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Theme: Society

No aspect of the human, technological, cultural and natural world is unaffected by 'society'. People create social relations and institutions, ranging from the local interactions of groups, technologies, communities, organisations, nations, through to the emerging global society. All areas of public policy acknowledge that no activity takes place outside of society and that society itself changes in often unanticipated ways. Our Society research theme therefore encompasses a wide range of subject domains including:

  • Media and Culture
  • Business, Economies and Management
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Mental Health and Well-Being
  • Sport, Performance and Exercise
  • Law of Employment

A better understanding of the social universe will help improve decision-making, social solidarity and public policy. Our aim is to bring together a group of active researchers who will contribute expertise as specialists in their own field to develop the Society theme. In pursuit of this we will:

  • share knowledge and build research capacity
  • apply for funding
  • supervise postgraduates
  • produce high quality publications
  • generate external impact and knowledge exchange
  • collaborate with relevant subjects and external networks

Media and Culture

Research on media centres on digital technology as well as traditional print and visual media. This includes social studies of technology and media representations focussing on the internet, television and newsprint around genres such as video games and apps, documentary, current affairs and Reality TV.

A developing strand of this research includes work on how politics is portrayed by the media including new technologies, such as the ability to watch political speeches in real time on demand, and how the public respond and interact to this and the role of the media in communicating climate change.

Business, Economies and Management

The Dundee Business School Oil, Gas & Energy Group consists of interdisciplinary academics and business practitioners active in this globally important sector. Research includes oil and gas accounting and finance, covering issues relating to energy management, energy economics, energy reporting and the impact of economic and global events on the share price of oil companies.

The group has a particular focus on developing an ongoing dialogue with industry practitioners and organisations through a focused programme of research, consultancy and continuing professional development programmes. In particular, the team specialises in research and practical understanding of the complexities of economics and information reporting central to the petroleum and energy industries.

Research on managing staff from different geographical and cultural backgrounds demonstrates that international managers today require knowledge of history, geography including environmental science, and faiths, creating a balance between global integration and local responsiveness.

Research in Innovation, Change and Sustainability Management fall mainly in the areas of business, management and human resource management and address the critical issues of sustainable performance, effective resource configuration and re-configuration, the capacity for change and flexibility – both internally and across industry boundaries – and the need for responsible management in a world of emerging economies and shrinking natural resources.

One focus for this research is on developing businesses in the new and rapidly-evolving digital media sector, which are generally seen as more informal and experimental than traditional industries.

This research is driven by organisational needs, giving it increased potential to feed back into management practice, providing real-world solutions particularly for SMEs and young businesses. A number of research projects have been initiated by sponsoring organisations, including the computer games industry and the NHS.

Staff research looks at the impact and operation of supermarket loyalty schemes in international context, how small businesses can develop and run successful customer loyalty schemes, the growth of consumer use of technologies in UK retailing, customer loyalty and fashion retailing, and customer perceptions of grocery retailing in the UK.

Professor Sabine Hotho and Neil McGregor edited the collection Changing the Rules of the Game: Economic, Management and Emerging Issues in the Computer Games Industry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Professor Mohamed Branine is the author of Managing Across Cultures: Concepts, Policies and Practices (Sage, 2011)


Evolutionary and biological approaches to behaviour encompasses the core research interests of Psychology at Abertay.  This involves taking an evolutionary and biological approach to the study of behaviour, covering a wide range of behaviour in humans and other animals.  It also encompasses the wider scope of 'biological and evolutionary influences' with the aim of looking at how these factors fit into other areas of study.  The group has the unifying theme of examining the role that hormones play in the expression of behaviour in both humans and animals.  We are applying this to a whole range of behaviour including human-computer interactions, personality, health, mate choice, animal welfare.

Psychological research into lateral preferences has focused on behavioural inhibition, a concept related to anxiety. Recent work has studied ‘state anxiety’ when faced with a new task and the influence of lateral preferences.

Widely recognised psychology research led by Professor Vera Kempe explores factors that affect how people learn and use language.

The research extends beyond English to encompass Russian, Serbian, Lithuanian and Dutch, and aims to contribute to our understanding of the general principles underlying human language acquisition and adult-child communication.

Researchers are also looking at the area of second language learning and what makes some adults better language learners than others, as well as how emotions affect communicative effectiveness, which in the future may aid the design of more efficient communication interfaces.

Professor Vera Kempe is co-editor of the standard international work of reference Encyclopedia of Language Development (Sage, 2014)


Sociology research undertaken at Abertay takes a broadly social relational and social constructionist approach.

Substantive studies have included cyber cultures, the sociology of state and nation in Scotland, class, social movements, youth, football, and media representations. A social interactional approach is taken for the analysis of discourses of General Practitioners and politicians.

Our research engages directly with sociological theory and the history of sociology, for instance in the early sociology of Patrick Geddes, and the social theories of Cornelius Castoriadis and Kostas Axelos. Critical substantive work is being done on moral panic theory and an alternative social theory of ‘amoral panics’ is being developed to account for the loss of a moral centre in society. Current work includes an edited collection on the rise and fall of sociological reputations, social theory and crisis, and a study of Castoriadis’ early theory.

'Alex Law is author of Key Concepts in Classical Social Theory (Sage, 2011)' with 'Alex Law is author of Social Theory for Today: Making Sense of Social Worlds (SAGE, 2015) and co-editor with Eric Lybeck of Sociological Amnesia: Cross-Currents in Disciplinary History (Ashgate, 2015)

Jason Annetts, Alex Law, Wallace McNeish and Gerry Mooney are authors of Understanding Social Welfare Movements (Polity, 2009, Chinese translation, 2013).

Mental Health And Well-Being

Mental Health Nursing and Counselling research

The Mental Health Nursing and Counselling research theme focuses on research studies of direct relevance to clinical mental health nursing practice and education. Current projects include the development of educational and training packages to improve practice with people diagnosed with personality disorder. This study, led by Prof. Geoff Dickens, is based on a systematic review of the current world literature and is being developed with colleagues in NHS Fife.

Prof. Dickens leads a number of studies which relate to the interface between mental health and the challenging behaviours that contribute to the social exclusion of people with mental health problems. This theme encompasses a number of studies related to the prediction, prevention, and management of aggression and violence, and to firesetting behaviour, particularly with reference to people with mental disorder. Prof. Dickens is the co-editor of three books on these issues, the most recent is The Psychology of Arson (Routledge, 2015). Prof. Dickens is also involved in a number of projects of more direct relevance to nursing practice including medicines administration, and he has a special interest in systematic reviews of evidence to inform practice.

Additionally, Robin Ion leads a project about issues related to the development and maintenance of compassion in nurses with a particular focus on student nurses. Research has been carried out in a fruitful partnership with Penumbra, a Scottish voluntary organisation that promotes mental health, to develop the Individual Recovery Outcomes Counter (IROC). Additionally, our Football in Fife project aims to explore the factors that make community mental health football groups a sustainable and healthy method of co-production of care in mental health services.

Our counselling researchers carry out important research into the effectiveness of counselling, in particular in terms of how it can help people with long-term health conditions including sight-loss and diabetes.  They are active in the development of training and practice protocols and task lists for practitioners working with vulnerable groups, and are collaborating on projects looking at how counselling can aid engagement in cultural resources and life-style change.

The Tayside Counselling Centre (TCC) is an on-going research project offering counselling to the local community, providing evidence of research impact on the effectiveness and processes of change underlying pluralistic counselling.

More information on the Division of Mental Health and Counselling can be found here.

Sport, Performance, and Exercise

Research on sport and physical activity supports the activities of the Dundee Academy of Sport. It informs professionals within the sporting industry and community, as well as providing insight into the wider debate on the use of sport and exercise for health improvement.

Sport, Performance, and Exercise research aims to provide a central focus for members of a wide range of academic disciplines involved in the study of the use and impact of sport and exercise.

As a group with an underpinning interdisciplinary perspective, we cross traditional boundaries between the academic fields that make up Sport and Exercise Sciences, allowing for a broader perspective and better integration of specialist knowledge and skills for the improvement of all those involved, directly or indirectly, with sport and exercise.

Employment Law

An integral component of any society is the world of work.  Work is a human activity which engages every one of us at some point in our lives and work is an essential component in the creation of a society’s wealth and prosperity.  Ensuring an appropriate balance between the rights and obligations under the law of those who hire labour and those who provide their labour is vital to the economic health and success of a society.  Therefore, the legal regulation of the relationship between employers and employees/workers is something which is of concern to society as a whole.  Within this research field, the sources of legal regulation emanate not only from the UK Parliament, Courts and Tribunals; very significant legislative measures are also adopted by the EU (e.g. the Working Time Directive) and important judgments are issued regularly by the EU Court of Justice.  Further, a number of employment protection rights may now be regarded as fundamental rights, as a result of the jurisprudence of the Court and the enhanced status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights under the Lisbon Treaties.

Research in this field within the Law Division at Abertay University focuses on two interlocking strands of employment law:

  1. the effectiveness of the two principal strategies deployed in the UK to act as a counterbalance to the unequal bargaining position of employers/employees: (a) the role of UK/EU statutory employment protection rights; and (b) the role of collective bargaining between trade unions and employers;
  2. the development of what have been termed ‘family friendly’ policies, which involve the creation of a range of statutory rights e.g. maternity, paternity, parental and adoption leave, and other related rights that are designed to promote and enhance ‘work/life balance’.

Further, both of these strands encompass the aims of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibits unlawful discrimination on the grounds of a ‘protected characteristic’: sex, race, disability, religious or other belief, age or sexual orientation.

James Murphie is a part-time member of academic staff at Abertay University as well as being a practising member of the Faculty of Advocates.  He specialises in advising and representing clients in a range of Employment Law and Discrimination matters.

Dr Michelle Weldon-Johns is engaged in post-doctoral research in the field of ‘family friendly’ employment rights.


Weldon-Johns, M.  EU Work – Family Policies – Challenging Parental Roles or Reinforcing Gendered Stereotypes, European Law Journal, Vol 19, No. 2, March 2013.

Murphie, J.  The Employer's Right to Rewrite the Contract?  Juridical Review 2011, Issue 4, 331-347

Weldon-Johns, M.  Comparative lessons on the work-family conflict – Swedish parental leave versus American family leave, pages 116 to 113, chapter 7 in Busby, Nicole and James, Grace, Families, Care-giving and Paid Work, Edward Elgar, 2011.

Murphie, J. Implementation of the ‘Agency Workers Directive’ (2008/104/EC) in the UK, 2011 Scottish Law Gazette 85

Weldon-Johns, M.  The Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010: a new dawn or more ‘sound-bite’ legislation? Journal of Social Welfare & Family Law, Vol. 33, No. 11, March 2011, 25-36.

Murphie, J. Road Traffic Accidents, chapter 22 in Thomson J (ed.) Delict, W. Green, Edinburgh (under the auspices of the Scottish Universities Law Institute), 2010

Murphie, J. Scottish Update to Employment Law & Health & Safety chapters of the Architects’ Legal Handbook, 9th ed.,  Elsevier Ltd, Oxford, 2010

Murphie, J. Quit Order to Mum ‘Illegal’, interview with Dundee Courier & Evening Telegraph re: compatibility of deportation order on non-EU citizen with EU Treaty, 14th-15th October 2009

Murphie, J. In Defence of the Employer’s Defence?-Case C-127/05 Commission –v- UK, Scottish Law Gazette, vol.75 No.6, 208, 2007