I am a mixed methods social scientist with expertise in biological threats, biosecurity, biorisk management and biological arms control. I work at King’s College London, where I am a Senior Lecturer in Science & International Security in the Department of War Studies and in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine. I also serve as Co-Director of the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s.
In addition, I am an Associate Senior Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Non-Resident Scholar at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), 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 am Co-Chair of the new IEEESA Industry Connections program on Driving Responsible Innovation of AI, Life Sciences and Next Generation Biotech. 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 and high-risk bioscience (involving, for example, genome editing and potentially pandemic pathogens). Another strand looks at emerging technologies, governance and responsible innovation focusing particularly on synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, deep learning and robotics. A third strand focuses on biopreparedness, simulations and field exercises. I have a keen interested in information warfare and deliberate disinformation related to global health security, and I am equally interested in the role of science fiction in conceptualizing biological threats. Most recently I have been working 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). 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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