I am a mixed methods social scientist researching biological threats. I am based at King’s College London, where I work as a Senior Research Fellow. I am also an Associate Senior Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a columnist at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, an Editor of the social science journal BioSocieties, and the NGO Coordinator for the Biological Weapons Convention. I regularly consult for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
My research on biological threats has various strands. One strand focuses on transparency, confidence-building and compliance assessment of biodefence programmes. Another strand focuses on emerging technologies, governance and responsible innovation. Much of my work in this area looks at synthetic biology, often identified as the area of the life sciences most susceptible to misuse, but I also examine other emerging fields in biology like genome editing, potentially pandemic pathogens and neurobiology, and I am branching out into other technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and additive manufacturing. A third strand focuses on biopreparedness, simulations and field exercises. I am also interested in the role of science fiction in conceptualizing biological threats, and most recently I have been doing some work on intelligence, biological threat assessment, and intelligence-academia engagement.
My work has been funded by established UK academic funding sources (Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Wellcome Trust) and by non-academic funding sources including the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and various other Ministries of Foreign Affairs.
Originally trained in human sciences, I switched to sociology for my doctoral work, and spent the first ten years of my career at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the United Kingdom’s leading social science research university with an unrivalled concentration of social, political, legal and economic expertise. In 2012, I joined King’s College London as part of the team establishing the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, a cutting-edge department carrying out leading research on some of the biggest global health challenges facing the world today. In 2017, I became cross-appointed to King’s Department of War Studies.
My work is theoretically driven, empirically informed and policy-relevant. It draws on a range of methods from participant observation, interviews and documentary analysis, to archival research, database searches and statistical analysis. I am committed to rigorous and responsible research that contributes to addressing the significant social, political and security challenges of developments in the life sciences. Responding to these challenges rarely involve simple, reductive or straightforward answers; and so I embrace interdisciplinary perspectives and learning, as well as collaborative research.
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