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About me

CURRENT WORK…

The Research Companion
I am working on a second edition of my book The Research Companion: a practical guide to the social and health sciences.

Agony Aunt
I write a weekly advice column for The Telegraph’s Wonder Women section. Please email me at agony.aunt@telegraph.co.uk with your sex and relationships questions.

Sense About Sex
With colleagues Meg Barker (Open University), Feona Attwood (Middlesex University) and Katherine Angel (Warwick University) we are using a Wellcome Trust Grant (History of Medicine) to evaluate and improve media coverage of sex and relationships topics. This includes training events for professionals, free talks and workshops for the general public, and interactive campaigns like Bad Sex Media Bingo to encourage and enable better sex reporting.

MY BACKGROUND…

Research and Teaching
I am a Social Psychologist by background, working from a Critical and Community perspective. I take a constructivist approach to teaching (outlined in more detail here) and the majority of my work is based on enabling healthcare practitioners worldwide to find, appraise, synthesise and apply evidence to their practice in ways that aim to empower communities and practitioners alike.

I have a BA in Social Psychology (Sussex University), and a PhD is in Applied Human Psychology (Aston University). My PhD focused on the effects of sexually explicit material. I have lectured (both face-to-face and distance learning) at a number of UK universities (including Aston University 1993-1997, Open University 1999-2001, and University College London 1999-2014), specialising in evidence based healthcare, and understanding research methodologies (both qualitative and quantitative).

My research has covered topics within the area of sex and relationships health, including a community-based study of women involved in street sex work; assessing advice giving in the media; epidemiological research on sexual functioning; modernising sexual health services and identifying the needs of partners of women who have miscarried.

I have also supervised postgraduate and doctoral research focusing on improving maternity services for mothers and fathers (in the UK, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan and Ghana); evaluating the delivery of youth sex education programmes (in South Africa, Thailand and Tanzania); assessing support services for parents/carers (UK, Bangladesh, Antigua and Uganda); and evaluating community involvement in HIV research (Uganda, South Africa).

Advice Giving 
In 2003 The Guardian described me as “Britain’s first scientific evidence-based agony aunt”. For the past decade I have applied my teaching and research in sex and relationships health by working as an Agony Aunt on magazines such as Grazia, Bliss, Sugar, Beauty Zambia, Men’s Health and More! And presenting advice programmes for BBC 5 Live and the World Service. I have also advised the World Service Trust on their HIV, sexual and reproductive health programming worldwide.

From 2000-2008 I was a consultant to the Department of Health on their public health campaigns including Want Respect?Use a Condom, RUThinking, and Condom Essential Wear. I served on the Government Inquiry on Self Harm after researching young peoples’ use of an advice column to get help with this issue. I am a proud patron for Outsiders – who offer support, networking and advice on sex and relationships for people with disabilities.

 

Blogging and other media work
In 2010 I was long listed for the Orwell Prize for political writing for blogging about sex, science and media issues. I like to share sex and science stuff on Twitter, with readers of Stylist magazine nominating me as one of their favourite Ladies Who Tweet. I work closely with the media across broadcast, print and online.

Science Communication and Public Engagement

I extend my research and teaching through science communication activities which have found me talking about sex, media and research in science museums and centres, in theatres, pubs and wine bars, and at music festivals with Guerilla Science. You can find a few more interviews about me and my research at the Lancet, Mind Hacks, BPS Research Digest, Untangling the Web and UKRC.

In 2010 I participated in ‘The Geek Calendar’ that brought together scientists, journalists, celebrities and activists and raised £15,433 for the Libel Reform Campaign.

Also in 2010 I joined Dr Jenny Rohn in her ‘Science Is Vital’ campaign, speaking on the steps of the Treasury on behalf of the social and health sciences at a rally to call for an end to cuts in science funding.

Prizes and Awards
I’ve been honoured to have my work acknowledged over the years with awards including (with colleagues) the Higher Education Authority/Times Higher e tutor of the year (2005). Shortlisted for the BMJ’s Group Award for Excellence in Learning and Education (2009). Cosmopolitan Magazine’s ‘Woman of Achievement’(Education) award (2000). The International Female Sexual Functioning Forum’s Psychology Prize (2001). Two International Erotic Awards for Activism (2005) and Blogging (2010). I am one of the Family Planning Association’s ‘Achiever’s Club’ for my work in critical sex research and media engagement.In 2013 I was named alongside UCL colleagues as an Academic Role Model (p.12-14).