Centre for Behaviour Change



The CBC conducts cutting-edge theoretical, methodological and applied research to advance the understanding of behaviour and how to change it. Our research spans a wide range of settings, populations and domains of behaviour, taking an interdisciplinary perspective and bringing together difference sectors to address issues across health, wellbeing, sustainability and social cohesion.


Our research activities are organised around three themes:

  1. Health and wellbeing: focused on understanding and changing behaviour to promote population health to support people to manage their health and enable health care professionals and systems of health and social care to deliver evidence-based practice.
  2. Environment and sustainability: examines how human behaviour practices and systems can be shaped to improve stewardship of the planet's resources and to mitigate climate change.
  3. Methods for advancing behavioural science and its application: develop methods and tools to further the science and practice of behaviour change, including the synthesis of evidence across and within academic disciplines.

The CBC's research interdisciplinary portfolio consists of 26 active research programmes that address critical issues facing society. We collaborate with researchers across seven UCL Faculties and work closely with the Health Psychology Research and the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Groups based at UCL.

Listed below is a selection of CBC research projects. You can also find open/current funding calls at the bottom of this page.

Selected current research project:

Applied Behaviour Change Interventions

CUSSH logo
Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (London Hub)

This project is led by Professor Mike Davis (UCL) with Professor Susan Michie as Co-Investigator. Working with partner cities in France, China and Kenya, the project will assist decision-makers and the public about areas of development that afford the greatest opportunities for health and sustainability. CUSSH aims to conduct research and improve capacity to guide transformational changes in cities to meet environmental imperatives and improve the health and wellbeing of current and future populations by harnessing the benefits of sustainable policies and minimizing potential adverse consequences of global technological, environmental and social change.

CUSSH will develop critical evidence on how to achieve the far-reaching transformation of cities needed to address vital environmental imperatives for population and planetary health in the 21st century. We will use cutting-edge science and systems-based participatory methods to articulate visions of development, help shape policy decisions, and accelerate the implementation of transformational changes for health and sustainability in low, middle and high-income settings.

The negative environmental consequences of human activity represent an unprecedented threat to human health and well-being. Yet, to date no city has succeeded in implementing a pathway of development that is consistently and demonstrably on track to deliver long-term environment and health goals that fulfil both local needs and the increasingly urgent imperatives for planetary health.

In the CUSSH project we will:

  • Articulate the opportunities for achieving major health and sustainability objectives through urban development
  • Use research evidence to inform decision-makers and the public about the pathways of development that provide the greatest opportunities for health and sustainability, and to track progress towards the fulfilment of agreed goals
  • Identify the methods and factors crucial to successful implementation of development strategies that take full account of the needs and opportunities for health and sustainability in urban living

Website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/complex-urban-systems/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ComplexUrbanSys

Funder: The Wellcome Trust: Our Planet, Our Health

Designing out Plastic Waste: Investigating public behaviour in relation to plastic waste

Behaviour lies at the heart of reducing plastic waste and will be key in reducing waste and environmental pollution of the oceans. For the UK to achieve its recycling targets as outlined in the UK Plastics Pact wholesale behaviour change is likely to be needed in relation to plastic e.g. reducing consumption of single-use plastic items (such as food packaging and water bottles) and recycling them.  

The aim of this studentship is to address the problems of plastic waste by advancing our understanding of the public's behaviour in relation to consuming and recycling plastic with the view to reduce consumption and increase recycling.

This studentship will:
1.    investigate the public’s motivation, capability and opportunities for key behaviours in reducing plastic waste,
2.    identify enablers and barriers within the complex system within which such behaviours sit and,
3.    develop interventions based on this evidence and on appropriate theory aimed at changing one or more of such behaviours.

Website: https://www.plasticwastehub.org.uk/

Funder: EPSRC

Selected current research projects: implementation science

ARCH logo
Antibiotic Research in Care Homes (ARCH)

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a growing global public health challenge. Overuse of antibiotics, including using them when they are not needed, is a key contributor to AMR. Evidence points to the overuse of antibiotics in the care homes, and there is an agreement that antibiotic use can be safely reduced in this setting to help address ARM. This multi-disciplinary research programme aims to identify and preliminarily evaluate ways in which we can improve antibiotic prescribing and use in the care homes. There are several aims to this multidisciplinary project; the first is to aim to characterise antibiotic use as well as the factors that contribute to antibiotic use and prescribing in the care homes in Scotland. Second, this project aims to identify and evaluate potential interventions to limit antibiotic use in this context.

The project employs mixed-methods that draw on epidemiological (Work package 1), ethnographic (Work package 2) and behavioural science (Work Package 3) approaches to first identify potential intervention targets and then to develop and evaluate (Work Package 4) an intervention to improve antibiotic use in case homes in Scotland. Work Package 3 is led by a team at UCL Centre for Behaviour Change and involves applying Theoretical Domains Framework to design in-depth interviews and surveys to identify barriers and enablers among the care home staff, prescribers and pharmacists to a range of behaviours that contribute to antibiotic use

Website: http://arch-antibiotics.org.uk/

Funder: ESRC working in partnership with the Department of Health and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), under Theme 4: Behaviour within and beyond the health care setting.

PASS logo
Preserving Antibiotics through Safe Stewardship (PASS)

Increasing antibiotic resistance is a major health concern that is associated with the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotic Stewardship Programmes have been introduced to address these concerns, however, evidence and understanding of their effectiveness is limited. PASS aims to inform the design of a behaviour change intervention that strengthens antibiotic stewardship in health services and community settings.

A multi-discipline team will take a highly collaborative approach across three work packages:

  • (WP1 - IHI) Epidemiological data to investigate patterns of antibiotic use in primary and secondary care and in care homes. Data from a survey (Bug Watch) to assess GP attendance for common infections.
  • (WP2 - HPRG ) A behavioural change framework is applied to understand the drivers of antibiotic prescribing and to identify effective components of Antibiotic Stewardship Programmes. The research will span five settings: healthcare professionals in primary and secondary care, care homes, and community pharmacists, and the general public.
  • (WP3 - The Royal College of Art) Design and testing of intervention bundles.

The behavioural change aspect of PASS will include conducting theoretical based interviews with healthcare staff and the general public, the ethnographic observational work in primary and secondary care, and in care homes and systematic reviews of existing intervention across healthcare and community settings.

Data collection and analysis of interviews and observations is ongoing. Publication of systematic reviews of antimicrobial stewardship interventions in care homes, and primary and secondary care is anticipated in 2019.

The PASS research framework provides vital information on how antibiotics are used and what needs to be targeted to preserve their use for future generations

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PASS_antibiotic

Funder: ESRC

Selected current research projects:


Developing and testing the DAFNEplus intervention

DAFNE (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating) is a 5-day, group based training course for adults with Type 1 diabetes which has now been delivered to over 30,000 adults in the UK. The aim of DAFNEplus is to develop and convert DAFNE into a lifelong package to help people better manage their blood glucose levels long-term, as high levels can cause dangerous complications.

The primary aim of this study is to conduct a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing the new DAFNEplus intervention to the existing DAFNE programme

The primary objective is:
To assess the effects of the intervention on glycaemic control, as measured by HbA1c at 12 months.

The secondary objectives of this trial are:

  • To assess the effects of the intervention on the diabetes-specific quality of life.
  • To assess the medium term effect of the intervention on glycaemic control as measured by HbA1c using data at 6 months.
  • To assess the effects of the intervention on diabetes distress and other biomedical outcomes: (severe hypoglycaemic episodes, diabetic ketoacidosis, weight, body mass index, blood pressure and lipids).
  • To undertake a mixed methods process evaluation to aid understanding of the RCT findings, and to inform decision making about the implementation of DAFNEplus in clinical care post-trial.
  • To assess fidelity of delivery of the DAFNEplus intervention.
  • To undertake a health economic analysis to determine the cost-effectiveness of DAFNEplus versus standard DAFNE.

Website: https://dafneplusresearch.wordpress.com/

Funder: NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research

Selected current research projects:

Advancing Theories and Methods in Behaviour Change

HBCP logo
The Human Behaviour-Change Project: building the science of behaviour change for complex intervention development

The Human Behaviour Change Project (HBCP) will build an Artificial Intelligence system to continually scan the world literature on behaviour change, extract key information, and use this to build and update a model of human behaviour to answer the big question: ‘What behaviour change interventions work, how well, for whom, in what setting, for what behaviours and why?’

A multi-disciplinary team of 12 will work over four years to revolutionise current practices of evidence synthesis and our ability to generate new knowledge. The work will depend on a close interplay between behavioural, computer and information science.

The behavioural scientists will develop an “ontology” of behaviour change interventions that will organise the fragmented knowledge in the scientific literature into a form that enables the efficient accumulation of knowledge.

The computer scientists will build an Artificial Intelligence system, trained by behavioural scientists, to apply Natural Language Processing to extract relevant information from scientific reports and to organise that information into the Ontology using reasoning and machine learning. The Artificial Intelligence system will furthermore infer new knowledge while continually learning from new information fed into it.

The information scientists will build and evaluate a sophisticated online user interface to interact with the Artificial Intelligence system to enable users to readily access the breadth and depth of up-to-date evidence, and get answers to their questions, with explanations of these answers that people can understand and trust.

Website: https://www.humanbehaviourchange.org/

Funder: The Wellcome Trust - Collaborative Award in Science

Theories and Techniques of Behaviour Change Project

The effectiveness of behaviour change interventions depends on good understanding of the links between behaviour change techniques (BCTs) and their mechanisms of action (MoAs) i.e. the processes through which they affect behaviour. Considerable progress has been made in developing a method for specifying BCTs. The aim of this research is to develop and test a methodology for linking BCTs to their MoAs. The aim of this project is to identify and intergrate hypothesised links between (i) BCTs and MoAs and (ii) BCTs and behavioural theories. This project will also generate an online and freely available, searchable resource to support theory-based intervention development and evaluation.

The development of a formal methodology for linking BCTs to MoAs has the potential to make a substantial contribution to the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions. This research is a step towards developing an ‘ontology’ of behaviour change that specifies the relations between BCTs, theoretical mechanisms, modes of delivery, population, setting and type of behaviour (see https://www.humanbehaviourchange.org/).

Website: https://theoryandtechniquetool.humanbehaviourchange.org/

Funder: UK Medical Research Council - Methodology Research Programme

Funding Calls

WHO: Call for experts on behavioural insights and sciences for public health

Deadline: 03 March 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) is soliciting proposals for the nomination of experts to serve on a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to WHO on behavioural insights and sciences for public health. This work will contribute to WHO's vision of a world in which all people attain the highest possible standard of health and wellbeing and to the achievement of the triple billion goals.

For information about the call and how to apply see: https://www.who.int/news-room/articles-detail/call-for-experts-on-behavioural-insights-and-sciences-for-public-health