UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Raquel Velho


I am a final year PhD student at the Science and Technology Studies department, where my research focuses on the development of large sociotechnical systems, such as the public transport network, and how they are shaped and moulded by their users. My primary supervisor is Professor Brian Balmer and my secondary supervisor is Dr Catherine Holloway from the UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC). I hope to build some interdisciplinary bridges between the social sciences, engineering and infrastructure users and my work is being funded by the Brazilian CAPES foundation, through the “Science Without Borders” programme. 

Doctoral Research:

Expanding upon my Master’s degree, which I completed in September 2013, I continue to work on issues of transport accessibility for wheelchair users, and working towards the inclusion of users’ voices into the shaping of technology. 

My doctoral research explores the relationship between wheelchair users and the London transport system, and the tactics these users may adopt to navigate a network from which they have arguably been excluded. It asks, “How do wheelchair users find ways of shaping and/or subverting the London public transport system so as to better fit their capabilities?” I have finalised my fieldwork, which consisted of a series of interviews with wheelchair users and policy-makers, and observations of Garage Open-days and wheelchair skills training courses. Currently, I am finalising drafts of my thesis chapters and reviewing them, with the intention to submit in early 2017.

Academic Activities:

In the past three years (2013-2016), I have been involved in a series of activities beyond my doctoral work, including teaching. I was a postgraduate teaching assistant for the modules “Revealing Science”, “Introduction to Science Policy”, and "Governing Emerging Technologies". This year I will again assist with Science Policy, as well as "Investigating Science and Society", a methods course.

In December 2013, I was a facilitator for the Accessibility Symposium, which took place at UCL as part of the Festival of Ageing (further information here; it also resulted in a conference report in which I published thoughts on the event). Further, I was the events coordinator for the UCL Festival for Digital Health, a high profile event bringing together academics, clinicans, and industry representatives to discuss the innovations in the digital health arena.

Throughout 2014, I was vice-president and treasurer of the organising committee for the British Society for the History of Science's Postgraduate Conference (BSHSPGC), which was held at UCL in January 2015 (see STSNews article). It was a great success!

Lastly, I was the founder of the FemSTS reading group. This is a space in which we discuss the intersections of science studies and feminist writing. Together, we have read the book Feminism in Twentieth-Century Science, Technology, and Medicine edited by Angela N. H. Creager, Elizabeth Lunbeck and Londa Schiebinger. We now read selected articles and discuss them at convivial monthly meetings. It is now organised by my colleague, Katherine Cecil, but please do get in touch if you're interested in getting involved!

Research Interests:

  • Sociology of technology and technological development
  • Theories of embodiment and phenomenology
  • Standards and their impact
  • The application of STS theories to disability studies
  • Philosophy of science, particularly approaches to pluralism
  • Interdisciplinarity and its methods

Previous Academic and Professional Experience:

As a graduate in sociology (Université de Nantes, France, 2012), I was introduced to the world of STS when I went to the ESOCITE conference in Buenos Aires in 2010, where the topics of discussion focused on using science and technology for social inclusion in Latin America. I became interested in the social dimensions surrounding videogame production and gameplaying, particularly gender representations and “gaming addictions”, which resulted in two essays, titled “Rich boys club” and “Gameboys only!”.

From there, my interests turned to the world of medicine and biotechnology as I undertook courses in bioethics and comparative sociology. I therefore decided to do some empirical research of Chinese students in my university in France, and how they went about defining and choosing between traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine. However, for my last semester in undergraduate studies, I went to study in Universitá di Roma Tre, Italy, through the ERASMUS programme. 

While searching for Master’s degree programmes which would allow me to continue exploring the world of science and technology through a social sciences perspective, I came across the London Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology (now dissolved). Through this centre I underwent my Master’s year in Science, Medicine, Technology and Society. My dissertation was titled, “How to get on (with) a bus: a pilot study of wheelchair users’ engagement with busses and research”. It explored the world of public transport, particularly London busses, from the perspective of wheelchair users and accessibility, by the use of interviews done after they engaged with engineering research which proposed to improve the London transport system. It was an exploratory study for my PhD research, which I now hope to expand to all aspects of accessibility and transport. For a summary of my dissertation, see below.

Peer-reviewed publications:

  • Velho, Raquel, Catherine Holloway, Andrew Symonds and Brian Balmer. “The Effect of Transport Accessibility on the Social Inclusion of Wheelchair Users: A Mixed Method Analysis”. Social Inclusion 4, no.3 (2016): pp. 24-35
  • Velho, Raquel. Review of Risco, ambiente e saúde: um debate sobre comunicação e governança do risco em áreas contaminadas by Gabriela di Giulio. Critical Reviews on Latin American Research 5, no. 1 (2016): pp. 32-34.
  • Kostkova, Patty; Brewer, Helen; de Lusignan, Simon; Fottrell, Edward; Goldacre, Ben; Hart, Graham; Koczan, Phil; Knight, Peter; Marsolier, Corinne; McKendry, Rachel; Ross, Emma; Sasse, Angela; Sullivan, Ralph; Chaytor, Sarah; Velho, Raquel; Stevenson, Olivia; Tooke, John. "Who Owns The Data? Open Data for health care." Frontiers in Public Health 4 (2016).
  • Velho, Raquel. “Gerar (e gerir) expectativas: novas áreas de pesquisa nos estudos sociais da ciência.” Liinc em Revista 10, no.2 (2014): 665-73.

Other publications:

  • Velho, Raquel. ‘“E isso te isola, porque o mundo fica cada vez menor…”: Acessibilidade em transporte público e inclusão social.’ Com Ciência 175 (2016). Available here.
  • Kostkova, Patty; Stevenson, Olivia; Velho, Raquel. "Who owns the data? Open data for healthcare." UCL Policy Briefing, UCL Public Policy (December, 2015). Available here.
  • Velho, Raquel. “Activism and Academia.” In SPSAS Proceedings: São Paulo School of Advanced Sciences in Biotechnology, Biosocialities, and the Governance of Life Sciences, held in Unicamp, Brazil, August 2014: pp. 44-5. Available here.
  • Velho, Raquel. "Let's Talk About Accessibility." In Measuring Accessibility by Mapping Mobility Proceedings, held at UCL, UK, (December 2013): pp. 7-8. [Copy available upon request.]

Edited volumes:

  • Velho, Raquel and Laura Kemmer (eds.). “Science, Technology, Society – and the Americas?” Critical Reviews on Latin American Research 5, no. 1 (2016). Available here.
  • Velho, Raquel (organiser). SPSAS Proceedings: São Paulo School of Advanced Sciences in Biotechnology, Biosocialities, and the Governance of Life Sciences, held in Unicamp, Brazil, August 2014, 44-5. Available here.

For a summary of my Master's dissertation, please click here.



Twitter: @RSVelho

Linkedin: Raquel Velho