School of Social and Political Science

Professor Catherine Lyall

Job Title

Professor of Science and Public Policy

Catherine Lyall's photo
Personal website
Research Wiki

Building (Address)

Old Surgeons' Hall

Street (Address)

High School Yards

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)


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 working with Dr Isabel Fletcher on a study funded by the Scottish Government to learn key lessons from the development of the Scottish programme for COVID 19 wastewater testing that can be used to inform future urgent responses to health and environmental crises.  

We are working to further disseminate the SHAPE-ID Toolkit which aims to provide guidance on inter- and transdisciplinary research for policymakers, funders, research performing organisations, researchers and research partners to help make better decisions and promote change in policymaking, funding and educational institutions.  As part of this work, we have a contract with Bristol University Press to produce an introductory reader Foundations of Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research (editors: Vienna Baptista, Fletcher, Lyall).

Recently 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.  

Most recently, I was Co-investigator on EU H2020 SHAPE-ID (Shaping Interdisciplinary Practices in Europe) and EPSRC-funded Evidencebase: Growing the Big Grant Club.  I was a member of the Management Committee for  EU COST action INTREPID (Interdisciplinarity in research programming and funding cycles). 

    Other Research Activities

    My research and professional interests span "research on research", namely:

    • 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
    • research cultures and the development academic careers

    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 4)

    Alice Spaccasassi MRes part-time (Year 2)

    Maria Cecil is completing her MRes with me prior to PhD study at Edinburgh Napier University

    Completed Graduate Students

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

    Marina Milosheva (MRes 2020)

    John Marshall (MRes 2021)

    Marianne Wilson (MRes 2021)

    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)


    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 a member of an international review panel at Uppsala University and member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Doctoral School of Social Sciences, University of Vienna.  I am part of the ESRC Steering Group for the Review of the PhD in the Social Sciences and an Adviser for the Technopolis Evaluation of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.

    Editorial board for three journals: Science and Public PolicyGlobal Social Challenges Journal; Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies. 

    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 am a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and a Research Assessor for the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. 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.

    Publications (Highlights)

    Open Access versions and full list of publications in CV

    ORCID Identifier: 0000-0002-4814-7357

    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

    Other 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

    Staff Hours and Guidance

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