UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Dr Saheli Datta Burton

Dr Saheli Datta Burton is a Lecturer (Teaching) in Science Policy (Responsible Research and Innovation) at UCL Science & Technology Studies.

Dr Saheli Datta Burton

2 November 2022

When did you take up this position? What was your position beforehand?

I took up this role on 1 March 2022. Prior to this, I was a Research Fellow at UCL Computer Science (Information Security Group).

When did you join UCL and where were you before?

I joined UCL in April 2020 as Research Fellow in the Geopolitics of Standards at the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL – STEaPP; PI Professor Madeline Carr) working in collaboration with my and the Standards Team at the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support the UK Government’s response to calls for regulating Consumer IoT Cybersecurity (report can be found here).  

Tell us about your work at UCL - how do you spend your days, and what makes your role different to similar positions elsewhere?

In addition to my teaching contribution to departmental PGT and UGT course offerings, a primary focus of my current role is to deliver Responsible Innovation Training across the 11 EPSRC funded Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) at UCL. 

This is pretty intensive as it involves delivering teaching not only across Levels 1, 2 and 3 (corresponding to PhD years 1, 2 and 3) of each CDT but also to doctoral students at UCL’s partner CDTs at other Universities (Cardiff, Cambridge, Loughborough, Manchester and Imperial College London). 

Additionally, I co-deliver short executive education courses in Responsible Innovation as part of UCL’s educational offerings for corporate users and professionals from all walks of life. 

Undoubtedly, this is an intense teaching delivery schedule, although the ‘RRI’ focus of my role, which brings me in regular contact with cutting edge research(ers) in emerging technologies, keeps it super exciting!

What are some of your favourite things about working in the department? 

It is incredible to be in a department that not only lives and breathes one’s own disciplinary focus, but also one where I can interact with researchers whose work I have studied and cited innumerable times. I am immensely proud to be a part of UCL STS, especially as one its newest member of staff in its centenary year!

Can you tell us about any research or current projects that you're working on?

I am currently working on a monograph entitled (tentatively) Personalised Medicine: A Critical Approach to Data-Driven Medicine

It is a part of Routledge’s Critical Approaches to Health Series and will bring together my doctoral work on emerging health technologies (cell and gene therapies) with my post-doctoral research (some of it conducted as part of the Ethics and Society subproject of the EC’s Human Brain Project) on the emerging issues of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled health(care). 

A discussion of these issues pertaining to the manufacturing and distribution of emerging data-driven technologies is presented in a (recently completed) final report for the EPSRC funded UCL Future Targeted Healthcare Manufacturing Hub supported research project entitled Responsible Personalised Medicine: Exploring the Ethical, Legal, Social, Political and Economic Issues of Manufacturing, Distribution, Access and Reimbursement.

The conceptual contribution of my work to Science and Technology Studies and Public Policy are articulated in my recently published book Elephant and the Dragon in Contemporary Life Sciences: A Call for Decolonising Global Governance (with Joy Zhang, Manchester University Press, 2022).

Elephant and the Dragon in Contemporary Life Sciences book

What is your favourite thing about living in London?

London is a fabulous melange of so many things, spaces and people that I consistently find myself surprised. Hard to pin down a favourite, although the walk along the winding streets of South bank probably comes closest; from the hustle and bustle of Lambeth through the winding cobbled alleys of Bermondsey fusing the old and the modern in utterly fascinating ways before eventually spilling over to a green (sometimes not so much) path along embankment - is fascinating!

Finally, tell us about your non-work life. Do you have any hobbies, or favourite places to go in London?

A favourite of mine (among many) is to join the hoards for an evening of sketching at The National Gallery every Friday. As for restaurants to try, hmmm, where do I begin?.. Rules in Covent Garden and Spring in Somerset House… The list goes on.