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New PhD Students join the Wellcome Centre

26 July 2021

As the old academic year draws to a close, and we begin to prepare for the new academic year starting in September, WCCEH are delighted to announce the appointment of a new cohort of PhD students to join the Wellcome Centre during the 2021/22 academic year.

Four of these students are funded by our core grant, following our successful extension earlier this year, and all of the cohort will be working on projects with a transdisciplinary, engaged basis.

Working on our Healing City research theme, we welcome Ben Addy: a sustainable transport and community engagement practitioner – currently based at SUSTRANS in London. He has an interdisciplinary background, including degrees in politics, creative writing, and international studies. At WCCEH, Ben will pursue a project on the concept of “healthy streets” in London, which describes the renewed prioritisation of walking, cycling and public transport access across; drawing on data from  arrange of London boroughs, Ben’s project re-thinks this development from an inequalities perspective, arguing that diverse communities are positioned differently by healthy streets initiatives; at the heart of his project is thus an attempt to think about what a more critical and collaborative community-based approach to creating healthy streets in London could look like. Ben will be working with Des Fitzgerald.

We also welcome Lucía Guerrero Rivière, who will be working with Judy Green on the Transitions across the Life Course research theme. Following her undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, Lucía went on to do an MA in Cultural Studies at the same university. Most recently, she completed an exchange programme at Wesleyan University, where she also worked as a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant.  She is thrilled to be starting a Ph.D. fellowship at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. She will be looking at disability and debilitation in the context of the Colombian post-conflict. Specifically, she aims to examine the place of disability (especially as a result of political violence) in Colombia’s political transition and the narratives and practices that it has involved. More generally, she is interested in social studies of science and medicine, especially where medical technologies, their histories, and their biases are concerned.

Our final two PhD students will be working with Felicity Thomas on our Transforming research themes: Institutions, Relations and Engagement.

Robin Jakob will be looking at public health discourses around women living complex lives and how their experiences of health and the criminal justice system intersect. He has worked in public health for the last ten years in campaigns, policy and service delivery. This includes time as a sexual health worker and campaigner and as a Public Health Practitioner for local government. He is interested in progressive evidenced-based, public health policy and how this can be shaped by centring lived experience.

Laura Werner was awarded a Masters in Creative Writing by the University of Exeter in 2020. She is a poet and is particularly interested in writing that examines the treatment of the female body in the contexts of pain and illness. Her PhD project, Uterine Poetics, will research lived experience of endometriosis. She lives with her family near Dartmouth where she enjoys running, swimming, paddle boarding and generally being active outside.

The Centre is also delighted to welcome PhD students Cathrin Fischer and Juanita Navarro Paez, who will be joining the Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures project and the Shame and Medicine project respectively, under the tutelage of Luna Dolezal.

Cat began on July 1st, and her project will bring together phenomenological and crip-queer-feminist methods to investigate the lived experience of disability, especially in relation of prosthesis. Prostheses at once encompass a curative, medicalised approach to disability and a crip-queer possibility in the way that body, environment, and technology is used and related to. She therefore aims to examine the experience of those who use prosthesis, and how they imagine prostheses to feature in the future. More generally, she is interested in interdisciplinary philosophical approaches which centre the lived, bodily experience of marginalised people and challenge normative assumptions.

Juanita’s project will explore how shame and shaming in medicine are represented through comics from an intersectional perspective. Comics, being a media that combines text and image, offer important communicative tools that allow for in-depth discussions of topics that could be considered taboo or overly complicated, both for authors and audiences. Moreover, they are commonly used by marginalised groups to make their own personal or collective stories known and regain control over their narratives. More generally, she is interested in popular media analysis.

Our final PhD student in the cohort will also join us from September, and will be working with Dora Vargha on her Connecting Three Worlds project.

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The HEPE Story

6 May 2021

Centre researchers Kath Maguire and Ritadevi Alflatt have recently started a YouTube channel for the Health and Environment Public Engagement group, based at Cornwall’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

The group (known as HEPE) provide valuable consultation on researchers’ projects, helping to co-create research that is shaped by the people it impacts. Since being set up in 2013 HEPE has been consulted on over 120 research projects, funding bids, journal articles and lay summaries, across a diverse range of areas within health and environmental research. Through workshops and community activities, HEPE has also involved more than 70 other people from Devon and Cornwall in research activities. They have worked with over 60 researchers, taken part in 27 workshops, attended 25 conferences and supported the development of 12 medical students through the Special Studies Unit programme. In addition, they have supported the learning of numerous undergraduate and postgraduate students.

HEPE have provided their wisdom and expertise to many projects within WCCEH, including Virtual Nature and the Big Data Beacon Project.

You can read all about their work in The HEPE Story, which outlines the immeasurable contribution that the members have made to research.

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Working Out Relationships Youth Panel

18 February 2021

Despite the lack of tea and cake, over 20 inspirational young people and their leaders joined the Youth Panel on the 16th February. Participants came from Devon Schools and Community Groups as well as the Family Justice Young People’s Board whose members represent young people who have had experience of the family justice system.

The Panel was brought together as part of the Wellcome Beacon project, Healthy Relationships across the Life Course, involving Exeter Law and Medical School colleagues interested in the links between relationships and young people’s mental health. Ideas are being co-developed with young people around what they would like to get out of the new Relationship Education curriculum. This, for the first time, places stress on learning about relationships in schools, rather than just about sex, as well as discussion of issues which face children when their parents separate.

The two strands of the Beacon project reflect these developments. The first strand of research has been focusing on Healthy Relationship Education (HeaRE) and what skills young people want or need to recognise, develop and maintain ‘healthy’ relationships. The second, Healthy Relationship Transitions (HeaRT), has been considering what knowledge, skills or processes are wanted or needed to help young people manage the breakdown of relationships – their own or their parents – should these occur – and how these might best be discussed in the classroom.

The panel all took part in breakout sessions focusing on the themes which had emerged from the research about how to communicate these issues to diverse communities of young people. Very strong and consistent views were expressed by the Panel that the voice of young people needs to be heard on these important matters much more clearly, through the education system and beyond.

Discussion topics included, Is the classroom the best place for children to learn about relationships and parental separation issues? Are there other forums or support young people should access? Is child inclusive mediation, where children can also speak to a mediator about the arrangements they would like to see when their parents separate a good idea? What input and outcomes do young people want to see in relationship education? How can this be done in an age appropriate way?

The research team, Anne Barlow, Simon Benham-Clarke, Jan Ewing and Tamsin Newlove-Delgado will now go on to finalise the project, making sure these views reach a wider audience. They aim to publish their findings this year, sharing them with all the groups who participated.

Enormous thanks to all who took part, including Coombe Dean School, the Youth Parliament, Torbay Rural Area Youth Engagement Project, the Family Justice Young People’s Board and Young Devon.

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Mid-Life Conversations Is Published

5 February 2021

We are pleased to announce that the outputs from 2018’s Mid-Life Conversations conference have been published.

The collection, Mid-Life Conversations, is available to read online at the WCCEH website.

Compiled and edited by Professor Mark Jackson and Dr Fred Cooper, the collection contains fifteen original pieces of writing – and an original cartoon! – about mid-life and its experience. The pieces include poetry, film analysis, a short story and some longer essay pieces, sharing new ideas and new challenges about the concept of mid-life.

Although the collection is currently online only for now, we hope to publish it in book form later in the year. We thank our contributors for their informative, provocative and thoughtful contributions.

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Mid-Life Conversations

5 February 2021

In September 2018, the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health held an interdisciplinary conference called “Midlife Conversations”. The conference brought together scholars from across many disciplines, including history, biology, literature, psychology, sociology, and film studies, along with artists and members of the public, to explore the concept of mid-life.

The following publication has arisen from the outputs of that conference. We invite you to enjoy the provocations and short pieces of writing that emerged from this conference below.


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EDI theatre project receives funding to explore LGBTQIA loneliness and histories

29 January 2021

WCCEH is thrilled to announce that Dr Charlotte Jones and Dr Fred Cooper have been successful in obtaining funding from UK Research and Innovation’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for their EDI theatre engagement project.

The Beat of Our Hearts – staging new histories of LGTBQIA loneliness is a new engagement project running in partnership with playwright Natalie McGrath, the Intercom Trust and the Exeter Northcott Theatre.

This creative project addresses loneliness as an expression of LGBTQIA marginalisation, exclusion, and harm, alongside the relationships and spaces that LGBTQIA people have built for solidarity, creativity, and dialogue. It will deliver a programme of engagement on the subject of LGBTQIA loneliness with groups in Devon and Cornwall, drawing on previous research undertaken by Drs Jones and Cooper. This will culminate in a festival of public events and the development and staging of an original theatrical performance on the recent histories of LGBTQIA loneliness.

The AHRC have awarded funding to the collaborative project to bring this work to life. The panel’s feedback was very positive, including praise of the strong underpinning research, recognising the realistic and achievable impact the project promises, and highlighting the appropriate avenues for engagement being chosen.

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair, said: “Learning about our heritage and culture and participating in the arts can deepen our perception of our history and of ourselves.

“The EDI Engagement Fellowships will enable researchers to connect their scholarship with diverse communities across the UK and bring about positive change.

“Arts and humanities research has tremendous potential to help people to embrace different viewpoints and to build a fairer, more inclusive society.”

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New nature experiment launched with BBC Music

25 January 2021

A new experiment goes live today, investigating how people respond to different kinds of digital nature experience.

The study is part of a new collaboration between the BBC and the University of Exeter, called ‘Soundscapes for Wellbeing’, aiming to connect audiences with the nature through creative TV, radio, and online programming.

The experiment is exploring the emotions people feel when they engage with natural environments through varying digital formats, from rich visual scenes to immersive natural sound recordings and big budget wildlife documentaries.

Award-winning film composer, Nainita Desai, and legendary sound recordist, Chris Watson, have both helped to create the study, which is being led by Wellcome Centre funded PhD student, Alex Smalley.

Alex said: “We’ve assembled an amazing team to create this experiment, which fuses approaches from the arts, natural history, and science. We’re hoping as many people as possible will take part, and help us understand how best to bring virtual experiences of nature to those who can’t easily get outside.”

The experiment is hosted online and open to anyone over the age of 18. It takes around 10 minutes to complete. You can take part at

As poor mental health continues to rise in the UK, early research suggests the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen this trend. Yet lockdowns across the country have led some to seek refuge in nature and reconnect with the natural world.

Through special programming across the BBC, Soundscapes for Wellbeing is hoping to bring some of nature’s therapeutic potential to audiences who might be stuck at home.


Highlights will include Winterwatch’s Gillian Burke creating her own soundscapes for Radio 3’s Slow Radio, Lauren Laverne speaking with guests from the world of nature including the founder of Black Girls Hike, Nainita Desai and Chris Watson in conversation with Kate Molleson on Radio 3’s Music Matters, and Chris Packham interviewing Alex Smalley, on BBC Two’s Winterwatch.

Soundscapes for Wellbeing is also launching the new BBC Sound Effects archive, which allows audiences to escape aurally around the world from the comfort of their living room. The interactive website features 17,000 nature sounds in addition to recordings from all aspects of life. The site also has a mixing tool which allows users to create their own soundscapes.

Find out more about the research component of this project at

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Shame, Stigma and COVID-19

19 January 2021

WCCEH are delighted to share that Luna Dolezal, Fred Cooper and Arthur Rose have received a UKRI-AHRC COVID Rapid Response Grant (AH/V013483/1) for a project called “Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19”.  This project will identify and investigate, through philosophical, cultural studies and historical analyses, the sites and circumstances of shame, shaming, stigma and discrimination during the first 12 months (January-December 2020) of the COVID-19 health crisis. The project is particularly concerned with investigating (1) how stigma and shame are related to uneven distributions of social power and (2) how digital technologies, social media, neoliberal ideologies and rapid global information exchange have conditioned the ‘scenes of shame and stigma’ when compared to previous respiratory pandemics. The project is based in the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health and is affiliated with the Wellcome Trust funded Shame and Medicine Project.

More information about the project can be seen here:

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UNESCO: The Lockdown Blues

18 December 2020

To celebrate Exeter’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature, the Centre held a short call for literary research projects. 

“Many of us felt lonely before the pandemic, and the lockdown might have made this better, worse, or made no difference at all. Some of us have become isolated recently in a way which is unfamiliar. Living alone during lockdown might feel different to how it felt before; our relationships might have changed or suffered; and we might feel sad about keeping a physical distance from others, with no touching. We might have discovered we have different priorities and views to the people we care about. We may also feel unsupported or abandoned by the government and the decisions they’ve made about our well-being.

Some of us could be worried about what comes next, and if life was difficult before the pandemic, then we might not want to return to the way it was. It’s also not clear if our new support networks and different ways of communicating will stay or go, and whether some of us might be left behind.”

The Lockdown Blues is an online scrapbook for people in the South West to submit their thoughts, feelings and experiences, in whatever their chosen  medium, to be shared with others in regard to the COVID lockdown.

The researchers, Fred Cooper, Charlotte Jones and Olly Clabburn, designed this project to show people who feel lonely that they aren’t the only ones, and to provide a way for them to tell their stories. They also wanted to make sure that the way people feel during COVID-19 isn’t forgotten or overlooked, and explore the connections between reading, writing, creativity, and wellbeing.

Go to the Lockdown Blues website for more information.

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It’s a win for Dr Dora Vargha at the AHRC/Wellcome 2020 Awards!

4 December 2020

Dr Dora Vargha has won the 2020 Medical Humanities Award for Best International Research with her research into the impact of epidemics on the political landscape, which has helped to shape current policy on epidemic management.

Her book, Polio Across The Iron Curtain, examines the emergence of polio vaccines in 1950s Europe, the manifold politics of vaccine development, use and failure; treatment regimens and postwar disability; and scientific collaboration and mistrust. She also put this research to use in developing policy approaches with the World Health Organization, as a member of a thinktank on the history of pandemics.

More recently, she has published a chapter in collaboration with a member of the Centre’s External Advisory Board, in which she questioned how the current COVID-19 pandemic might end – you can read that chapter via our Exploring Society with COVID-19 website.

The winners were announced last night on BBC Radio 3, and you can listen to the announcement (made by the Centre’s Des Fitzgerald on the BBC podcast Free Thinking!) here.

You can read more about the awards and the other winners here, and you can read more about Dora and her work here.



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Renewal Funds for the Wellcome Centre!

6 November 2020

The Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter has been awarded an additional £1.43m to continue its pioneering engaged and transdisciplinary research.

Applying for a two-year extension in July this year, the Centre asked the Wellcome Trust to renew their support for the Centre’s unique research and impact vision. That support will allow the Centre to scale up its transformative health research programme and to ask new questions about the health impacts of social and environmental inequalities. The focus of the next three years will be research on health across the life course, on ageing and dying, on co-creating healthy cities, and on living with the social and cultural impacts of COVID-19.

These research programmes – as well as the development of an innovative Masters course in transformative health research and practice – will assist the Centre and the University to embed engagement and impact fully in their work locally, nationally and internationally, build training and career pathways in transdisciplinary research, and strengthen the Centre’s commitment to an inclusive and vibrant research culture.

Since February 2016, the Centre and its members have established a unique, transformative research and engagement programme, developing new partnerships with policy-makers and creative organisations, building an open and transparent research culture, and bringing in doctoral students, early career researchers, and senior staff. The Centre was founded by academics from across the medical humanities and environmental & social sciences.

The Centre is committed to developing engaged transdisciplinary research that sustains healthy environments and publics. Engaged research means breaking down the barriers between researchers, patient and activist groups, public sector partners, and health organisations in order to address key health challenges collectively. Current research at the Centre includes: the health impacts of loneliness and social isolation; how we use different forms of evidence in health policy; the impact of family relationships on children’s health; and community involvement in how we assess and manage research. The Centre also played a key role in co-ordinating the recent successful UNESCO City of Literature application, which made Exeter the only UK city to achieve UNESCO Creative City status in 2019.

The Centre Director, Professor Judith Green, said: “This award recognises the outstanding work of Centre members and our partners in creating the conditions for engaged and transdisciplinary work.   Addressing contemporary threats to health – whether from global warming, emerging diseases, or enduring social inequalities – demands that we draw deeply on diverse disciplinary, practitioner and experiential expertise.  The Centre’s work on some of the most urgent issues for wellbeing – decolonization, living with COVID, loneliness, shame, urban mental health – has showcased the value of collaborations across and beyond the humanities and social sciences. We are delighted to have been awarded an extension to scale up this work for transformative research on healthy cultures and environments.”

The Centre’s founding Director and Principal Investigator, Professor Mark Jackson, added: “It has been rewarding to witness the development of the richness and range of research carried out in the Wellcome Centre over the last four years. The effort of enabling research on this scale should not be underestimated; nor should the quality of the Centre’s outputs and outcomes. The extension of Wellcome funding – matched by support from the University – not only highlights the Centre’s many achievements, but also provides a platform for making more expansive contributions to addressing the health and environmental challenges that we all face.”

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Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures

6 November 2020

Luna Dolezal is a Co-Investigator on the Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award project ‘Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures’ which is launching their new website this week:

The project is the first to combine expertise in arts and humanities, design, robotics and users of assistive technologies to increase understanding of how disability and embodiment are currently represented and used, and the ways in which technology can enhance lives in the future. It brings together researchers in Literary and Cultural Studies and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds, Philosophy at the University of Exeter, Disability Design at the University of Dundee, and Robotics at the University of Sheffield. It aims to develop new work not only in these disciplines, but also in the broad interdisciplinary area of Critical Medical Humanities.

You can also follow the project on Twitter:

UPDATE (01/12/2020): A funded PhD opportunity is now available with this project! Go to our opportunities page to find out more.

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Watching nature on TV can boost wellbeing

5 November 2020

Watching high quality nature programmes on TV can uplift people’s moods, reduce negative emotions, and help alleviate the kind of boredom associated with being isolated indoors, according to a new BlueHealth study released today.

Centre PhD student Alex Smalley and the BlueHealth team have worked with the BBC Natural History Unit to create experimental conditions to test their hypothesis. Their findings support initiatives seeking to bring the therapeutic potential of nature to people at home, such as BBC Four’s recent Mindful Escapes series.

You can find out more on the BlueHealth website here.

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Shame and Medicine

2 October 2020

The Shame and Medicine project has officially started, and is launching a new website! (See:

Shame and Medicine is an interdisciplinary research project funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award. The project is led by Luna Dolezal (Exeter) and Matthew Gibson (Birmingham) and based at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health and the University of Birmingham, with a collaboration with a clinical partner at Children’s Health, Ireland, in Dublin. The overall aim of the project is to research the role of shame in various aspects of health and medicine, including clinical practice, patient experience and medical student education. Shame and Medicine is engaging a team of researchers in social sciences, cultural studies, medicine and philosophy to investigate the philosophy and cultural representation of shame in medicine, while also doing empirical studies looking at shame experiences in current healthcare practices and professional culture, particularly exploring how race, ethnicity, class and gender impact on the experience of shame. The Shame and Medicine project will provide evidence that will improve the quality of health services and enrich our understanding of the experience of shame as it relates to health, professional practice and education.

Visit the new website to read more about the project, to find out about upcoming events, to see project publications, to sign up for the newsletter and to see the latest blog posts:

You can also follow the project on Twitter: and Facebook:

If you are interested in taking part in the research, as a patient or doctor, you can sign up here:

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Community voices, barriers and enablers

24 September 2020

C2 Connecting Communities – a key partner for WCCEH’s Transforming Engagement Beacon project – recently hosted a webinar with Jennifer Dixon (Chief Executive of the Health Foundation) as part of a series celebrating the launch of Lord Nigel Crisp’s new bookHealth is made at home; hospital is for repairs.

The webinar series – Building a healthy and health-creating society – took the opportunity to hear from David Aynsley and Tia Fanelli, trustees of the TR14ers, and Charlotte Holdsworth, Alisa Kefford-Parker and Dawn Shepherd of the TQ6 Comunity Partnership about the work their organisations have been doing in their communities and the significant achievements they have made towards enabling health.

The panel discussed the barriers and enablers to conducting such important, health-creating work, and considered how belonging in communities can offer relationship, meaning and purpose and to take more control of our lives.

The webinar was number five in a series of seven recorded webinars, all focusing on health-creating societies. The first five recordings can be viewed here, whilst spaces are still available for the final two webinars in the series, which are free to attend.

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Ending an epidemic and the ‘new normal’

23 September 2020

There is no simple return to the way things were in the aftermath of an epidemic: whatever normal is built in the aftermath is a new normal…much of what we accept as everyday reality in the future will only be seen as different to those who look backward to find the subtle scars where the new normal was sutured onto the fabric of social life that came before. –from ‘Ends of Epidemics’

A chapter co-written by a Centre academic and a member of the Centre’s advisory board has been published in a new collection about the coronavirus.

COVID-19 and World Order brings together experts from Johns Hopkins University and from across the world to examine the consequences and order of the post-COVID world. Edited by Hal Brands and Francis J. Gavin, the book contains “a series of essays, [where] international experts in public health and medicine, economics, international security, technology, ethics, democracy, and governance imagine a bold new vision for our future.”¹

Dora Vargha and Jeremy Greene, from the Centre’s Advisory Board, collaborated on the chapter “Ends of Epidemics”, which examines past epidemics to consider the possible endings for the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how we might define when the pandemic ends.

Other chapters in the collection consider bioethics, food security, global climate, economic policy, and Sino-American rivalries to name but a few.

The chapter – like the whole collection – is Open Access and can be found here: Ends of Epidemics.




¹, accessed 21/9/2020

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Making Sense of Ageing & Finding Its Time

22 September 2020

Jessie Stanier recently delivered a webinar for Professor Susi Ferrarello‘s class Bioethics & Diversity at California State University, on the topic of ‘Making Sense of Ageing and Finding Its Time’.

Widely advertised on the Philos-L mailing list, it was well-attended by academics from around the globe as well as the students in the class. Some of those watching included the Religion, Philosophy and Ethics class at St Swithun’s School, who used the class for academic enrichment. Plans are now underway for another webinar with other local schools for students of philosophy, ethics, psychology, and those intending to study medicine!

Jessie is undertaking her PhD at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, on the Phenomenology of Ageing, working with older communities about the lived experiences of ageing and ageing well. She also recently co-hosted the British Society of Phenomenology’s annual conference.

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Centre-sponsored conference is held fully online for the first time

21 September 2020

WCCEH were pleased to co-sponsor the British Society of Phenomenology’s 2020 conference, which, due to the pandemic, was held entirely online for the first time. Despite this, the engagement and participation was incredible from the 150 attendees, especially in the Q&A sessions.

The BSP’s conference was co-hosted by the Centre’s Luna Dolezal and Jessie Stanier, who produced a number of welcome videos to create a friendly online atmosphere in the run up to the conference. They also proposed the theme of the conference, which was ‘Engaged Phenomenology’.

‘Engaged Phenomenology’ seeks to complement the approaches of applied and critical phenomenology by investigating embodied lived experience through a plurality of voices, encouraging dialogue between phenomenology, as a philosophical approach, and other disciplines, in addition to practitioners and individuals outside the academy. [From the BSP website]

Keynote speeches were given by Sophie Loidolt, Mariana Ortega and Dan Zahavi, along with nearly sixty pre-recorded presentations with accompanying live Q&A chat rooms. Luna chaired the whole conference, whilst Jessie co-presented alongside fellow Centre members Veronica Heney and Nicole Miglio, a PhD student the Centre had the pleasure of hosting last year.

The BSP were so keen on the theme that it has formed the basis of their essay prize this year!

Congratulations to Luna, Jessie, Veronica and Nicole!


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Recruitment for PhD project goes ahead

17 September 2020


WCCEH PhD Student Raawiyah Rifath has begun recruiting for her project. Please contact her if you would like to participate.

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‘Time Being’ premieres at Exeter’s Maketank

17 September 2020

Time Being

Deborah Robinson

A collaboration with Ruairí Corr

24 September – 26 September 2020


A 14 minute film with sound


Socially distanced hourly screenings

Free admission

Timed tickets only. Booking strongly advised


Part of Waiting Times

Maketank, 3-5 Paris Street, Exeter EX1 2JB

Join us at the spacious Maketank in Exeter City Centre for a socially-distanced screening of the new film by artist and researcher Debbie Robinson.

To keep everyone safe we are releasing just a handful of timed tickets for each screening.

Please note: Unfortunately there is no accessible toilet at Maketank. There are accessible toilets approximately 50m away at St Stephens House.

Maketank is a large disused commercial space located at street level with toilets on the 2nd floor. Seating will be spaced and face coverings required (unless exempt) in line with the latest government guidelines.

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Checking Out checks in the first round of interviews

17 September 2020

WCCEH research fellow Lorraine Hansford has been working on her project Checking Out since late last year, examining the concept of a “good death” in low-income families and communities, and how this can be achieved.

The original plans for Checking Out were amended following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Lorraine has skilfully reconfigured her work into a COVID-compliant set of interviews with funeral directors, vicars and celebrants, welfare rights advisers in hospices and palliative care social workers in low-income communities which have proved fruitful and enlightening.

Lorraine is adding to this knowledge with another set of interviews, this time with individuals with lived experience of funeral poverty. The interviews are highlighting the myriad ways in which poverty impacts on people’s experiences at end of life, not just in terms of funeral poverty but in terms of accessing care, the accessibility of a ‘good death’ for those worrying about housing or money issues both for themselves and for the family they are leaving behind, and the impact on the grieving process.

Lorraine is still recruiting participants for the interviews regarding lived experience of funeral poverty – if you would be willing to talk about your experiences, please do contact her to participate in her research.


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Broad Spectrum comes to Radio 4

7 September 2020

Autism, despite being seen as a particularly ‘male’ condition, is increasingly being diagnosed in women in their 30s, 40s and 50s – or even later in life.

WCCEH PhD student Helen Keen is one of them, and she has produced a half-hour documentary – Broad Spectrum – for BBC Radio 4, talking with other women and non-binary people about their experiences of late-life diagnosis.

Airing on September 8th at 11am, Helen has interviewed a range of people about their diagnostic process of autism, and how this has impacted their lives. She will also be exploring how neurodiversity can and should be valued and celebrated.


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Mindfulness meets Mother Nature in new BBC series

7 September 2020

Following his successful collaboration with the BBC on Forest 404, Centre PhD student Alex Smalley has once again collaborated with the BBC on a new four-part series, Mindful Escapes: Breathe, Release, Restore.

The series brings together video footage from the The BBC Studios Natural History Unit’s archives with voiceover from Andy Puddicombe, founder of the Headspace mindfulness app. The series will premiere on BBC Four from September 7, 2020, as four 30-minute episodes, and will also be adapted into shorter episodes for the Headspace app later this year.

The four episodes – Breathe, Change, Joy and Rest – will offer “the viewer immersive mindful experiences within the natural world“.

Alex has produced a web video about his research, which can be viewed here.


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Suffering from the ‘Lockdown Blues’? Share your experiences online

1 September 2020

Share your experiences of loneliness and Covid-19 as part of a major new creative project

People in the South West can now share their experiences of the considerable isolating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as part of a major new project designed to collect stories of loneliness and community.

The Lockdown Blues is an online scrapbook where anyone can contribute their thoughts, feelings, or reflections on loneliness in any format – whether through poems, songs, paintings, stories, sketches, videos, letters or a few brief notes. It has been designed to promote empathy and creativity, with the hope that reading, writing, and creating may help visitors to the website feel less alone. It will also act as a public record, so that people’s experiences of difficulty during this important time aren’t forgotten or overlooked.

The website is designed so that anyone can easily submit their contributions and share their thoughts with others. It was developed by three researchers at the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, Charlotte Jones, Olly Clabburn, and Fred Cooper, as well as their community partners, Devon Libraries and Exeter Phoenix to celebrate Exeter’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Dr Olly Clabburn, University of Exeter, said: “We’ve created a community space where people can share their experiences, get creative, and read about how others are feeling. Loneliness is something that affects people very differently. The Lockdown Blues is a safe space for anyone in the South West to share what loneliness has meant to them during the global pandemic.”

Dr Fred Cooper explained: “The website isn’t just about experiences of loneliness, it’s also a place to celebrate friendships and community during lockdown. We understand it can be difficult to talk about loneliness, as it often feels like an individual failing. It isn’t, and we hope that this project will emphasise that, and help make it easier to discuss. If solidarity can be found in shared experience and expression, we hope we’ve made a space for that to become possible.”

Dr Charlotte Jones added: “We know that many people’s experiences of loneliness and isolation didn’t begin with Covid-19, so these reflections may go back further than the last six months. We’re also interested in hopes and anxieties for the future; many restrictions are in the process of being lifted and this will impact people’s well-being in very different ways.

Contributions to The Lockdown Blues can be anonymous and in any format. People can also contribute using the hashtag #lonelycovid. Charlotte, Fred, and Olly hope that as many people as possible will take part. The website also provides details of charities, services and community groups in the South West if you feel in need of support, or just want to meet new people.

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‘Mitigating loneliness in youth’ project sweeps across Europe

28 August 2020

Professor Manuela Barreto has been awarded funding from Erasmus+ to pursue a cross-European project about easing youth loneliness over the next three years.

Working with high-school teachers from Portugal, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey and the UK, the study, funded by Erasmus+, intends to co-create an intervention for loneliness with high-school students. Parties involved include two academics, several high-school teachers and an IT expert.

Professor Barreto has extensive experience of working on loneliness, having being co-investigator with Professor Pam Qualter on the BBC Loneliness experiment. The first paper published from this, Loneliness around the world: Age, gender, and cultural differences in loneliness, is available to read now.

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Intercultural competence migrant training approved by WHO now available online

27 August 2020

Following the publication earlier this year of the World Health Organization’s toolkit for Migration and Health, we are pleased to share that the toolkit has now also been turned into a MOOC (massive online open course) through the WHO.

The Centre’s Deputy Director for Learning, Dr Felicity Thomas, authored the initial report in close partnership with the Evidence for Health and Well-being in Context (EHC) project team at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. This is a long-standing partnership created through the WHO Collaborating Centre for Culture and Health, which is also located at WCCEH, and of which Dr Thomas is Co-Director.

Overseeing the translation of the work from report to MOOC took longer than planned, but the training is now available online, for free to interested parties. The MOOC offers healthcare practitioners “an accessible introduction to the key concepts underpinning intercultural competence and diversity sensitivity” as well as the opportunity to explore methods, techniques, and actions to put this into practice.

The online course takes roughly two and a half hours, and currently has over 2,000 students enrolled upon it.

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Working out relationships? Free teaching materials for PSHE lessons

18 August 2020

Working out Relationships? is a fun and interactive two-part lesson plan for use in PSHE classes for Key Stage 4 pupils devised by Prof. Anne Barlow and Dr Jan Ewing at Exeter Law School. It is based on an idea which came from the findings of an interdisciplinary research study on relationships where they worked with local schools. These lesson plans were then tested by schools in Devon in an ongoing project (HeaRE) funded by the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

The lesson plans will help support teachers to bust common myths about the ‘perfect relationship’ to manage young people’s expectations. They use a gym theme to show that, like getting fit, relationships are fun but require work.

From September 2020, relationship education (rather than just sex education) will be compulsory in all schools. Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education classes will be updated to ensure that young people learn both how to build and maintain healthy relationships and how relationships can affect physical and mental health and well-being.

In response to these changes to the curriculum the new teaching resources, developed by the University of Exeter, were launched in July 2020 and have recently been awarded the prestigious PSHE Association’s quality mark, only given to selected resources which are at the leading edge of effective teaching practice in PSHE education. The resources are freely available to schools, and can be downloaded from the Working out Relationships webpage.

WCCEH is looking forward to seeing more of these resources as the team behind Working out relationships? continues their research in their WCCEH-funded project, HeaRE.

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Olly Clabburn

10 August 2020

My research interests lie broadly within the field of health, care and well being. As such, I have specific interest in holistic care, family carers, terminal illness, palliative care and bereavement. My PhD research synthesised these interests through investigating the use of digital legacies (video recordings) with people affected by motor neurone disease.

As a qualitative researcher, I have worked on a variety of projects such as developing tools for patients and carers living with motor neurone disease, exploring primary school teachers experiences of food poverty, medical education, social worker mental health, and also service evaluations.

Being a Fellow of the HEA, I have lectured on a variety of health and social care modules, and also led modules focussed upon qualitative research methods.

I am now working as a research associate  at WCCEH on two projects.

The first is in collaboration with We Hear You and is investigating the experiences of how cancer affects couples, and importantly,  the impact of counselling  as a means of psychosocial support for adult relationships. The Lockdown Blues is the second project which is centered upon developing an online scrapbook of people’s experiences of loneliness and isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Exploring Society with COVID-19

22 June 2020

The Wellcome Centre for Environments and Cultures of Health and The Exeter Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis) have been leading a cross-college initiative from SSIS and HUMS to launch the platform “Society With COVID-19”. Drawing on longstanding expertise in the social study of science and in the medical humanities at the University of Exeter, this digital platform draws together cutting-edge work on those societal changes, while also providing a platform for collaboration, and for seeing connections across boundaries. This platform aims to engage members of the public in humanities and social science research, by offering routes to contact researchers, to participate in projects, and to offer their own research questions and priorities. For more information, to provide feedback and to engage with this work, please contact the organising team as indicated on the site:

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WCCEH announce a creative collaboration on LGBTQ+ loneliness and history with the Northcott Theatre and Natalie McGrath

12 June 2020

Following an initial seed phase in which three artists were granted funding to think about loneliness, theatre and performance alongside scholars at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, we are excited to announce the direction that this collaboration will take.

Working closely with the Centre and with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre, the acclaimed playwright and activist Natalie McGrath will create an original piece of work for production, drawing in part on creative exchanges with Centre researchers and LGBTQ+ people with lived experiences of loneliness and isolation.

Conceived before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, one aim of the work was to think critically about the loss of hard won social and emotional spaces which LGBTQ+ people have created to share with one another. Running deeper than this present, dislocating moment are stories and histories which reverberate through queer experiences of isolation, quarantine and distance in 2020.

Natalie McGrath

Natalie McGrath will work with WCCEH and the Northcott Theatre on LGBT+ loneliness and history.

As Natalie put it:

“Working with Drs Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones from the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health on the subject of loneliness, in partnership with Exeter Northcott Theatre, is an exciting new direction for my work as a playwright and socially engaged artist.  LGBTQ+ stories have historically been erased or silenced due to hatred, ignorance and prejudice, whilst structural legislation and lack of rights have caused harm to many lives.  This opportunity to explore some of the pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ history through the lens of loneliness will enable an exciting new play to emerge for an ensemble of LGBTQ+ performers in the future life of the project.”

For Fred and Charlotte, this project goes much further than simply engaging new audiences with academic research that has already been done. Fred had the following to say about the importance of the project for his own work, and why Natalie’s ideas stood out:

“A significant aspect of what we want to do is to push back against ways of working which create artificial hierarchies between university academics and the people they collaborate with. Natalie is not here to ‘translate’ our research into something more accessible, she is here to determine an agenda, explore the questions that she knows are vital, and participate in a meaningful process of exchange which will alter and enrich our practice as academics. Natalie began the project with a clear idea of the direction she wanted our work together to take, and a keen sense of the historical and structural harms which are embedded in LGBTQ+ experiences of loneliness. We’re delighted to be working with such an accomplished and talented artist.”

Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Exeter Northcott Theatre added: “Artists such as Natalie have an extraordinary ability to pose questions, stretch our imaginations and create a space for considering new possibilities. Through projects such as this and the Northcott Futures programme which supports local theatre-makers, the Northcott aims to make meaningful exchanges between artists, audiences and practitioners across a number of disciplines and lived experiences. We’re delighted to take this project forward and excited to see how the play evolves.”


Natalie McGrath is a playwright, poet, occasional performer, producer of arts and heritage projects, and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West who curate the Rebellious Sounds Archive.

Natalie is currently Writer in Residence and Cultural Heritage Producer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum for Out and About: Queering the Museum, a National Lottery Heritage Fund project in collaboration with the University of Exeter’s Dr Jana Funke.

Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones are research fellows at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. Fred is a historian of medicine with particular interests in loneliness, estrangement, and solitude. Charlotte is a sociologist of gender, sexuality, disability and health.

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Participants needed for Beacon Healthy Relationships Research Project

15 April 2020

Research participants sought: if you have used child-inclusive mediation we would like to speak to you. We are conducting confidential telephone interviews with parents and young people aged 8 and over who have experienced child inclusive mediation. We give a £20 Amazon voucher to parents and a £15 Amazon voucher to the young people we interview. If you are interested and would like further details, please contact Jan Ewing:

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Postponement of External Advisory Board Events

13 March 2020

It is with regret that we have decided to cancel the talks and other activities that had been arranged to take place on 18-20 March, as part of WCCEH’s External Advisory Board.

Earlier this week, we made the decision to also cancel Professor Judith Green’s public lecture and the conference dinner that was planned. We have also cancelled the Speculative Methodologies workshop which was due to take place on Tuesday.

In our view, in light of ongoing concerns with COVID-19, the situation calls for refraining from group activities that are not essential and are not time-sensitive. We hope to reschedule activity for later in the year.

Attendees of all sessions should have been notified of their session’s cancellation, but if you have any questions, please get in touch via email (, where one of the team will respond during our normal office hours.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused, and thank you for your understanding.

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Checking Out

17 February 2020

The Checking Out project will explore attitudes towards death and dying in low-income communities, and look at the relevance of current public health approaches to meet the needs of people affected by poor health, and their carers, in later life.

When:  Jan 2020 – Oct 2021

Where: Low-income areas within the UK

Why: In the UK the Department of Health adopted an End of Life Care Strategy in 2008 and there is a growing recognition of the need to address palliative care as a public health issue, encouraging early intervention to ‘reduce harms related to ignorance, fear, social distancing and isolation, stigma and prejudice’ (Kellehear 2013). At the same time research shows that people with a lower socio economic status are less likely to access palliative care services (Buck et al 2018), and that inequalities in access are actually increasing (Sleeman et al 2016).Given the UK’s ageing population, the crisis in health and social care and the recognition that inequalities accumulate across the life course, end-of-life care for people in lower socio-economic groups is a key issue.


The research aims to:

  • explore the notion of ‘a good death’, and how people talk about and view death and dying, within low-income communities,
  • explore possibilities for new ways of introducing and talking about death that are relevant to the needs and fears of people living on a low-income at different life stages
  • understand how fear, stigma and trust impact on communication and access to care


  • Working alongside local communities and using mixed qualitative methods
  • Focusing on the views and experiences of those living on a low-income
  • Two strands; less formal community activities, and more in-depth interviews and focus groups

Community activities

  • Informal visits to existing groups and community settings to start conversations about the research and find out which particular topics are important to people.
  • If people are interested, involve them in creating the topic guides for focus groups and interviews, to make sure they are relevant and accessible.
  • Use the ‘Departure Lounge’ pop-up installation to prompt conversations and discussion about death and dying in community settings e.g. community centres, community cafes, public spaces and events such Exeter Respect Festival and Pride. The Departure Lounge installation was created by the Academy for Medical Science, find more info here

6-8 Focus groups: (4-6 participants in each one) within low-income communities, in local settings where people feel comfortable e.g. community centres. Focus groups will look at materials such as the ‘Dying Matters’ campaign leaflets and discuss feelings, thoughts and reactions to these materials and the issues they raise. Topics may include people’s fears in relation to end-of-life, their perceptions of a good death, and their feelings about talking about and/or preparing for death within their own life context, but no-one has to discuss anything that they do not want to.

10 Interviews: For people who would prefer to discuss their views and experiences in a one-to-one setting, or for focus group participants who would like to discuss their personal experiences in more depth. The interviews will be informal conversations and the participants can choose what they would like to discuss, but this may include experiences of end-of-life with family members or friends, feelings in relation to considering their own end of life and their views on the value of preparing for death, either for themselves or family members.

Practicalities: Focus groups and interviews will take place at a time and venue to suit the people taking part. Participants will receive £25 as a thankyou for their time, and travel and/or childcare expenses will be paid.

Impact: By increasing our understanding of the barriers to considering and preparing for end-of-life, the research will help inform service-providers (within and beyond healthcare) about effective ways to address current inequalities in access to care.

June 2020 – Update in relation to Covid-19
Obviously some of the research activities that were planned as part of the ‘Checking Out’ project have had to be suspended due to the current Covid-19 situation (e.g. community activities, focus groups). However I have ethical approval to carry out some online / telephone interviews which will take place over the next 4 months:
  • 15 interviews with professionals involved in supporting individuals through end-of-life and bereavement in low-income communities. These may include, for example, funeral directors, funeral celebrants, policy officers at relevant charities supporting people in poverty, faith leaders working in communities that represent the most deprived quintile of the overall Index of Multiple Deprivation. I will explore their experiences of supporting individuals and families experiencing funeral poverty, both during and pre-pandemic.
  • 15 individuals with people who have lived experience of funeral poverty, or of supporting someone through end-of-life whilst living on  a low-income, within the last five years.
If you are interested in participating or would like to know more about this research please do get in touch


Contact: Please feel free to contact the researcher, Lorraine Hansford, with any queries, comments or suggestions. If you would like to suggest groups / contacts I could get in touch with to talk about the project I would love to hear from you.


Phone: 01392 722578

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Workshop on Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems in Dakar

4 February 2020

At the end of January I co-organised a workshop with Enda Santé on Partnership for Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems (Àndadoo ngir lekk bu sel, in Wolof) financed by the Exeter GCRF facilitation fund. The workshop brought community health workers and people from Popenguine together with academic researchers in nutrition, pharmacy, public health, history and anthropology from three Senegalese universities to define a collaborative and engaged research agenda and future advocacy strategy on healthy and sustainable diets.

Community members had the opportunity to engage with presentations on food and traditional medicine, the history of the Senegambian diet, eating in a context of globalisation, and the impact of climate change on secure and sustainable diets in the region.

We heard from people from Popenguine who manage a community food hub where local food resources are held in common and distributed to households. The food hub has been highly effective in tackling malnutrition in the area and decreasing the community’s reliance on unpopular medical interventions for child stunting. We agreed to work in close collaboration with this highly successful, community led project to strengthen the capacity of the programme to respond to hidden hunger, micronutrient deficiency, and diet related Non Communicable Diseases, while advocating alongside the people of Popenguine for sustainable and people centred food systems.

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New Appointments at the Centre

13 January 2020

Professor Judith Green, Dr Des Fitzgerald and Dr Martin Moore will be joining the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health in 2020, following a rigorous and robust recruitment campaign in the latter part of last year.

The Centre spent much of 2019 involved in preparing a recruitment campaign to attract staff with interdisciplinary and engaged experience and with a variety of expertise. The campaign attracted nearly two hundred applications across the levels of Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and Professor, in line with WCCEH’s focus on the humanities and social sciences. The applicant pool was extremely strong, and competition for the three permanent posts was fierce.

Professor Judith Green joins the Centre as Professor of Sociology from King’s College London, where she has been a professor of Sociology of Health since 2016. Her career has seen her work to bridge the gap between medical research and sociological research, and lately she has been focusing on mobility, transport systems & health; questions of how evidence travels from one setting to another; methodological development; and health professions. Her work most recently has focused on how telematics are used to mitigate public health disadvantages of heavy car usage.

Professor Green joins the Centre on March 1st 2020, and has kindly agreed to give the Centre’s annual Public Lecture at our External Advisory Board event in the middle of March. Keep an eye out for more details nearer the time!

Dr Des Fitzgerald, a sociologist of science and medicine, will also join us on 1st March 2020, as Associate Professor of Sociology, having been at Cardiff University since 2015. His work has focused on space, environment and mental health; he won the Philip Leverhulme Prize for sociology in 2017, and the research from this focuses on the use of psychological and neurobiological knowledge in architecture and city planning.. His most recent publication was titled “Mental health, migration and the megacity” and examined ‘results and perspectives from an in-progress international and interdisciplinary collaboration investigating the mental health of rural–urban migrant communities in contemporary megacities’.

Dr Martin Moore will join us in September 2020, ready for the new academic year! Martin will be taking up a permanent post as Lecturer in History, after six years as a Research Fellow here at Exeter. His previous body of work has examined historical constructions of physical, mental and social health, and the way approaches to time, waiting and disease management have influenced approaches to health and disease. His work with the Centre will focus on Commuting Britain, and the connections between travel, health and wellbeing in post-war Britain.

Professor Mark Jackson, the Wellcome Centre’s Director, commented: “I am delighted that we have three new colleagues joining us this year: Professor Judy Green; Associate Professor Des Fitzgerald; and Dr Martin Moore.  Their expertise and experience will substantially expand our cross-disciplinary interests and research capacity in environment and health in particular.”

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Resting and Rushing

9 December 2019

Our research associate Dr Ayesha Nathoo was featured on a BBC radio programme, Resting and Rushing, alongside Claudia Hammond, Matthew Smith and Sarah Cook.

The full podcast can be downloaded or listened to online here:


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Sustainable food networks and the Devon Net Zero Task Force

5 December 2019

Network map sustainable food projectsOn Friday 29th November Rebecca Sandover was an expert witness in the Devon Net Zero Taskforce’s hearings to gather evidence towards creating a Devon Carbon Plan.

Rebecca focussed on measures to bring more, affordable local food to local markets and local food procurement, drawing on evidence from her recent research, including including her WCCEH-funded project Devon Sustainable Food Networks, which gathered data from partners on programme and policy initiatives to progress the production and consumption of sustainable, local food in Devon.

Read more here.

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Congratulations to colleagues at ECEHH

2 December 2019

ECEHH LogoWe’re delighted to share the news that the European Centre for Environment and Human Health has been designated as a Collaborating Centre on Natural Environments and Health by the World Health Organization.

This achievement recognises the Centre’s significant contribution to science and policy-making from a decade of interdisciplinary research.

We congratulate our colleagues Lora Fleming and Karyn Morrissey, and all their colleagues in the ECEHH.

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New study identifies problems with mental health self-referral system

20 November 2019

People with anxiety or depression who go to see the GP are often given a leaflet with numbers for psychological services and advised to give them a call. This system of “self-referral” for common mental health problems has been in place for more than 10 years. In sheer numbers terms, it appears to have been a great success. But a new study has identified a problem.

Felicity Thomas spoke to BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme about problems some people, particularly those on low incomes, experience with self-referral.

Listen to the programme here. Felicity’s segment starts at 12:24.


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DE-STRESS Project shortlisted for Mind Media Award

13 November 2019

Congratulations to Centre members Felicity Thomas and Lorraine Hansford!

A series of items about antidepressant use on Radio 4’s PM programme, which featured De-Stress, a collaborative project between the universities of Exeter and Plymouth (funded by Economic and Social Research Council and supported by PenARC), has been shortlisted for an award at the Mind Mental Health awards. Held annually, the awards recognise and celebrate the best possible representations of mental health on television, radio, print and online media.

More information here


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Making the most of waiting

8 November 2019

Ray Earwicker, a WCCEH friend, writes …

If time is a great healer, is waiting the problem?

Florence Nightingale (1859) certainly thought so. She saw it as bad for health – “apprehension, uncertainty, waiting (my italics), fear of surprise…do a patient more harm than any exertion.” It’s tiresome too, as the Kinks noted in 1965 and in the meantime, we’re all Waiting for Godot (who never comes). For health systems, waiting is a mark of inefficiency that undermines ‘customer’ confidence. It is a focus for targets and management expedients in a culture which expects action, now.

Read more on the Waiting Times blog

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WCCEH celebrates Exeter – UNESCO City of Literature

4 November 2019

We’re thrilled to learn that Exeter has been awarded ‘City of Literature’ status by UNESCO – the only new place in the UK to gain this prestigious status. Exeter will join 65 cities around the world as a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Centre members have been closely involved in the development of the bid, which was led by Exeter City Council and brought together people and organisations from across the city.

Exeter can lay claim to a thousand years of unbroken connection with literature, from the Exeter Book to the archives of the former poet laureate, Ted Hughes but the success of this award also lies in its recognition of the vital importance of reading, writing and storytelling in supporting and sustaining health and well-being throughout our lives. This closely resonates with our core vision: that to address today’s tough health challenges, we must engage with diverse communities to create multiple ways of sustaining health and well-being across the life course.

Mark Jackson, the Centre Director, said:

Obtaining UNESCO City of Literature status has been a wonderful process of cross-sectoral working. The steering group included members from Exeter City Council, Literature Works and Exeter Culture – among others – working alongside the Wellcome Centre. The outcome will enable us to promote literature and literacy as key pathways to improved health and well-being across the city and region, and to link creatively with overseas partners. As a Centre committed to enabling health through partnership and collaboration, we are delighted to be involved in this exciting venture‘.

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Fictional Representations of Self-Harm

30 October 2019

PhD Project: Interview Study


Do you have experience of self-harm? Would you consider being interviewed about your views on fictional representations of self-harm?

This project takes as its starting point the possibility that fictional representations in some way may impact the conversations that it is possible to have around self-harm. It works from the belief that the way we talk about self-harm matters, because such conversations can influence, positively or negatively, the experience and lives of people who self-harm.


About the Project

Despite efforts to reduce stigma around self-harm, people who self-harm rarely seek help or support. Research into young people who self-harm suggests that they are more likely to initially approach informal contacts rather than to disclose to a medical practitioner. Talking about self-harming to friends, parents, teachers, colleagues, or partners can be an important step in the process of accessing support or help. But it is possible that this could be made more difficult by the lack of available representations of self-harm.

The project aims to examine existing fictional representations of self-harm and to explore how these might or might not impact disclosure and help-seeking, and if so in what ways. The results from the project will form the basis for a PhD thesis, and also for papers, presentations, and other work on the topic of representations of self-harm. This work may contribute to public policy and advocacy in a number of areas.

This project was originally designed as a result of the primary researcher’s own experiences of self-harm, and the design has been further refined in consultation with an advisory group made up of individuals with experience of self-harm.

What would taking part involve?

Taking part in the research involves participating in an interview on the topic of fictional representations of self-harm. The interview will be conducted by Veronica, whose own experiences of self-harm provided the original idea for the research. The interview will probably last between 1-2 hours. The interview would take place in a location of your choosing, such as in a café, a library, an office, or in your home; if you would like the researcher to arrange a space or a room for the interview then this will be arranged. As far as possible the researcher will travel to you, to ensure that you are not inconvenienced.

If you prefer not to be interviewed in person, then it will be possible to conduct the interview via skype or via the telephone. If you find verbal communication difficult then you may request to submit written responses, to ensure that your perspectives can still be included in the research.

The interview will probably involve discussion of:

  • What fictional representations you are aware of or have consumed
  • Whether they were important to you and if so in what ways
  • Whether you enjoyed them or not
  • Whether they had any impact on your experiences or understandings of self-harm
  • How you think existing fictional representations might be improved

Will participants receive any payment for taking part?

All participants will be compensated for their time, as a reflection of their expertise and your vital role as co-creators of research knowledge. As an indication of the equal value placed upon the time of all contributors in the research process, participants will be compensated in line with the primary researcher’s most recent paid employment (as a Research Assistant). Therefore, all participants will be offered compensation for their time at the rate of £15.25 per hour. Payment will be made in cash or in the form of a voucher; participants can choose whichever form is more convenient.

Participants will also be compensated for all expenses incurred by participating in this study: this includes travel expenses (which can be booked on participants’ behalf in advance, rather than claimed back subsequently), childcare expenses, and the expenses for an accompanying adult if this would be helpful for travel purposes.

How to find out more?

If you are interested in being interviewed as part of this project and would like to find out some more about the project, and what the interview might involve, you can read the information sheet below.

Participant Information Sheet – Detailed

Participant Information Sheet – Easy Read

Alternatively if you have any questions, concerns, or would like to set up an interview please do contact Veronica Heney either by email ( or on twitter (@VeronicaHeney).

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Rats and the Global History of Maritime Fumigation Seminar

18 October 2019

The Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health and the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies warmly invite you to a joint seminar:

Dr Christos Lynteris: Rats and the Global History of Maritime Fumigation

5pm Wednesday, October 23

University of Exeter, Amory 106 (Building 29 on the university map)

Christos Lynteris (University of St. Andrews) is a medical anthropologist. His research focuses on the anthropological and historical examination of infectious disease epidemics, animal to human infection (zoonosis), medical visual culture, epidemiological epistemology, colonial medicine, global health, and epidemics as events posing an existential risk to humanity.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust with an Investigator Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr Lynteris’ new project (2019-2024) ‘The Global War Against the Rat and the Epistemic Emergence of Zoonosis’ will examine the global history of a foundational but historically neglected process in the development of scientific approaches of zoonosis: the global war against the rat (1898-1948). The project will explore the synergies between knowledge acquired through medical studies of the rat, in the wake of understanding its role in the transmission of infectious diseases (plague, leptospirosis, murine typhus), with knowledge acquired during the development and application of public health measures of vector-control: rat-proofing, rat-catching and rat-poisoning. By examining the epistemological, architectural, social, and chemical histories of rat control from a global, comparative perspective, the project will show how new forms of epidemiological reasoning about key zoonotic mechanisms (the epizootic, the disease reservoir, and species invasiveness) arose around the epistemic object of the rat.

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Centre seminar: A good death? The cultural contexts of palliative care

9 October 2019

Poster for seminar: A good death?The latest in the series of seminars run in partnership with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Culture and Health considered the question of a ‘good death’ and the cultural contexts of palliative care.

End of life care aims to help people live and die with dignity. Cultural norms, beliefs and expectations heavily influence how this can be achieved and what constitutes a ‘good death.’ This seminar considered the diverse relationships that exist between cultural contexts and palliative care practices.

The seminar was hosted by Dr Robin Durie, the Centre’s Deputy Director for Research. The speakers were Dr Samir Guglani, a poet, novelist and clinical oncologist, Dr Michael Flexer, Publicly Engaged Research Fellow with the Wellcome-funded Waiting Times project and Kelechi Anucha, a PhD student with the Waiting Times project.

Watch the video of the seminar.

Information about future seminars in the series can be found on the WHO Europe website.

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The Department of Ultimology

7 October 2019

The Department of Ultimology

Ultimology is the study of endings, and the essay ranges across multiple disciplines; history of art, communications technologies, linguistics, the climate emergency, the history of disease and personal stories.

Centre academics Dora Vargha and Luna Dolezal contributed to this RTE radio essay written by Fiona Hallinan and Kate Strain.


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New podcast – Robin Durie

16 September 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the third of this podcast series, the Centre’s Deputy Director for Research, Robin Durie, discusses engaged research and his pathway to it.

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Academic wins prestigious book award

11 September 2019

Dóra receives her prize.

Dr Dóra Vargha celebrated last month as her book Polio Across The Iron Curtain was announced as the winner of the prestigious European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Book Award 2019.

The prize is awarded to the best book on the history of medicine from the preceding two years, and is presented at the biannual EAHMH conference which took place this year in Birmingham. Prof. Jonathan Reinarz, president of the EAHMH, presented the award to Dóra during the conference (photo).

The book is Open Access with the support of the Wellcome Trust, and was published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press in the Global Health Histories series.

Congratulations, Dóra!!

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New podcast – Alex Smalley

2 September 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the second of this podcast series, PhD student Alex Smalley discusses his research and his links with the BBC Sounds podcast series, Forest 404.

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South West Loneliness Network

12 August 2019

The South West Loneliness network was founded by Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones in 2019. It connects academics, students, university staff, community organisations, charities, public health experts, and people with lived experience of loneliness. It provides networking and knowledge exchange opportunities through discussions, meetings, and seminars, and works to foster transdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships.

For biographies of some of our members, see here. For more information on WCCEH’s work on loneliness, see our Beacon page.

We have a rolling call for events and contributions, so please get in touch with Fred or Charlotte (via the links above) if you have any ideas or questions. If you would like to be added to the Network mailing list, please email

Other projects of interest:

The UCL Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health Network run frequent digital workshops and events, mostly from a psychiatric perspective.

Solitudes: Past and Present, a Wellcome-funded project at Queen Mary. This project runs thoughtful events and has an excellent and wide-ranging blog.

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New Centre podcast series

6 August 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the first of this podcast series, Fred Cooper talks about his work on the Centre’s Beacon Project ‘Loneliness and Community‘.

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Mental Health Awareness Weekend

2 July 2019

With the first Exeter Mental Health Awareness Weekend taking place at Exeter Phoenix this year, we thought that the opportunity was ripe to get the word out about what we do. So much research at WCCEH relates to mental health, whether directly or indirectly, that this seemed like a fantastic event to get involved in; to raise awareness of the Centre and the people within it, and to deepen relationships with the city – and with the Phoenix – at the same time.

To begin with, centre research fellows and PhD students – and Ann – organised a panel and workshop for the Saturday, in which attendees were invited to hear more about WCCEH, our engaged research ethos and strategy, opportunities to collaborate with the Centre, and the individual projects of the scholars there. This was well-attended, and resulted in a lively and fascinating discussion on mental health, community, and collective responses to shared experiences and challenges. These conversations continued across the next two days at WCCEH’s stall, prominently positioned in the theatre foyer. Our stock of business cards for the Centre was seriously depleted, and Phoenix users were eager to hear more about our work.

Hopefully, the legacy of this event will be some lasting relationships and conversations. As a direct result of WCCEH’s presence at the weekend, we have been invited to share a stall with a grass-roots mental health organisation at Exeter Respect Festival; WCCEH scholars have been asked to put a panel together for Exeter Literary Festival; one researcher was invited to collaborate by Wellbeing Exeter; and we are already planning the Mental Health Awareness Weekend for next year!

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Librarians vs Loneliness

2 July 2019

Librarians vs Loneliness, a collaborative day conference jointly organised between WCCEH, Egenis, and Libraries Unlimited, took place on Thursday 27th June. Funded by an Engaged Research Exploratory Award, the workshop was loosely structured around four thematic sessions, followed by an expert panel of library staff. The guiding principle was to draw academics and practising librarians together to build connections and share knowledge about loneliness and the psycho-social importance of libraries and reading.

The first session was led by Katie Snow, a PhD researcher in the English department. This part of the day centred on maternal loneliness and the need for libraries to engage with isolated mothers, using scenario work in small groups. Issues such as neurodiversity and social anxiety were brought to the fore, as well as the difficulty of getting mothers to the library in the first place and the importance of activities that are mother- rather than baby-focused.

Dr Fred Cooper

The second session began with a discussion on student and youth loneliness initiated by WCCEH’s Fred Cooper, and took a historical look at the specific needs and challenges of younger library users. This resulted in some really constructive thoughts about making Exeter students aware of the library – and other non-university institutions – as infrastructures of belonging and community during their time in the city. It also sparked the beginning of a conversation on harnessing the University Library as an asset in student well-being, with the three University of Exeter librarians in attendance. The intention is that this re-imagining the library will be a vital part of the Centre’s Beacon Project on campus loneliness.

Capitalising on the donation to Devon Libraries of a touring collection of 51 books, the third session revolved around the impact of reading on loneliness, as opposed to the importance of library use. With a philosophical perspective on the goods of reading, led by Tom Roberts of Egenis, conversation turned on how books make us feel, how we identify with fictional characters, and how authors can craft fulfilling and familiar worlds in their work. There was a clamour to be the first library to take the collection. Dawlish scraped through narrowly, with Exmouth, Cullompton, and South Molton forced to form an orderly queue.

Finally, Harry West, an anthropologist, and Paul Cleave, a sociologist, spoke about their work on loneliness, memory, and food at Crediton library. This was followed by a panel of librarians, reflecting on the day and drawing out important themes which had gone unexplored – not least the issue of loneliness among librarians in small rural libraries.

The day had excellent feedback, and many attendees resolved to take action in their own libraries. It perhaps functioned best as a means of bringing librarians together and giving them space to think seriously about loneliness in a number of contexts and what they might do to alleviate it, and subsequently as a knowledge exchange for best practice and innovation. We are getting our heads together very soon to think about how we can build on this work in a lasting way.

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Research Fellows’ and PhD Students’ Success

30 April 2019

The Wellcome Centre is incredibly proud of everyone who works with us but we want to highlight a few people who’s work has been in the spotlight.

Congratulations to ‘Waiting Times’, Michael Flexer and Kelechi Anucha

Michael Flexer, Publicly Engaged Research Fellow on the ‘Waiting Times’ project has won the 2019 Public Engagement Award from Birkbeck, University of London.

‘Waiting Times’ is funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by Prof. Laura Salisbury (Exeter) and Prof. Lisa Baraitser (Birkbeck).

Michael designed a series of storytelling workshops, ‘Messages in a Bottle’, in which users of the day hospice in Honiton shared stories of their experiences of time.

Michael delivered the workshops with Kelechi Anucha (PhD student on Waiting Times) and Hospicecare staff. Michael and Kelechi have offered the prize money (£150) back to the hospice, to be used to fund something that the users of the day hospice who collaborated in the research can enjoy.

The Birkbeck award committee particularly commended how the relationship with Hospicecare was carefully developed throughout the research process, making it an excellent example of engaged research. Dr Elliot Kendall, Director of Research (English and Film) congratulated Michael and Kelechi on this recognition of their impressive engaged research practice.

Engage Researchers Academy

Dr Charlotte Jones and Dr Michael Flexer have both won a place in the Engage Researchers Academy.

This is a year-long professional development programme that supports participants to develop their skills and experience in engagement and enhance the impact and relevance of their research.

We look forward to hearing more about the programme over the year, and benefiting from Charlotte and Michael’s experiences.

PhD Student collaborates on BBC ecodrama podcast

Our very own Alex Smalley has been working with the BBC’s ecodrama Forest 404 to understand how the sounds of nature might affect wellbeing. To take part in the study you can visit here, and to listen to Alex talk about it on BBC Radio Devon recently follow the link here

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Another successful External Advisory Board meeting

29 April 2019

The External Advisory Board plays a crucial part in how the Centre functions. Academics and practitioners from the international community were invited to join the board at the start of the grant in 2017. Board members were chosen based on their knowledge and experience, as they link to the Centre’s themes and vision, and therefore are perfectly placed to be a sounding board for our members. In the three-day meeting, which takes place annually, Centre members participate in workshops and present their work to the board, obtaining vital feedback  which will help us move forward for the next twelve months.


The first event of the EAB was a lecture – Apprehending Environmental Change – given by the medical anthropologist, and member of the EAB, Professor Lenore Manderson (pictured above). For the past five years, Professor Manderson has curated and produced an art/science programme at Brown University in the US, and at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. The programmes brought together scholars and practising artists and are structured using early understandings of earth systems and bodies, across cultures, time and place. Professor Manderson showed some of the art produced for and shown at Earth, Itself (Brown University) and Watershed (Witwatersrand) to illustrate how artists contribute to identifying practical steps forward while celebrating the environment, and how this work provokes us to think of ways forward to protect both the environment and health.

You can watch a recording of Prof. Manderson’s lecture on the Centre YouTube channel.

The second event was a workshop collaboration between The Wellcome Centre and Libraries Unlimited: ‘Transforming publicly engaged research‘. The workshop gave participants a chance to hear directly from the leaders (Fred Cooper, Georgie Tarling &  Kath Ford and Roop Johnstone) of three pieces of publicly engaged research that have taken place in Exeter Library over the past two years. The workshop gave participants the opportunity to discuss and explore the particular issues that arise when publics, researchers, artists and librarians work together to develop new approaches to publicly engaged research. The workshop was led by Ms Ciara Eastell OBE, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited and member of the EAB.

The final event was an interactive workshop run by EAB member Dr Tom Wakeford: Sharing experiences of democratising research: From public engagement to citizens’ assemblies. During the workshop, we shared diverse perspectives on participatory action research and other approaches to democratising inquiry and discussed how we have worked in the past and could work in the future. Dr Wakeford shared stories from collaborations in which he had been involved, in the UK and abroad, particularly involving people whose voices have been marginalised in the past.


Some of the Centre’s research fellows gave presentations to the Board.

Looking to the future, the Wellcome Trust will be offering awards to fund the formation of international research networks. Branwyn Poleykett, together with Dora Vargha and Felicity Thomas, is leading the Centre’s work on this. This strongly  complements Branwyn’s own work on non-communicable diseases in Dakar, Senegal, where she is examining the impact of what the Dakarois call “new diseases” on the ways that people shop, eat, cook, care for and nourish their families.

Lorraine Hansford is one of the newest members of the Centre, having joined in January after working for 17 years with young people and on community projects. Lorraine is leading research into understanding inequalities in end of life care and is currently setting up workshops at hospices in Plymouth and Exeter. She is hoping to also start working with ‘The Departure Lounge’ a project designed to enable people to talk more openly about death, dying and the ageing population.

Another research fellow who joined us in January is Charlotte Jones, who is developing a new project that will explore ways of understanding infertility when this is made evident ‘early’ in the life course. Charlotte’s new project at The Wellcome Centre will draw on her previous research on intersex/variations of sex characteristics.

Lara Choksey joined the Centre in September 2018. She will focus her energies on “Postgenomic Environments”: a project which will bring literary and cultural studies approaches to questions of health, care, community, and environment in the genomic and postgenomic eras. Lara will also be looking at uses of precision genomic medicine locally, nationally, and globally while at the centre.

The Centre thanks the board members for their invaluable feedback and ideas regarding the projects currently being undertaken. We are excited and invigorated about the future of the Centre and our members.

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The Wellcome Centre funding schemes

28 April 2019

After two rounds of our Research Support Funding scheme, we have reflected on the feedback from applicants (both successful and unsuccessful) and mentors and have refreshed the funding routes the Centre offers. Our new schemes were launched in January 2019. We welcome your questions, feedback or thoughts on these ideas. Please send any comments to

Research Initiator Awards

Research Initiator Awards are only for people and groups from outside the university. These are small awards that can to be used to develop a project idea, formulate a research question or identify issues for further work or subsequent research. The awards are not for research activities as such, but rather to support activities that generate the conditions for future research.

All kinds of creative and imaginative proposals are welcome: for example, hosting a workshop to bring together a group to start the development of research ideas, initiating a small artwork or other creative intervention that opens up engagement around cultures and environments of health, reviewing existing literature on particular topics or approaches to researching an issue, working with an academic or other researcher to develop a research idea, generating a small social media campaign to draw people to an issue or topic … we are open to suggestions.

Enhanced Research Awards

ERAs are exclusively for Centre PhD students, Research Fellows and other Centre members. These awards may be used to enhance research in existing projects, for example to pay for travel or periods of field or archival work, to develop new research opportunities or collaborations, to enhance engagement practice or to generate new opportunities for engaged research.

Transformative Research Awards

This is a discretionary award that will support leading-edge transformative research. Research proposals can be generated by researchers working in the Centre or from the wider university, although we would expect Centre members to be involved at some point in the research process. Proposals should be interdisciplinary and, where appropriate, transdisciplinary, pursuing research in an engaged fashion.


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