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Wellcome Trust funded research on ‘Marginalisation and the microbe: how to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) without increasing health inequalities’

Project Description

We are appointing a doctoral researcher to work with Dr Catherine Will on Wellcome Trust funded research on ‘Marginalisation and the microbe: how to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) without increasing health inequalities’ from 1st October 2019.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is increasingly appearing in common bacterial infections. Responses include more careful use of antibiotics, but attempts to preserve their effectiveness could exacerbate existing health inequalities. This research will compare past, present and evolving responses to infections in sexual and reproductive health, with careful attention to the risks of marginalisation due to age, sexuality, ethnicity, poverty and class. Careful comparisons of mobilisation by policy makers, scientists, clinical professionals and patients will give a critical edge to analysis of political and social factors shaping this field, and different ways of making inequality visible and addressing stigma.

This doctoral project will be funded for three years, and will support a study of debates around Group B Streptococcus testing and antibiotic treatment in pregnancy. The bacteria is widely carried but becomes risky when present during childbirth, creating a risk of infection for new babies. Testing has been controversial in the UK, but is well-established in the US. You will explore debates about access to and introduction of testing, and the use of prophylactic antibiotics, to understand the emergence and contours of Group B Streptococcus as a political and ethical ‘issue’. The exact study design will be shaped by your interests and discussion of research ethics but possible methods include:
- Online ‘issue mapping’ of controversy in the UK
- Qualitative / quantitative analysis of social media and other campaign practices in this area, and responses from the public
- Online or offline ethnography with campaigning groups and key organisations
- Interviews or other engagement with women, especially those who find it hard to access information, support and good quality care during pregnancy

You will be able to make a substantial contribution to understanding of this contested area, and discussion of AMR in policy and medical education.

You should have Masters level training in social science methodology, ideally in Science and Technology Studies, sociology, Gender Studies or anthropology, or equivalent relevant experience in qualitative research at an advanced level.

We expect opportunities to travel to the United States for workshops and other events across the award, which also involves researchers at San Francisco State University, University of California Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Students will need to apply for a PhD in Sociology or Gender Studies, based in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology. Please find further information regarding the school and its constituent departments at

Applications come through the main University of Sussex system: When completing your application please put down Dr Catherine Will as the supervisor. You do not need to prepare a research proposal at this stage.

The University of Sussex values the diversity of its staff and students and we would very much welcome applicants from all backgrounds, especially black and minority ethnic candidates.

Funding Notes

Full funding is available to UK/EU applicants only, covering fees and living costs and there is a starting stipend of £19,919 pa.

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