The Defiance of Global Commitment.
METHOD: case-based computational modelling: I have spent the past ten years developing a new case-based, data-mining approach to modeling complex social systems – called the SACS Toolkit – which my colleagues and I have used to help researchers, policy makers and service providers address and improve complex public health issues such as community health and well-being; infrastructure and grid reliability; mental health and inequality; big data and data mining; and globalization and global civil society.
We have also recently developed Durham COMPLEX-IT, an R-studio software app, which provides policy evaluators (and those working in health, food, environment and social service sectors) seamless access to such high-powered techniques as machine intelligence, neural nets, and agent-based modeling to make better sense of the complex world(s) in which they live and work. It is freely downloadable and soon to be developed into an online version.
APPLICATION: case-based, policy evaluation and air pollution and public health: Through my work with CECAN, my applied work presently has two foci: helping to improve policy evaluation, particularly in terms of public health; and also geospatially and temporally modelling the complex link between air pollution in the UK and public health, in particular cognitive wellbeing.