Research

New START project to start in October 2022

I will be starting a 6-year project on vaccination governance later this year and will be advertising PhD and postdoctoral positions shortly. Watch this space!

Abstract

Vaccines are one of the most effective forms of public health intervention, yet vaccine hesitancy is a growing concern worldwide. In seeking to address this policy problem, public health advocates emphasize the value of vaccination, expressing it in medical terms and metrics, such as in the number of lives saved or percentage of the population vaccinated. This narrow, specialist understanding of ‘value’ has exacerbated already polarized debates by failing to accommodate differences in valuation practices in the context of vaccination. Likewise, social scientists have largely focussed on vaccine hesitancy and, while recognizing the importance of values (Navin 2015; Attwell & Freeman 2015), they have not examined how valuations inform vaccination governance, and how, in turn, governance informs valuations of vaccination.

This study investigates how different actors value vaccination and which valuation repertoires they use to do this (scientific, economic, ethical, social, or personal). These repertoires, we hypothesize, both reflect and reproduce broader societal perceptions of governance. We examine valuation practices in five sites relevant to vaccination governance, with Austria as a paradigmatic case: policy programs, primary care, industry, scientific research, and social media. We ask: how do different actors assign value to vaccination and its governance, and how, in turn, do these valuations both reflect and produce particular forms of governance?

 Our approach draws on critical policy studies (Freeman 2019), valuation studies (Dussauge et al 2015; Lee & Helgesson 2019; Sharon 2017), and critical public health scholarship (Reubi 2018; Adams 2016). Regarding methods, we use expert interviews, biographical interviews with parents, ethnographic observations, desk research, and content analysis of Twitter data. Our multi-sited approach allows for a uniquely comprehensive analysis of the multiplicity of value principles that shape vaccination practices. First, we contribute to critical policy studies by making visible the role of valuations in policy and governance. Second, we develop a new methodology at the intersection of science and technology studies and policy studies, termed multi-sited policy valuography. In identifying the value repertoires that shape vaccination practices we contribute to a paradigmatic shift towards the study of value principles in policy studies more generally. Lastly, documenting the multiplicity of value concepts that shape vaccination practices will contribute to politically sustainable immunization strategies both for existing and emerging vaccines (including those targeting SARS-CoV-2).

Research Profile

Comparative Health and Consumer Policy
I have specialised in comparative health policy and have recently worked mostly on the topic of vaccination. My approach is informed by interpretive methodologies and I am an active member of the  Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA) network as well as the ECPR Standing Group on Theoretical Perspectives in Policy Analysis.

A critical policy approach to Europeanization 
Both in my PhD and my postdoctoral work, I have approached questions of EU integration and Europeanization empirically. In my research on health and consumer policy, studying practices both at the level of the nation state and the EU level – inasmuch as these are separate – is a particularly useful way of accentuating singularities of cases. I find a comparative case-study approach particularly instructive for learning more about how policies emerge, what they do, and how they are contested in different sites.

Methodological innovation and citizen science 
I have strongly drawn on expert interviews throughout my research and have conducted these in several highly politicised but also expert-centered policy areas (food safety, consumer policy, public health etc). More recently, I have turned towards opening up the notion of value, seeking to develop what I call a ‘policy valuagraphy’ (Datta et al 2020) and bringing together scholarship from STS and policy studies.

In an attempt to push the boundaries of social scientific tradition, I have also experimented with citizen science methods by involving over 70 adolescents in my research on the vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). I’m an active member of the Austrian Citizen Science Platform, a transdisciplinary community that seeks to promote, but also reflect on, the role of citizen science across disciplines, as well as in research policy (cf. Heigl et al 2020).

Projects

SolPan: Solidarity in times of a pandemic: What do people do, and why? A comparative and longitudinal qualitative study. Role: Project partner (CeSCoS), lead role in development of interview guide, interviewer in Austria and the Netherlands.

InsSciDE: Inventing a Shared Science Diplomacy for Europe. Role: Work Package leader of WP 5 “Health” European Commission (H2020) 1.12.2017→ 30.11.2021

CODE IT! Impfpolitik in Österreich: SchülerInnen lesen mit
Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)
13/05/16 → 30/06/17 Role: PI, supervising a team of three junior researchers.

KNOW-VACC: Wissensproduktion und Regieren in der Impfpolitik
Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)
1/03/17 → 30/11/21
RolePI, supervising one junior researcher.

Die Politisierung der HPV Impfung – Governing cervical cancer prevention in Austria and the Netherlands Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)
4/12/12 → 31/07/16
Role: PI

Improving oversight of clinical trials,  co-applicant with Samantha Adams in favour of Lise Meitner Fellowship (FWF) 04/2013 – 10/2014 ZonMW Grant (ca. 150.000 €) Project ID: 80-83505-98-007 Role: Member of Advisory Board