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Dr Sally Atkinson

Lecturer (Sociology)

Amory 313

I’m a social anthropologist working in the fields of technoscience, biomedicine & biotechology. My current work examines the interaction of cultural, political and economic structures in the emergence of scientific knowledge, practice and policy.

I have recently working with Professor Susan Molyneaux-Hodgson in the field of synthetic biology and bioproduction, and Professor Carol Brayne in the field of dementia research.

My work combines ethnographic research with interviews, focus-groups, audio-visual techniques, and analysis of policy documents and material culture.

I have taugh on a wide range of subjects in the fields of Social & Medical Anthropology, Sociology and Science & Technology Studies.

At the University of Exeter I currently convene and teach on:

  •  ANT1004 Introduction to Social Anthropology
  • ANT/SOC2107/3107 Culture & Wellbeing

I have previously covened and taught on:

  • SOC1048 Social Analysis
  • SOC1020 Contemporary Case Studies
  • SOC2050 Knowing the Social World with Professor Jane Elliot
  • ANT/SOC2004 Into the Field with Professor Susan Molyneux-Hogson
  • ANT/SOC3040 Dissertation

Research group links

Research interests

My research looks at scientific knowledge across 3 levels: evolving policy, governance and regulation, on-the-ground emerging research practices, and locating these elements in socio-cultural context. To date I have explored these issues in the development of national research agendas, clinical trials, diagnostics and recruitment practices in neuroscience and neurodegenerative disease. 

I combine my interest in scientific knowledge with work on the lived experiences of in aging, chronic illness, and advances in digital technologies, bioinformatics and neuro-immunology. My recent projects involve working collaboratively with UK and EU research infrastructures around innovations in bioinformatics and experimental medicine. 

I am currently developing a project critically examining the social imaginaries constructed through novel developments in health and environmental technoscience.

I have taught on a wide range of topics in anthropology & sociology including medical anthropology and science and technology studies.




I initially trained in Social Anthropology at Queen's University Belfast, where I went on to work on a project examining inter- and intra-community relations for young people growing up in Northern Ireland funded by the Community Relations Council. Following this I moved into mental health and supported living research in Northern Ireland.

In 2008, I joined the Department of Anthropology, at Durham University, where I completed a Research Methods MA. In 2014 I gained my PhD in Medical Anthropology from Durham, examining emerging networks of knowlegde and collaboration in UK dementia neruoscience. During this time I worked as a residential tutor, and taught undergraduate couses in anthropology, health and human sciences, and provided post-graduate study skills and funding application support. I also collaborated on the Writing Across Boundaries project with Professor Bob Simpson & Professor Robin Humphrey, collecting data on inter-disciplinary academic knowledge practices. 

Between 2015 and 2017 I joined Cambridge University in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care as Post-Doctoral Research Associate, leading on qualitative research into  the ethical, legal and social implications of the development of the MRC Dementias Platform UK.

From 2017 I joined the University of Exeter in the Egenis, Centre for the Life Sciences, where I was the lead qualitative researcher examining emerging relations and notions of responsability in a multisited academic-industry study into synthetic biology and bio-manufacturing. I was made a Research Fellow in 2019, and joined the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Philosophy as an Associate Lecturer. 

Since 2020 I have been Lecturer in Anthropology at Exeter, working on a wide range of theoretical and methodological undergraduate courses, and providing supervision for taught and research Masters students. I also teach in my specialist areas of wellbeing, health, environments and science and technology studies, in which I continue to research. 


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