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The University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh | College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine |
Deanery of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences | Usher Institute

Centre for Population Health Sciences

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Photo of Martyn Pickersgill

Dr Martyn Pickersgill

Wellcome Trust Reader in Social Studies of Biomedicine

Tel: 0131 650 3202
Fax: 0131 650 6909


  • Research in the social sciences and medical humanities.

Teaching Responsibilities

  • Contributor to Ethics in the Life Sciences
  • Co-convenor for Public Health Ethics
  • Contributor to Introduction to Research Ethics and Sociology of Health & Illness
  • Doctoral supervision

Research Interests

I am a sociologist of science, technology and medicine. To date, my research has focused primarily on the social, legal and ethical dimensions of biomedicine and the health professions. In particular, my work has considered the sociologies of epigenetics, neuroscience, and mental health (supported through a range of funders, including the AHRC, ESRC, Leverhulme Trust, Newby Trust and Wellcome Trust).

Current Research Involvement

I hold a Wellcome Trust University Award concerned with the future of diagnosis in psychiatry, and the politics of psychiatric knowledge production. I previously held a Wellcome Trust Fellowship to research the social and ethical dimensions of initiatives to increase patient access to psychological therapy, and have also been supported by the Wellcome Trust to explore issues around epigenetics, ethics and society. I was previously part of the Manchester/Edinburgh Wellcome Trust Strategic Award in Biomedical Ethics, ‘The Human Body, Its Scope, Limits and Future’. I have been Principal Investigator of a Leverhulme Trust project on 'Neuroscience and Family Life: The Brain in Policy and Everyday Practice'. This developed an earlier ESRC project (on which I was Co-Investigator) and a Newby Trust Fellowship (held in Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities), both of which explored issues pertaining to the social life of neuroscience. I have been Co-Investigator on two AHRC projects on science, law and society.

Other Responsibilities/Activities

I am an invited member of the Editorial Boards of Current Sociology and Engaging Science, Technology & Society, and Book Reviews Editor for New Genetics & Society. Until 2016, I will be the UK representative for the ALLEA (European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities) Permanent Working Group on Science and Ethics; I am also a member of the BBSRC Bioscience for Society Strategy Panel. I have participated in and co-organised a range of public engagement events, and received funds to support these activities from the ESRC and Wellcome Trust (including as a Wellcome Trust 75th Anniversary Public Engagement Ambassador). I am an inaugural member of the Young Academy of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), and in 2015 was awarded the RSE Henry Duncan Medal for social science.

At Edinburgh, I am a founder member (and Associate Director) of the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Policy (SKAPE), and am also a member of the Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and Law, and the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation (ISSTI). I am an associate of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE) and the Innogen Institute, and the Nottinghamshire Health Care NHS Trust/University of Nottingham Institute of Mental Health (IMH). I have been a visiting scholar at a range of institutions, including Harvard University (supported by the ESRC), the University of Groningen (supported by the ESF), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (supported by the RSE), and the US National Institutes of Health (supported by the NIH).

Further Information

Work History

Appointed to University of Edinburgh
2009 ESRC Co-Investigator and Research Fellow, Division of Community Health Sciences
2010 Newby Trust Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
2011 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical Ethics, Centre for Population Health Sciences

Selected grants

  • Beyond diagnosis? Novelty, need and the normative in twenty-first century psychiatry. (Wellcome Trust, 2015-2020) Pickersgill M
  • Epigenetics, ethics and society: accounting for responsibility in the biomedical sciences. (Wellcome Trust, 2014-2015) Pickersgill M
  • Neuroscience and family life: the brain in policy and everyday practice (Leverhulme Trust, 2013-2015) Pickersgill M, Cunningham-Burley S, Deary I
  • Technoscience, law and society: interrogating the nexus (AHRC, 2013-2015) Cloatre E, Pickersgill M Website
  • Banking (on) the brain: the neurological in culture, law and science (AHRC, 2012-2012) Harmon S, Haddow G, Ironside J, Laurie G, Pickersgill M Website
  • Access denied: the roles of clinical knowledge and moral discourse in mediating access to psychological therapies (Wellcome Trust, 2011-2015) Pickersgill M Website
  • Translating the brain: a sociology of neuroscience and everyday life (Newby Trust, 2010-2011) Pickersgill M
  • Constituting neurologic subjects: neuroscience, identity and society after the 'decade of the brain'. (ESRC, 2009-2010) Cunningham-Burley S, Pickersgill M, Martin P Website

Selected publications

  • Broer T and Pickersgill M (2015) (Low) Expectations, legitimization, and the contingent uses of scientific knowledge: engagements with neuroscience in Scottish social policy and services. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, 1(1): 47-66. Link
  • Pickersgill M, Martin P and Cunningham-Burley S (2015) The changing brain: neuroscience and the enduring import of everyday experience. Public Understanding of Science, 24(7): 878-892 Link
  • Broer T and Pickersgill M (2015) Targeting brains, producing responsibilities: the use of neuroscience within British social policy. Social Science & Medicine, 132(5): 54-61. DOI Link Link
  • Pickersgill M (2014) Neuroscience, epigenetics and the intergenerational transmission of social life: exploring expectations and engagements. Families, Relationships and Societies, 3(3): 481-484 Link
  • Cloatre C and Pickersgill M (2014) International law, public health, and the meanings of pharmaceuticalization. New Genetics and Society, 33(4): 434-449 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2014) Debating DSM-5: diagnosis and the sociology of critique. Journal of Medical Ethics, 40(8): 521-525 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2014) The endurance of uncertainty: antisociality and ontological anarchy in British Psychiatry, 1950–2010. Science in Context, 27(1): 143-175 Link
  • Pickersgill M, Niewöhner J, Müller R, Martin P and Cunningham-Burley S (2013) Mapping the new molecular landscape: social dimensions of epigenetics. New Genetics and Society, 32(4): 429-447 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2013) The social life of the brain: neuroscience in society. Current Sociology, 61(3): 322-340 Link
  • Flear M L and Pickersgill M D (2013) Regulatory of regulating publics? The European Union's regulation of emerging health technologies and citizen participation. Medical Law Review, 21(1): 39-70 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2013) From 'implications' to 'dimensions': science, medicine and ethics in society. Health Care Analysis, 21(1): 31-42 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2013) How personality became treatable: the mutual constitution of clinical knowledge and mental health law. Social Studies of Science, 43(1): 30-53 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2012) What is psychiatry? Co-producing complexity in mental health. Social Theory & Health, 10(4): 328–347 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2012) The co-production of science, ethics, and emotion. Science, Technology & Human Values, 37(6): 579–603 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2012) Standardising antisocial personality disorder: the social shaping of a psychiatric technology. Sociology of Health & Illness, 34(4): 544–559 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2011) Research, engagement and public bioethics: promoting socially robust science. Journal of Medical Ethics, 37(11): 698-701 Link
  • Pickersgill M, Cunningham-Burley S and Martin P (2011) Constituting neurologic subjects: neuroscience, subjectivity and the mundane significance of the brain. Subjectivity, 4(3): 346-365 DOI Link
  • Pickersgill M (2011) Ordering disorder: knowledge production and uncertainty in neuroscience research. Science as Culture, 20(1): 71-87 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2011) 'Promising' therapies: neuroscience, clinical practice, and the treatment of psychopathy. Sociology of Health & Illness, 33(3): 448-464 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2011) Connecting neuroscience and law: anticipatory discourse and the role of sociotechnical imaginaries. New Genetics and Society, 30(1): 27-40 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2010) From psyche to soma? Changing accounts of antisocial personality disorders in the American Journal of Psychiatry. History of Psychiatry, 21(3): 294-311 Link
  • Pickersgill M D (2010) Psyche, soma, and science studies: new directions in the sociology of mental health and illness. Journal of Mental Health, 19(4): 382-392 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2009) NICE guidelines, clinical practice and antisocial personality disorder: the ethical implications of ontological uncertainty. Journal of Medical Ethics, 35(11): 668-671 Link
  • Stephens J, Beer C, Clarke D, Pickersgill M, Swift J, Taylor J and Tischler V (2009) Qualitative research in mental health: reflections on epistemology, Mental Health Review Journal, 14(1): 36-42 Link
  • Pickersgill M (2009) Between soma and society: neuroscience and the ontology of psychopathy. BioSocieties, 4(1): 45-60 Link

Last modified: Monday, 19-Oct-2015 09:53:27 BST

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