UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Current Projects

Liveable Cities: Engineering cities for planetary and societal wellbeing

Helene Joffe with Nick Tyler (Engineering, UCL), Brian Collins (Engineering, UCL), Francesca Medda (Engineering UCL) and teams from Birmingham (Chris Rogers, PI), Southampton & Lancaster

£6,250,000 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, (2012-2017)

Liveable cities

The broad vision of this project is to transform the engineering of cities to deliver societal and planetary wellbeing. A key challenge, however, is to ensure that radical engineering solutions take human dimensions of living and working in a city into account. A central element within this is to generate socially acceptable low carbon solutions that individuals, families and communities have the desire to achieve. This means taking their aspirations for the future into account.

Through a combination of novel qualitative and quantitative research the UCL Psychology team examine people’s aspirations and desires and how best they can be modified to successfully promote low carbon living alternativeshttp://liveablecities.org.uk

Challenging RISK: Achieving Resilience by Integrating Societal and Technical Knowledge

Retrofit Project

Helene Joffe with Tiziana Rossetto (Engineering, UCL), Muki Haklay (Engineering, UCL) with Luke Bisby (Engineering Edinburgh)

£2,200,000 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, (2013-2018)

START is a multi-site trial of 700 families in the UK investigating a form of intervention (multisystemic therapy) for young people and their families who are experiencing difficulties at home, at school and sometimes with the law. We are comparing Multisystemic Therapy (MST) with other services that are currently offered to young people and their families who are considered to be at ‘high risk’ of requiring out-of-home care such as fostering, social care or custody if associated with antisocial behaviour such as conviction as a young offender. 

The brain in the public sphere

Helene Joffe and Cliodhna O’Connor

£80,000 Faraday Institute for Science & Religion at St Edmund's College, Cambridge (2012-1014)


The field of neuroscience has expanded dramatically in recent years, both in terms of the volume of research produced and the range of subjects covered. As its research output has grown, so too has its public prominence. Neuroscience has by now moved well beyond the strictly 'scientific' sphere, with neuroscientific concepts frequently invoked in intense public debates regarding education, law, mental illness, sexuality, public policy, economics and the very notion of personhood. In today's society, science forms a significant influence on our conceptual, behavioural and institutional repertoires, and it is therefore important to be attuned to how scientific knowledge is mobilised in social contexts beyond the laboratory. This project constitutes a systematic investigation of the neuroscientific knowledge that surfaces in ordinary, everyday life in contemporary Britain. It employs a mixed-methods approach, combining analysis of neuroscience coverage in the mainstream UK media with interview-based studies that examine how members of the public engage with neuroscientific knowledge. Through rigorous analysis of original empirical data, the project traces the paths by which neuroscientific ideas travel through the public sphere, distinguishes how they are elaborated and reconstituted en route, and explores the implications this may have for social life .