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Dr Lesley Henderson

Dr Lesley Henderson
Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Communications

Marie Jahoda 144


Lesley Henderson is a Sociologist with specific expertise in communications and social change.

Lesley is one of the first researchers to explore plastics pollution in the media with a number of projects exploring socio-cultural aspects of this emerging global issue.Currently she has secured two ACU Blue Charter Fellowships which support world-class research and innovation in marine plastics and is working with colleagues to look at perceptions of plastic pollution amongst sea turtle farmers in Sri Lanka and perceptions of plastic pollutions through a media and communications lens in Nigeria.

As a member of the SAPEA working group on microplastics she collaborated with world leading natural and social scientists on  evidence for the European Commission policy, leading on media and communications aspects of the report SAPEA, Science Advice for Policy by European Academies. (2019). A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society. Berlin: SAPEA.  Downloadable version 

Working in a unique interdisciplinary team of natural history film makers, eco-toxicologists and environmental scientists her research maps audiences engagement with the award winning documentary film, "A Plastic Ocean" (Netflix, 2017). She examines how the issue is framed across diverse media and uses cutting edge qualitative and quantitative methods to identify crucial issues of trust and credibility in science reporting. Projects in development include cross cultural and trans-disciplinary research on plastics pollution (Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, India and Malaysia) and EU capacity building (Universities of Wageningen, Siena, Roskilde, Tromso and Northern Research Institute Norway).

She completed her PhD exploring the production context and impact of television fiction on public understandings of health and social issues in the Dept.of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Glasgow where she was a researcher with the Glasgow Media Group. Previous posts include Visiting Lecturer and Senior Researcher/ Grant Holder in Public Health & Policy at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. 

Lesley came to Brunel on a study exploring media and the role of scientific correspondents in reporting human genetics (Wellcome Trust). She was grant holder on a study of media advocacy and health inequalities (Health Development Agency) appointed Lecturer in Sociology & Communications (2003) and promoted to Senior Lecturer (Research Excellence, 2008). She became a member of the All Parliamentary Media Literacy Group (2009), Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2007), Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (2008), Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (2014) and European Science Foundation peer review college (2018). She has published widely on media and public health, science and environmental communication and presented evidence to WHO, Unicef and Scottish Parliament. She has been investigator on projects supported by the AHRC; Dept. of Health; NHS; ESRC; Wellcome Trust (total value £500k). She was Co-Director, Centre for Media, Culture and Representation (Brunel, 2012-5); Deputy Director, Centre for Media, Globalisation and Risk (Brunel, 2006-8) and selected for Aurora Women Leaders in Higher Education Programme (2014).

She has a strong record in capacity building for example as member of the Wellcome Trust funded London & Brighton Translational Ethics Centre (LABTEC) (£850,000). 

Lesley is a Brunel Public Engagement Chamption and develops outreach activities through frequent external invited talks and screenings including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2018) and Royal Geographical Society (2018). She is Contributing Editor of academic blog Cost of Living (funded by the British Sociological Association) where she writes about science, health and media.

Lesley runs the Sociology and Communications twitter feed


  • PG Cert. In Learning & Teaching in Higher Education (Brunel)
  • PhD Sociology (Glasgow)


Lesley Henderson is Senior Tutor in the Department of Social & Political Sciences and is responsible for student experience and pastoral support for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Sociology, Media, Communications, Journalism, Anthropology, Politics and History.

She is Chair of the SPS extenuating circumstances panel; member of the University working group on extenuating circumstances best practice and member of  the University Work Strand 5. Research income and partnerships analysis working group.

Newest selected publications

SAPEA working group on microplastics. (2019) 'SAPEA, Science Advice for Policy by European Academies. (2018). A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society. Berlin: SAPEA.'. Place of publication: SAPEA: Berlin.


Henderson, L. (2018) 'The Media and Public Health: Where next for critical analysis?'. Critical Public Health, 28 (4). pp. 373 - 376. ISSN: 0958-1596 Open Access Link

Journal article

Henderson, L. and Solman, P. (2018) 'Flood Disasters in the UK and India: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Reporting'. Journalism. pp. 1 - 28. ISSN: 1464-8849 Open Access Link

Journal article

Dumbili, E. and Henderson, L. (2017) 'Mediating Alcohol Use in Eastern Nigeria: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Role of Popular Media in Young People's Recreational Drinking'. Health Education Research, 32 (3). pp. 279 - 291. ISSN: 0268-1153 Open Access Link

Journal article

Henderson, L. (2017) 'Popular Television and Public Mental Health: Creating Media Entertainment from Mental Distress'. Critical Public Health, 28 (1). pp. 1 - 12. ISSN: 0958-1596 Open Access Link

Journal article
More publications(57)