Wellbeing, Ill/Health, Medicine and Healthcare: making an impact, what does this mean?

South West Regional Medical Sociology Group Conference

11 September 2019
University of Plymouth, UK

Conference Organisers: Dr Tracey Collett (Plymouth) and Prof Gayle Letherby (Plymouth and Greenwich)

About the Event

The debate about whether or not research and researchers should have political aims extends beyond the academy with funders, local and national governments, and research assessors all calling for ‘evidence based research’ and for evidence of the useful ‘impact’ of research. So ‘relevance’ and ‘usefulness’ are increasingly important in defining what research should be done, what knowledge should be produced and how said knowledge will be assessed. This is encouraging for those who argue for research praxis (practice informed by research and theory). However, the full-scale adoption of the ‘making research count’ agenda is not unproblematic for as Sandra Nutley (2003: 12) argues researchers who want their work to be useful must pay attention to the gap between academic and policy or practice worlds that have: ‘different priorities, use different languages, operate to different time scales and are subjected to very different reward systems’. A related concern is that if we only do research that focuses on funders and governments’ priorities just whose interests are being served? (e.g. Letherby and Bywaters, 2007, Back 2015). Additionally, continually having to prove that research is making an impact generates another layer of research and debate concerned with how to best improve research impact and ironically this takes time away from potentially impactful research.

With all this in mind the conference will focus on impact as it pertains to research on wellbeing, ill/health, medicine, healthcare and health professionals’ education. What does impact mean in this context? Are academic definitions good enough, broad enough? How do the methods used influence the potential impact? Impact achievements, impact struggles. And more….

Following a keynote talk by Professor Graham Scambler, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, UCL and Visiting Professor of Sociology, Surrey University, the rest of the day will feature delegate presentations.  For more information contact Tracey Collett and/or Gayle Letherby.

Registration Fees

  • BSA member: £50
  • Non BSA member: £60
  • BSA member (unpaid/student): £25
  • Non BSA member (unpaid/student): £30


Back, L. (2015) ‘On the side of the powerful: the ‘impact agenda’ & sociology in public’.

Letherby, G. and Bywaters, P. (eds) (2007) Extending Social Research: application, implementation, presentation. Buckingham: Open University.

Nutley, S. (2003) Bridging the Policy/Research Divide. Reflections and Lessons from the UK. St Andrews: Research Unit for Research Utilization, University of St Andrews.