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Dr Caragh Brosnan

ARC DECRA Fellow

School of Humanities and Social Science (Sociology and Anthropology)

An alternative science

The sociology of health and illness provokes something in Dr Caragh Brosnan, lecturer in Health Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Science.

Dr Caragh Brosnan

It sparks an unfathomable curiosity in health care and its value to society, but more fundamentally, the moral and principled human decisions that lie behind the science that governs our health and wellbeing.

She probes, enquires and delves deep to uncover questions like: what are the values and ethics that underpin our health care practices? What historical, social, and political factors have shaped our medical knowledge and medical education? How do everyday experiences at work interact with health professionals’ moral standpoints?

Ultimately, Caragh is concerned with  how different kinds of knowledge come to be valued in health care and what the implications of this are.

Previously calling the United Kingdom home for 10 years, Caragh completed her PhD at Cambridge University in 2008.  Her research focused on debates over medical curricula by comparing staff and students’ experiences at two different medical schools. This study showed that differences in curricula could be mapped onto other differences between medical schools, such as levels of funding, prestige and student demographics. Debates over medical curricula therefore needed to be understood as being shaped by schools’ relationships to each other.

In a postdoctoral project at King’s College London, Caragh examined how ethics manifested in a range of neuroscience disciplines.

“I found that scientists were not really aware of bioethics. Ethics for them meant going through the ethics committee, getting approval, and not thinking too much beyond that. At the same time, the kind of moral reasoning they actually drew on in their day-to-day work was not thought of as a form of ethics,” she said.

In 2012, Caragh joined the team at the University of Newcastle and has since been teaching into courses in Sociology and Nursing including Health Sociology; Substance Abuse and Social Disadvantage; and Complementary Therapies in Healthcare.

Her intrigue in complementary therapies has been supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC). Caragh was awarded the highly competitive ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) last year to conduct a comparative study in Australia and the United Kingdom on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) university degrees; specifically focusing on chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine and osteopathy.

Caragh is asking how what is taught in CAM university degrees reflects the status of the CAM professions. This question stems from her fascination with the social factors that shape how health professionals get trained. She explains that because these CAM courses now exist within universities, there is a general assumption that this translates into increased professional status in the medical field. To date, there is no study of what determines the actual content of these courses.

She is researching how scholars of these fields go about maintaining their difference from other health practitioners, amid pressure to prove they have a place alongside them in the university. “I want to know how these CAM programs retain their specific bodies of knowledge, which historically have been considered authentic and alternative to mainstream disciplines, while meeting the standards and particular quality outcomes applied to other health professional degrees.”

“These CAM programs pride themselves on offering a different approach to conventional healthcare but I want to know how that is sustained and taught in the university environment and how it differs across chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine and osteopathy.”

She asks: “By teaching these courses at university, are they losing their claim to be alternative? What forms does alternative medicine take within a university? More broadly, what kinds of knowledge are seen as legitimate in the university?”

This grant will aid Caragh as she unearths some big questions that underlie our health system and will help inform the medical sector, the health education field and health professionals as innovation and technology takes health care to new strengths.

Caragh was recently the recipient of a new staff grant, which took her to Buenos Aires in 2012 to the International Sociological Association Forum where she presented a paper on her post-doctoral research.

This ARC grant however, takes the prize. “To be funded to do what really motivates me is just wonderful. The next three years will be spent conducting my comparative study here in Australia and in the United Kingdom, collecting and presenting data for publication as well as attending a range of international conferences to discuss and network with other professionals on the topic.”

Dr Caragh Brosnan

An alternative science

The sociology of health and illness provokes something in Caragh Brosnan, lecturer in Health Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Science.

Read more

Career Summary

Biography

I am a Senior Lecturer in Health Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Science. I completed my PhD in the sociology of medical education at the University of Cambridge in 2008 and then held research and teaching posts at Keele University, King's College London and Brunel University before joining the University of Newcastle in 2012.

My research focuses broadly on understanding how different kinds of knowledge come to be valued in scientific and health professional practice and education. I have explored these issues in various contexts, including in medical education, neuroscience, bioethics and complementary and alternative medicine. Much of my work draws on Pierre Bourdieu to theorise the relationship between legitimate knowledge and power.

My current research is funded by an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) (2014-2016) (Project title: Complementary and alternative medicine degrees: new configurations of knowledge, professional autonomy and the university). This study asks how what is taught in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) degrees reflects the professional status of CAM, and at the same time sets out to examine the broader relationship between professions and the university. Data collection is taking place in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Research Expertise
I am a sociologist whose main areas of interest include health care, science, the professions and higher education. I welcome enquiries from postgraduate students seeking supervision on any of these topics. 


Qualifications

  • PhD (Sociology), University of Cambridge - UK
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Queensland

Keywords

  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Health sociology
  • Medical Education
  • Primary health care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Social disadvantage and drug use
  • Sociology of Health and Illness

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/01/2014 -  National Co-convenor The Australian Sociological Association Health Section
Australia
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2009 Brosnan CJ, Turner BS, Handbook of the Sociology of Medical Education, Routledge, Abingdon, United Kingdom, 306 (2009) [A3]

Chapter (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Brosnan CJ, 'Medical Education and Pierre Bourdieu', Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior and Society, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ 1361-1366 (2014) [D2]
DOI 10.1002/9781118410868.wbehibs307
2009 Brosnan CJ, Turner BS, 'Introduction: the struggle over medical knowledge', Handbook of the Sociology of Medical Education, Routledge, Abingdon, United Kingdom 1-12 (2009) [B1]
2009 Brosnan CJ, 'Pierre Bourdieu and the theory of medical education: Thinking "relationally" about medical students and medical curricula', Handbook of the Sociology of Medical Education, Routledge, Abingdon, United Kingdom 51-68 (2009) [B1]

Journal article (17 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Brosnan C, Kirby E, 'Sociological perspectives on the politics of knowledge in health care: introduction to themed issue', Health Sociology Review, 25 139-141 (2016)
DOI 10.1080/14461242.2016.1174055
2016 Brosnan C, Chung VC, Zhang AL, Adams J, 'Regional Influences on Chinese Medicine Education: Comparing Australia and Hong Kong.', Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2016 6960207 (2016)
DOI 10.1155/2016/6960207
2016 Brosnan C, 'Epistemic cultures in complementary medicine: knowledge-making in university departments of osteopathy and Chinese medicine', Health Sociology Review, 25 171-186 (2016)

© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.There is increasing pressure on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to follow the evidence-based approach pr... [more]

© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.There is increasing pressure on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to follow the evidence-based approach promoted in allied health and medicine, in which the randomised control trial represents the evidence gold standard. However, many CAM advocates see these methods as undermining the holism of CAM practice. This paper explores how such tensions are managed in CAM university departments ¿ settings in which particular forms of knowledge and evidence are given ¿official¿ imprimatur by CAM educators and researchers. By comparing two types of CAM, the paper also unpacks differences within this broad category, asking whether CAM academic disciplines comprise different ¿epistemic cultures¿ (Knorr-Cetina, K. (1999). Epistemic cultures: How the sciences make knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). Interviews were conducted with 20 lecturers in Chinese medicine and osteopathy, across five Australian universities, and augmented with observation in two degree programs. Findings reveal contrasting ontological and epistemological perspectives between the two academic fields. Chinese medicine lecturers had largely adopted bioscientific models of research, typically conducting laboratory work and trials, although teaching included traditional theories. Osteopathy academics were more critical of dominant approaches and were focused on reframing notions of evidence to account for experiences, with some advocating qualitative research. The study illustrates CAM¿s ¿epistemic disunity¿ while also highlighting the particular challenges facing academic CAM.

DOI 10.1080/14461242.2016.1171161
2015 Brosnan C, '¿Quackery¿ in the Academy? Professional Knowledge, Autonomy and the Debate over Complementary Medicine Degrees', Sociology, 49 1047-1064 (2015) [C1]

© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.In 2012, the group ¿Friends of Science in Medicine¿, mostly comprising academic doctors and scientists, lobbied to remove teaching in complementar... [more]

© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.In 2012, the group ¿Friends of Science in Medicine¿, mostly comprising academic doctors and scientists, lobbied to remove teaching in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) from Australian universities. Seemingly inspired by an earlier UK-based campaign, the group approached vice-chancellors and the media, arguing that CAM degrees promoted ¿pseudo-science¿ and ¿quackery¿. Although epistemological disputes between biomedicine and CAM are well documented, their emergence in a higher education context is less familiar. This article explores the position-taking of those on each side of the debate, via a thematic analysis of stakeholders¿ views as reported in news articles and other outlets. Bourdieu¿s concepts of capital and autonomy are used to sketch out the stakes of the struggle. It is argued that the debate is significant not only for what it reveals about the current status of CAM professions in Australia, but for what it suggests more broadly about legitimate knowledge in the university.

DOI 10.1177/0038038514557912
Citations Scopus - 5
2014 Brosnan C, Michael M, 'Enacting the ¿neuro¿ in practice: Translational research, adhesion and the promise of porosity', Social Studies of Science, 44 680-700 (2014) [C1]

© The Author(s) 2014.This article attends to the processes through which neuroscience and the neuro are enacted in a specific context: a translational neuroscience research group... [more]

© The Author(s) 2014.This article attends to the processes through which neuroscience and the neuro are enacted in a specific context: a translational neuroscience research group that was the setting of an ethnographic study. The article therefore provides a close-up perspective on the intersection of neuroscience and translational research. In the scientific setting we studied, the neuro was multiple and irreducible to any particular entity or set of practices across a laboratory and clinical divide. Despite this multiplicity, the group¿s work was held together through the ¿promise of porosity¿ ¿ that one day there would be translation of lab findings into clinically effective intervention. This promise was embodied in the figure of the Group Leader whose expertise spanned clinical and basic neurosciences. This is theorized in terms of a contrast between cohesion and adhesion in interdisciplinary groupings. We end by speculating on the role of ¿vivification¿ ¿ in our case mediated by the Group Leader ¿ in rendering ¿alive¿ the expectations of interdisciplinary collaboration.

DOI 10.1177/0306312714534333
Citations Scopus - 3Web of Science - 1
2014 Brosnan C, Cribb A, 'Between the bench, the bedside and the office: The need to build bridges between working neuroscientists and ethicists.', Clinical Ethics, 9 113-119 (2014) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/1477750914558549
2013 Brosnan C, Cribb A, Wainwright SP, Williams C, 'Neuroscientists' everyday experiences of ethics: The interplay of regulatory, professional, personal and tangible ethical spheres', Sociology of Health and Illness, 35 1133-1148 (2013) [C1]

The ethical issues neuroscience raises are subject to increasing attention, exemplified in the emergence of the discipline neuroethics. While the moral implications of neurotechno... [more]

The ethical issues neuroscience raises are subject to increasing attention, exemplified in the emergence of the discipline neuroethics. While the moral implications of neurotechnological developments are often discussed, less is known about how ethics intersects with everyday work in neuroscience and how scientists themselves perceive the ethics of their research. Drawing on observation and interviews with members of one UK group conducting neuroscience research at both the laboratory bench and in the clinic, this article examines what ethics meant to these researchers and delineates four specific types of ethics that shaped their day-to-day work: regulatory, professional, personal and tangible. While the first three categories are similar to those identified elsewhere in sociological work on scientific and clinical ethics, the notion of 'tangible ethics' emerged by attending to everyday practice, in which these scientists' discursive distinctions between right and wrong were sometimes challenged. The findings shed light on how ethical positions produce and are, in turn, produced by scientific practice. Informing sociological understandings of neuroscience, they also throw the category of neuroscience and its ethical specificity into question, given that members of this group did not experience their work as raising issues that were distinctly neuro-ethical. © 2013 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

DOI 10.1111/1467-9566.12026
Citations Scopus - 5Web of Science - 2
2013 Yardley S, Brosnan C, Richardson J, 'Sharing methodology: A worked example of theoretical integration with qualitative data to clarify practical understanding of learning and generate new theoretical development.', Medical Teacher, 35 e1011-e1019 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.3109/0142159x.2012.733045
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
2013 Brosnan C, 'How and why social science theory can contribute to medical education research', MEDICAL EDUCATION, 47 5-7 (2013) [C3]
DOI 10.1111/medu.12093
2013 Yardley S, Brosnan C, Richardson J, 'The consequences of authentic early experience for medical students: creation of metis', Medical Education, 47 109-119 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04287.x
Citations Scopus - 10Web of Science - 8
2013 Yardley S, Brosnan C, Richardson J, Hays R, 'Authentic early experience in Medical Education: a socio-cultural analysis identifying important variables in learning interactions within workplaces', ADVANCES IN HEALTH SCIENCES EDUCATION, 18 873-891 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.1007/s10459-012-9428-2
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 4
2011 Samuel G, Brosnan CJ, 'Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's disease: a critique of principlism as a framework for the ethical analysis of the decision-making process', American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience, 2 20-22 (2011) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/21507740.2010.537294
Citations Scopus - 1
2011 Brosnan CJ, 'The significance of scientific capital in UK medical education', Minerva: a review of science learning and policy, 49 317-332 (2011) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 3Web of Science - 1
2011 Sam C, Lefroy J, Brosnan CJ, 'Some like it hot: medical student views on choosing the emotional level of a simulation', Medical Education, 45 354-361 (2011) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 3
2011 Brosnan CJ, 'The sociology of neuroethics: expectational discourses and the rise of a new discipline', Sociology Compass, 5 287-297 (2011) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 8
2011 Chambers S, Brosnan CJ, Hassell A, 'Introducing medical students to reflective practice', Education for Primary Care, 22 100-105 (2011) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 5
2010 Brosnan CJ, 'Making sense of differences between medical schools through Bourdieu's concept of "field"', Medical Education, 44 645-652 (2010) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 18Web of Science - 14
Show 14 more journal articles

Review (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2010 Brosnan C, 'Neurogenetic Diagnoses: The Power of Hope, and the Limits of Today's Medicine.', SOCIOLOGY OF HEALTH & ILLNESS (2010) [C3]

Conference (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Brosnan CJ, 'Making alternative knowledge in the university: the epistemic cultures of Osteopathy and Chinese Medicine' (2015) [O1]
2015 Brosnan CJ, Southgate E, Outram S, Kelly B, Harris G, Saxby T, et al., ''It all seemed a bit too big for little old me': Understanding the experiences of medical students who are first in the family to attend university.' (2015) [E3]
Co-authors Anna Bennett, Sue Outram, Erica Southgate, Brian Kelly
2014 Brosnan CJ, 'Complementary and alternative medicine degrees and the limits of professional autonomy.', British Sociological Association (2014) [E3]
2013 Olson RE, Brosnan CJ, 'What we know isn't better than what they know: Knowledge, emotion and interprofessional education in allied health', TASA Conference Abstracts (2013) [E3]
2012 Brosnan CJ, ''Quackery' in the academy? The debate over the teaching of complementary and alternative medicine in Australian universities', TASA 2012 Conference: Emerging and Enduring Inequalities Abstracts (2012) [E3]
2012 Brosnan CJ, 'Investigating the 'neuro' in neuroethics: The implications for neuroethics of the multiplicity of neuroscience and the brain', The Second ISA Forum of Sociology: Social Justice & Democratization Book of Abstracts (2012) [E3]
Show 3 more conferences
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 8
Total funding $594,134

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20161 grants / $98,015

Equity and Medical Education (EME) - what are the 'sticky points' in the application and admissions processes of undergraduate medical schools that affect entry of students from low socioeconomic stat$98,015

Funding body: Department of Education

Funding body Department of Education
Project Team Doctor Robbert Duvivier, Doctor Erica Southgate, Doctor Caragh Brosnan, Professor Brian Kelly, Professor Brian Jolly, Associate Professor Marita Lynagh, Doctor Sue Outram, Professor Wendy Hu, Dr Barbara Griffin, Associate Professor Boaz Shulruf, Associate Professor Amanda Nagle
Scheme Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2016
GNo G1600143
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - Commonwealth
Category 2OPC
UON Y

20151 grants / $80,000

"Same same but different" - how different institutional settings impact the delivery of a joint medical curriculum$80,000

Funding body: Central Coast Local Health District

Funding body Central Coast Local Health District
Project Team Associate Professor Martin Veysey, Doctor Robbert Duvivier, Doctor Caragh Brosnan
Scheme Research Sponsorship Scholarship
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2018
GNo G1500446
Type Of Funding Other Public Sector - State
Category 2OPS
UON Y

20144 grants / $410,369

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Degrees: New Configurations of Knowledge, Professional Autonomy and the University$370,369

Funding body: ARC (Australian Research Council)

Funding body ARC (Australian Research Council)
Project Team Doctor Caragh Brosnan
Scheme Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2016
GNo G1300442
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON Y

DVC(R) Research Support for DECRA (DE14) $15,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Caragh Brosnan
Scheme DECRA Support
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2016
GNo G1400239
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Equity in Elite Degrees: Social Difference, Insitutional Practices and Processes of Change$15,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Erica Southgate, Doctor Caragh Brosnan
Scheme Strategic Networks Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1400960
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Traditional Chinese medicine Degrees: New Configuration of Knowledge, Professional Autonomy and the University$10,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Caragh Brosnan
Scheme Early Career Researcher Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1300892
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20131 grants / $750

The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) 2013 Conference, Melbourne Australia, 25-29 November 2013$750

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Caragh Brosnan
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1301104
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20121 grants / $5,000

Foundational work towards a study of the position of complementary and alternative medicine in Australian and British universities$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Caragh Brosnan
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo G1200557
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current3

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD1.08

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015 PhD How Different Institutional Settings Impact the Delivery of a Joint Medical Curriculum
PhD (Medicine), Faculty of Health and Medicine, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
2014 PhD Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine use in remote areas of Australia
PhD (Sociology & Anthropology), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
2008 PhD When Power Networks Collide: Using Actor Networks Theory to Analyse Community Consultation Undertaken for an Australian Town's Electricity Supply
PhD (Sociology & Anthropology), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
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News

Dr Caragh Brosnan

PRESTIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP

July 10, 2014

Health sociology lecturer Dr Caragh Brosnan has been awarded a prestigious fellowship by Australia's leading research-intensive centre in the critical examination of complementary medicine.

Dr Caragh Brosnan

Position

ARC DECRA Fellow
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Sociology and Anthropology

Contact Details

Email caragh.brosnan@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 6348

Office

Room W349
Building Behavioural Sciences
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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