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Dr Lesley Henderson

Dr Lesley Henderson
Reader - 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. She led a unique interdisciplinary team to map audience engagement with plastic pollution messages in the documentary film 'A Plastic Ocean' (Netflix, 2017). 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 pollution among young adults in Nigeria.

She collaborated with world leading natural and social scientists on the working group on microplastics and produced evidence for the European Commission policy, leading on media and communications aspects of the report "A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society" free download She is a member of the UK academic team commissioned to identify research and policy priorities on UK marine pollution policy for Defra.

Lesley completed her PhD exploring the production context and impact of television fiction on public understandings of public health and social issues in the Dept.of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Glasgow where she was a researcher with the Glasgow Media Group. She has 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 (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

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)