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Dr Lesley Henderson

Dr Lesley Henderson
Reader - Sociology and Communications

Marie Jahoda 144


Lesley Henderson is a social scientist with specific expertise in Communications and Social Change. She is founder and Group Leader of the interdisciplinary Sustainable Plastics Research Group (SPlasH) at Brunel. 

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. She has recently received funding (total 4.5 million GBP) to work on major interdisciplinary projects as Co Investigator and is leading work packages on communications, perceptions and behaviours regarding plastics waste in the EU, UK and Indonesia Lesley is also advising on global policy related to plastic litter as part of the 'Plastic-less Society' feasability study led by CGG Robertson (satellite mapping/geoanalytics) with Mott Macdonald (global engineering) funded by European Space Agency.

Lesley led a unique interdisciplinary team to map audience engagement with plastic pollution messages in the documentary film 'A Plastic Ocean' (Netflix, 2017). She then extended this research through the Association of Commonwealth Universities Blue Charter Fellowships which support world-class research and innovation in marine plastics which facilitated working with colleagues in Sri Lanka and Nigeria to look at perceptions of plastic pollution amongst sea turtle farmers and young adults.

She collaborated with world leading natural and social scientists on the working group on microplastics and produced evidence for European Commission policy on plastics in the oceans. She led on media and communications aspects of the report A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society  Lesley is a member of the UK academic team commissioned to identify research and policy priorities on UK marine pollution policy for DEFRA and  co author of the UNEP policy option report on  reducing additional marine plastic litter by 2050 (contributing to the delivery of the G20 Osaka Blue Ocean Vision)

Background: Lesley completed her PhD in the Dept.of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Glasgow where she was a researcher with the Glasgow Media Group. She held posts as Visiting Lecturer and Senior Researcher/ Grant Holder in Public Health & Policy at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and 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 as member of the Wellcome Trust funded London & Brighton Translational Ethics Centre (LABTEC, £850,000). 

Lesley is a Brunel Public Engagement Champion and develops outreach activities through frequent external invited talks and screenings including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was Contributing Editor of academic blog Cost of Living (funded by the British Sociological Association) 2012-20 and is Editorial Board member (Sociology) of Microplastics and Nanoplastics (Springer Nature) the first interdisciplinary, inclusive journal dedicated to microplastics.


  • 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, Global Challenges, 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

Brighty, GB. and Thompson, R. (2020) 'Marine Plastic Pollution - Evidence Review'. Available at: http://defra/.


Dumbili, E. and Henderson, L. (2020) 'The Challenge of Plastic Pollution in Nigeria', in Letcher, TM. (ed.) Plastic Waste and Recycling: Environmental Impact, Societal Issues and the Circular Economy. London : Elsevier: Academic Press. pp. 569 - 583. ISBN 13: 9780128178805. Open Access Link

Book chapter

Henderson, L. and Green, C. (2020) 'Making sense of microplastics? Public understandings of plastic pollution'. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 152. pp. 110908 - 110908. ISSN: 0025-326X Open Access Link

Journal article

Douglas, N., Knai, C., Petticrew, M., Eastmure, E., Durand, MA., Mays, N., et al. (2019) 'Media Analysis and Public Health Contemporary Issues in Critical Public Health'. London: Taylor & Francis. ISSN 13: 9780367335984


SAPEA. (2019) 'A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society. Berlin: SAPEA.'. Place of publication: SAPEA: Berlin. Available at: Access Link

More publications(59)