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Dr Carol Rivas
18 Woburn Square
Tel: 02076126923
  • Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Programme Evaluation
  • IOE - Social Science
  • UCL Institute of Education

I started my research career as an ethologist, undertaking postgraduate research on birds, and moved from this to become a secondary data analyst and health economist at St Mary’s Hospital (Imperial). There I developed my interest in what were then called ‘real world’ studies, and in cognitive processes, with work on drugs of abuse and on depression and suicide. In parallel I undertook an MSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology at Birkbeck (part time), specialising in aphasia and autism; this began my interests in psycholinguistics and in artificial intelligence. I subsequently expanded these methodological interests through conversation analysis and text mining work.

In 2003 I joined Queen Mary University of London, working on a Cochrane review of advocacy interventions in domestic violence. This suggested to me the idea, taken up through my PhD in Medial Sociology, of qualitatively exploring the way abused women negotiated their daily lives.  Subsequently, I led the NIHR Research Design Service London qualitative methodology stream (covering UCL, KCL, QMUL and Imperial), 2012-14, whilst maintaining my mixed methods portfolio and working on complex interventions development and evaluation for chronic conditions. Most recently I have become interested in developing complex interventions research and evaluations in the area of hidden disabilities and life transition points. This has been part- fuelled by personal circumstance where I have children with disabilities currently at university.

I am communications executive committee member for the British Psychosocial Oncology Society, which follows on from my research into cancer whilst at the University of Southampton (2014-2017) and my lead role on a suite of metasyntheses on the prostate cancer experience. I am active in public engagement work. I have run community events and health fair stalls and was formerly a STEM and a Wellcome Trust ambassador and ‘busker’.


Research Summary

I am a medical sociologist with expertise across a range of multidisciplinary research methods and an interest in innovation and thinking outside the box. I am actively involved in patient and public engagement work and participatory research. Recent projects have involved arts-based co-design and the use of conversation analysis and multimodal analysis in medical settings to develop complex interventions. I have an affinity for technology, and have been involved in several e- and m-health projects, including a study I led on as PI that developed rules-based text mining for the thematic analysis of survey freetext data.  Methodologically, apart from my ethnographic and participatory arts-based work, I am currently interested in the innovative use of approaches such as behavioural economics, choice models and concept mapping to develop and evaluate complex interventions, and in implementation and sustainability issues. I have contributed to debates on the challenges and usefulness of Big Data in informing complex intervention design.

Topically, my research aims to understand and evaluate the way healthcare communication is undertaken and healthcare, social and community services operate and are perceived by providers, users and their networks, policy-makers and budget holders.  Settings include the NHS, education and the community. My special interest is in the experiences of people with so-called hidden disabilities, from neuromuscular and musculoskeletal problems (e.g. multiple sclerosis, Ehlers-Danlos [hypermobility] syndrome) through lifestyle conditions (such as diabetes) to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). I am also active in Women's Health. In all cases I am actively involved in patient and public engagement work and participatory research and have a particular passion for reducing inequalities, fostered by my own diverse background. 

Teaching Summary
I lead on the module Evidence for Policy and Practice, part of the IoE's MSc in Research for Public Policy and Practice.
I have a PGCAP.

New PhD student enquiries welcome 

Completed PhD students

Alastair Duncan (King’s): Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in HIV: An Effectiveness and Acceptability Study, awarded 2016

Claire Haresnape (QMUL):  The challenges of trying to recruit women for a clinical trial of a homeopathic product that supports fertility treatment, awarded 2016

Jane Pritchard (Southampton): An exploration of the perceptions of younger people with dementia about hope. Practice PhD, awarded 2017

 Current PhD students

Carol Gray (Southampton): A longitudinal exploration into the needs and preferences of older people approaching end of life in the community, and if these change over time. Practice PhD

Dilla Syadia Ab Latiff (Southampton): ­­­­­­­­Organ donation behaviour: understanding the factors stimulating the decision to register as a potential organ donor in Malaysia

Amanda Moore (King’s): Diabetes, women’s lifecourse, nutrition and ethnicity. PhD panel 


Academic Background
2013 PGCAP Postgraduate Certificate of Academic Practice  – Academic Practice Queen Mary College, University of London
2013 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Medical Sociology Queen Mary College, University of London
2002 MSc (Hons) Master of Science (Honours) – Cognitive Neuropsychology Birkbeck College
1981 BSc Hons Bachelor of Science – Zoology Queen Mary and Westfield College
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