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Science communication and comedy

Humorous popular science books such as Terry Pratchett’s “Science of Discworld” or Ben Miller’s “It’s not rocket science” as well as various stand-up performances, radio shows and TV programmes demonstrates that many science communicators see value in using humour. Science comedy is driven both by comedians who have taken an interest in science and scientists/communicators who have taken an interest in comedy. Despite this, there does not yet exist much research on the way humour is used as a communication tool. This project will take a sociological look at the use of humour and comedy in science communication: linking the sociology of science and critical comedy studies, it will investigate how humour is constructed and used by science communicators, how science communicators and science comedians feel about the use of humour and/or how audiences engage with it.

Applicants would ideally have a background in either sociology or communications and media studies or closely related subjects.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)


Hauke Riesch - I am a sociologist of science with a particular interest in science communication, risk and environmental science and interdisciplinary relations between sociology and philosophy of science. After completing a PhD on scientists' views on philosophy of science at University College London, I worked as a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge on the public understanding of risk and energy policy, and more recently at Imperial College London on public understanding of environmental change. I have been working at Brunel since 2012. Qualifications: -
  • BSc Physics & Philosophy (King's College London)
  • MSc Philosophy & History of Science (King's College London)
  • PhD Science & Technology Studies (University College London)

Sharon Lockyer - Sharon Lockyer is a Reader in Sociology and Communications with an international research track-record in mediated culture, critical comedy studies, and mixed-methods research. She is founding director of the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) - the first, and only, international and interdisciplinary research centre devoted to the academic study of comedy. Sharon has worked on externally funded projects involving multiple stakeholders and is skilled in leading public engagement and impact activities involving diverse audiences, which utilise her extensive academic, industry, and public contacts. She has researched and taught at other institutions including Loughborough University and De Montfort University, and has been a Visiting Professor at Dunarea de Jos University of Galati. Before becoming an academic Sharon worked in the cultural industries.