School of Social and Political Science

Catherine Lyall

Job Title

Professor of Science and Public Policy

Catherine Lyall's photo
Personal website
Research Wiki

Room number


Building (Address)

Old Surgeons' Hall

Street (Address)

High School Yards

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)



Being an Interdisciplinary Academic. How Institutions Shape University Careers

  • Emphasises the importance of interdiscplinarity in academia

  • Reveals misunderstandings held about the nature of interdisciplinary knowledge

  • Identifies how researchers can embed interdisciplinarity in their own career trajectory

Borne out of meticulous scholarship, this book ...offer[s] lessons that are accessible to all academics, regardless of initial training. It is a must read for anyone interested in interdisciplinary research

—Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Chair of the Irish Research Council

I have a BSc(Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Aberdeen and an MSc in Science and Technology Policy from SPRU, University of Sussex.  I completed a PhD on the impact of Scottish devolution on the policy-making process for science and innovation while working at the University of Edinburgh.  Before joining the university, I worked for the UK civil service and held posts with the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

I am an experienced science policy researcher and evaluator of knowledge exchange and interdisciplinary research activities.  I have acted as a consultant to a number of public bodies including the ESRC, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Academy (HEA), Scottish Executive, European Commission, and the League of European Research Universities.  I was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the University of Copenhagen’s Governing Obesity project (2014-2016) and in 2017 was a member of an international review panel at Aarhus University.  I have been a member of the steering groups of the Edinburgh Beltane for Public Engagement and the Academy of Government and a past chair of the Scottish Funding Council’s Knowledge into Public Policy Action Group.

I am currently on the editorial board for the journal Science and Public Policy and was a member of the Management Committee for the recently completed EU COST action INTREPID (Interdisciplinarity in research programming and funding cycles).  I am a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and a Research Assessor for the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

I have previously served as Deputy Director for both the ESRC Innogen Centre (2007-2012) and the ESRC Genomics Forum (2012-2013) and was Associate Dean Research Careers in the College of Humanities and Social Science for three years from January 2011 during which time I served on the Senate Researcher Experience Committee; the University Equality and Diversity Committee; and the College Research Committee.  I have previously served as Head of Subject for STIS and was awarded the College's Susan Manning Award for Best Mentor in 2017.  I have experience as both an internal and external PhD examiner and am currently the Postgraduate Advisor for on-course students for STIS.

Postgraduate Teaching

Master's by Research STIS (Programme Director)

The MSc(R) is aimed at students who intend to go on to pursue a research career, within or outside academia, in this interdisciplinary field. It is the normal point of access to a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere.

Research Design (Lecturer) 

The course provides an introduction to the main issues involved in designing social science research, and is intended for students from a wide range of social science disciplines. Research design calls for decisions about how the research should be carried out, about what kind of data should be collected and analysed, and about how inferences should be drawn if the aims of the research are to be realised.


Open Access versions and full list of publications in CV

ORCID Identifier: 0000-0002-4814-7357

Most recent publications

Fletcher, I. and Lyall, C. Stem cells and serendipity. Unburdening social scientists’ feelings of failure in Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Failures: Lessons Learned from Cautionary Tales, Dena Fam and Michael O'Rourke (editors) (Routledge, due November 2020)

Lyall, C. and Tait, J. (2019) Beyond the limits to governance: New rules of engagement for the tentative governance of the life sciences  Research Policy 

Journal special issues
Digital Publications

Research wiki posts

Very occasional blog posts

Research interests

Research interests

Research methods; Research policy; Research evaluation; Assessment of research impact; Knowledge exchange; Policy issues related to the governance of science, technology, innovation; Science policy; Career development; Management of interdisciplinary research; Interdisciplinary collaborations

Current Projects

I am a Co-investigator on EU H2020 SHAPE-ID (Shaping Interdisciplinary Practices in Europe) and EPSRC-funded Evidencebase: Growing the Big Grant Club

Completed Projects

My research seeks to advance an understanding of problems of science and technology policy formation and strategic decision-making by adopting interdisciplinary and practitioner-based perspectives.  My research and professional interests span:

  • policy issues related to the governance of science, technology, innovation and knowledge systems (see, for example, this short briefing note which summarises the findings from our SFC-funded cultured blood project)
  • the management and evaluation of interdisciplinary research - see wiki
  • research evaluation and the assessment of research impact

Other Research Activities

I am Postgraduate Adviser for on course research studdents within STIS

Full list of research projects and consultancies 

Research in a Nutshell video

PhD Topics

I am broadly interested in the policy-making process for issues related to the governance of science, technology and innovation; the promotion and management of interdisciplinary research; and research evaluation and the assessment of research impact. Students have nominated me for the EUSA Best Supervisor Award on three occasions and I am currently the Postgraduate Adviser for on-course students in STIS. I would be happy to discuss supervising in any of the following topics: Science and public policy; Research policy; Research impact; Knowledge exchange; Knowledge brokerage; The practice of interdisciplinarity; The demographics of interdisciplinarity; Theorising the integrative method.

Find out more about the programmes that I am involved with: (opening in new windows)

Current Graduate Students

Nathalie Dupin: Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training. Becoming a Researcher Across Disciplines - in partnership with OPTIMA (PhD Year 3)

John Marshall is completing his MRes part-time (Year 2) with me prior to PhD study at Edinburgh Napier University

Alice Spaccasassi MRes part-time (Year 1)

Completed Graduate Students

Katherine Stephen: Meta-skills Maturity for Future Workplaces (MRes 2019)

Marina Milosheva: (MRes 2020)

Chihwei Yeh: Particle Physics in Public. Legitimising Curiosity-driven Research after the Higgs Boson and Beyond (PhD 2019)

Justyna Bandola-GillBetween Autonomy and Engagament.  Interpreting and Practising Knowledge Exchange in UK Academia (PhD 2019)

Eun Sun Kim: Facilitating Innovation in SMEs. The Case of a Public Intermediary in South Korea (PhD 2015)

Staff Hours and Guidance

I currently have a part-time contract and work from home. Please email to arrange an online meeting.