Subject streams

Illustration of two people at an event

Social Science in the City has eight subject streams. Each stream is led by a UWE Bristol researcher and focuses on a specific social science area. Find out more about each stream.

Criminology Stream

Convener: Dr Nikki McKenzie

About the Stream

The aim of this stream is to engage people in discussion of practice based and academic research on crime and criminal justice related issues. As conveners of this stream, we aim to encourage informed debate and enhance:

  • understanding of a wide variety of types of offending including sexual violence, hate crime, drug taking and online offending
  • understanding and enlightened practices relating to policing and crime prevention as well as crime control
  • understanding and needs of victims of crime and their engagement with state services
  • the measurement and evaluation of criminal justice interventions/responses.

Sociology Stream

Conveners: Anne-Marie Cummins

About the Stream

The Sociology Subject Stream of Social Science in the City covers a range of real-world issues affecting us as local and global citizens.

Recent events have included public discussion of Climate Change Denial, Women Racism and War  and  The Possibilities of Happiness in an Age of Austerity.

As conveners of this theme, we aim to engage people in debate about the issues such as:

  • Links between the personal and the political – making sense of everyday experiences as citizens;
  • Religious freedoms, tolerance and intolerance;
  • The role of emotions in public life;
  • Cultural diversity, creativity and urban life;
  • Issues of class, gender, sexuality and race.

Philosophy Stream

Convener: Dr Dagmar Wilhelm

About the Stream

A big part of what we do as philosophers concerns engaging with the world around us, and the problems and challenges it presents. Philosophy about town is about just that - engaging the city where we work and live in the activity of doing philosophy.

As a major centre for the arts, technology, and sciences as well as having a rich but often turbulent political history, the city of Bristol offers up a wealth of material for interrogation and investigation through the powers of reason. By examining the life of our city we can come to have a better understanding of the world.


From the Social Science in the City Philosophy About Town Stream event "The Meaning of Europe" - The Ambassador Q and A Session


The Philosophical and Political Significance of Laughter: Dr Francesco Tava discusses the philosophical and political significance of laughter with Darian Meacham
What is Marxist Humanism and what role did it play in the dissident Central European Marxism of the late 1960s and early 70s: Dr Francesco Tava discusses Marxist Humanism and the role it played in the dissident Central European Marxism of the late 1960s and early 70s with Darian Meacham

Politics Stream

Convener: Dr Simon Thompson

About the Stream

One challenging but intriguing aspect of our contemporary world is the way in which the local and the global level of politics profoundly shape one another. Decisions made by city councils, regional assemblies and states are deeply influenced by global political trends and events. At the same time, those local decisions help contribute to the shape of global politics.

Bristol is a city which illustrates these complex trends. It is a place of significant political innovation, from the City Council’s e-democracy programme, to the city’s status as Britain’s first official ‘cycling city’, and as the European Green Capital 2015. This makes Bristol an fascinating subject for political investigation, and it is this that the Politics stream of Social Science in the City seeks to do.

Psychology Stream

Convener: Dr Miles Thompson

Psychology is the study of the mind and its function. We measure and explore individual behaviour, emotion, attitudes, experiences and thoughts in order to understand how people behave, act and feel as individuals and within groups. This understanding enables us to inform public policy, develop therapeutic interventions and change public attitudes across society – in health, education, the workplace, in sport, in the justice system and in matters that affect us all such as driving, anti- (and pro-) social behaviours and issues of social justice like discrimination, prejudice, etc.

Our internationally renowned Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) enables understanding of and development of coping mechanisms and therapeutic interventions for people with facial and body disfigurements, whether they are a result of a congenital condition, disease or accident. The research has been widely contributed to by people of all ages, from children to the elderly with a range of appearance differences from cleft lip, psoriasis, cancer, hair loss and burns and the effects on individuals and their families; the findings have been widely utilised locally, nationally and internationally. CAR regularly work with health professionals, nurses, surgeons, dentists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists to enable best practice to be developed. A key project is that of YP Face IT, an online psychosocial support intervention for youngsters aged between 12 and 17 with any condition or injury affecting their appearance.

At the intersection of health and social psychology the dynamic influences of in/equalities in relation to gender, mental and physical health, fatigue, sexuality, weight and eating disorders are explored from various perspectives. These range from an investigation of the effect media images have on young people’s self-esteem, to complex explorations of how psychology may impact social justice issues more generally; for example in relation to discrimination and prejudice against marginalised social groups, be it due to their ethnicity, sexuality, or body weight. The community psychology team are also involved in the evaluation and further development of various schemes that aim to produce a more just society; an example here are mentoring schemes for the nurturing of young people’s aspirations and opportunities in rural England. Health Psychology at UWE Bristol is also involved in the development of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which finds applications, for example in the area of eating disorders, weight loss workshops, as well as in stress management intervention for school staff.

With an ageing population, dementia is increasingly a concern. Current Alzheimer’s Society-funded research is looking at fear of dementia and how that affects the way individuals process information relating to their diagnosis. Earlier diagnosis of dementia is also vitally important and is the focus of cross-disciplinary research that will enable us to understand the mechanisms underlying dementias, thereby helping in the development of therapeutic interventions and support networks for individuals and their carers, as well as influencing policy locally, nationally and internationally. Several researchers work with BRACE locally in Bristol, RICE in Bath, and have links across a number of Trusts including AWP, on top of affiliations with other national support groups. This work has been disseminated as widely as possible including the Pint of Science Festival in 2015. We also run a series of CPD workshop that focus on various aspects of dementia in order to better educate those in healthcare provision.

Peoples place within society are explored, including a very wide spectrum of work on anti-social behaviours such as the impact of mental health conditions on how we think and behaviour in our daily activities, fire-starting in young people which inform the emergency services policy; the effects of distractions and interruptions on driving, in the work-place and in problem solving; interaction with technologies; how people’s personality can be best utilised within the workplace; development of creative workplaces inform businesses and policy makers in their planning and development. Our work with, for example, people living within non-heterosexual families, or women choosing not to have families, draws attention to social inequalities and in/justice issues, and their effects on these individuals, their families and friends, with the potential to inform local policy making. There is also a strong emphasis on ageing and the lifespan, and how issues change as the result of life experience and changing expectations.

How our bodies and minds interact is another key area within psychology. Effects on individuals of caffeine, alcohol, energy drinks in terms of their performance at work, play and in sport are investigated and informs the development of European food standards, and taken to the public in the Pint of Science Festival 2015. Measurement of underlying nervous system activity enables us to identify emotional responses in individuals who may not be able to express outwardly their feelings, such as those with Autism, or young children.

Public Health Stream

Convener: Ellis Turner

About the Stream

Public health concerns the world about us and our place within it. It is about everything that constitutes health and those features of our world that impact upon it.
Public Health education at UWE Bristol takes an interdisciplinary orientation, with a primary focus on social justice and inequality. It has multiple objectives – the health of people but, moreover, the health of the system, whether this be the physical environment, social spaces and relationships, cultural groups, economic and political territories, infrastructures or organisations.

We are concerned not solely with risk behaviours, but principally with risk conditions; not singly with epidemiological indicators for disease, but with the broader social and environmental determinants of health. Population health is as much a consequence of economic and political regimes as it is about biological or genetic factors. Philosophically, public health considers people to be part of something bigger, where their health is often the consequence of the setting, both spatially and temporally.

We encounter health in all its manifestations on a daily basis. How we move through the world impacts upon us and upon others around us, and the world that surrounds us impacts upon us accordingly. The values of public health are not about labeling and blaming individuals or groups for their disadvantage. Rather, public health seeks to facilitate tolerance and social justice in society, recognising that poor health and disadvantage are consequences of an out-of-balance system, as opposed to accident proneness or genetic predisposition.

The purpose of this exciting convener stream is to debate and challenge the status quo. It is to forge and advance a critical public health with its ear to the ground, which is directly relevant and responsive to contemporary society, locally, nationally and globally.

SSC and Making Research Count

Making Research Count is a national Knowledge into Practice learning and development network involving 12 universities providing regional programmes of CPD and Knowledge Exchange opportunities to partners in the Social Care, Social Policy and Health community.

The principle aims of Making Research Count are to:

  1. Improve the implementation of research and related findings in practice across the Social Care, Social Policy and Health sectors.
  2. Provide a space for learning, sharing and critical reflection amongst academics, practitioners, service users and managers
  3. Enhance the development of evidence-based practice to support workforce and service development

Making Research Count brings together practitioners, service users, managers and directors of services with academics to support the effective use of knowledge in developing research-informed, evidence-based practice.

In addition to providing local partners with access to latest research evidence, expertise and professional development opportunities, partners who become members of Making Research Count will have access to a range of resources and opportunities through the national Making Research Count network.

The network currently includes the Universities of: East Anglia, Kings College London, Bedfordshire, Brighton, Central Lancashire, Keele, Northumbria, Salford, YorkOpen University and the UWE Bristol.

Who are our Making Research Count partners?

Partners interested in making effective use of research to support practice development may include Local authority Departments including: Children and Young People’s services, Schools, Adult and Community Care departments; Youth Offending Teams; partners from across the Criminal justice system; Health Service Departments; Local Commissioning team; Independent, Private and Third Sector providers and community organisations.

An exciting national knowledge into practice initiative, Making Research Count, is aimed at professional practitioners and managers working in social care, social policy and health sectors.

Social Work

Convener:   Dr Elizabeth Frost

The Social Work Stream aims to bring a controversial, contemporary and relevant focus on the issues which impact on how as a country and as individuals and organisations  we  provide social welfare. Its interests are policy and service delivery, and the political and social contexts in which these are formed.  It is also concerned to show how service users are effected by welfare provision. The stream also addresses the emotional side of  giving and receiving welfare, and our most successful public session to date ( a sell-out) has been ‘Why does everyone hate social workers’.
The UWE Bristol social work programmes delivering this stream, offer both undergraduate and post-graduate courses, and a range of professional development programmes. It is under-pinned by interests in practice, theory, and research in the field, across a broad  range of social work specialisms. The kinds of topics likely to be explored in the future will include how workers can be resilient in demanding and traumatic situations; whether a balance between protecting vulnerable people or allowing them to take risks has been achieved;  what constitutes dignity for people struggling with their lives in the glare of attention from the welfare services;  how can a welfare ‘net’ be maintained in times of austerity?


Student Social Science in the City

Student Social Science in the City™ is committed to encouraging our undergraduates and graduates to apply their social research skills and to further develop their organisational, communication and technical skills in partnership with members of the community.

The project 'Memories and Experiences of Lockleaze' is supported by UWE Bristol's Better Together Fund and involves working with community workers and partners.

The project involves working closely with members of the Lockleaze community, their representatives and development workers in the area.

Sally Gapper, Chief Executive of the North Bristol Advice Centre and NHS Community Development worker, Alex Wood, along with active community worker Joy Langley, have also worked hard in organising events with UWE Bristol’s ‘Social Science in the City’.

We are grateful to them for offering our students opportunities to develop and practice their social research skills on projects which involve other participants as narrators and social inquirers, in Lockleaze.

The project began last summer with a tea party (funded by Quartet) and involved other UWE Bristol students and graduates including Michael Nash (Criminology) and Joe Pitt (Sociology and Criminology) and other Social Science in the City members and partners, including Tart Café and Food-store. 

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