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Durham University

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Prof Brian Castellani

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Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology

Contact Prof Brian Castellani (email at

  • My areas of research are:
    • the complexities of place and health
    • communities and global civil society
    • computational modeling and mixed-methods
    • complexity theory and policy evaluation
    • big data and digital sociology
  • As my publications demonstrate, I am resolutely international and interdisciplinary in my work, as I regularly publish with colleagues from across the entire academy – from maths and physics to medicine and environmental science – and around the world. My work is also juxtaposed between the theoretical, methodological and applied, with my research, at any given moment, moving variously from one emphasis to the other.
  • THEORY: Configurational complexity theory and method: Over the past fifteen years I have been developing a theoretical and methodological framework for studying social complexity, which is based on a case-based configurational approach. In particular, I am focused on how social science theory informs the insights of complexity science, as in the case of power relations, inequality, and human psychology. 
  • A social psychology of global civil society: based on a critical integration of Freud and Foucault and a variety of areas within cognitive science, intersectionality theory and social psychology, as well as the globalisation work of Sylvia Walby and others, I have been developing an alternative account of why so many people -- particularly in western society -- are struggling with their global commitments to one another. I am also interested in how these challenges can be addressed, at the social psychological level, to help us better deal with the current global social problems we presently face. For more, see my recent book, The Defiance of Global Commitment
  •  METHOD: case-based computational modelling: I have spent the past ten years developing a new case-based, data-mining approach to modeling complex social systems – called the SACS Toolkit – which my colleagues and I have used to help researchers, policy makers and service providers address and improve complex public health issues such as community health and well-being; infrastructure and grid reliability; mental health and inequality; big data and data mining; and globalization and global civil society.
  • We have also recently developed Durham COMPLEX-IT, an R-studio software app, which provides policy evaluators (and those working in health, food, environment and social service sectors) seamless access to such high-powered techniques as machine intelligence, neural nets, and agent-based modeling to make better sense of the complex world(s) in which they live and work. It is freely downloadable and soon to be developed into an online version.
  • APPLICATION: case-based, policy evaluation and air pollution and public health: Through my work with CECAN (Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus), my applied work presently has two foci: helping to improve policy evaluation, particularly in terms of public health; and also geospatially and temporally modelling the complex link between air pollution in the UK and public health, in particular cognitive wellbeing.

Within these specific areas of research, I welcome students interested in pursuing a dissertation or post-doctoral research. Also, for those interested, please see my Sociology and Complexity Science BLOG on all things social complexity.

Research Groups

Department of Sociology

Research Interests

  • Complexities of place and health
  • Communities and global civil society
  • Computational modeling and mixed-methods
  • Complexity theory and policy evaluation
  • Big data and digital sociology

Indicators of Esteem

Selected Publications

Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Conference Proceeding

  • Aitchison, Katherine J, Castellani, Brian, Chapman, Craig S, Christensen, Darren R, Crawford, Sandy, Currie, Cheryl, Downs, Carolyn, Euston, David, Forrest, David, Goodyear, Bradley G & others (2014). Controversial Topics in Gambling: Alberta Gambling Research Institute's 13th Annual Conference. Various.

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)


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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Human impact:
  • Pollution:
  • Drink & drugs:
  • Public policy, health and well-being:
  • Statistics:
  • Politics & Society:
  • Psychology:
  • Sociology:


Selected Grants

  • 2020: RI200179: Agent-Based Modelling Covid-19, ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN), £16,133
  • 2020: Co-I. Grant to Support Data Design and Visualisation and Open-Access Publication Costs for the Durham COVID-19 Community Health and Social Care Modelling Team, IBM £15k
  • 2020: Exploring the Complex Policy Landscape Around Air Pollution and Public Health: A 2-Day Workshop (£15000.00 from )
  • 2020: PI RF200182: InSPIRE - Consortium Development Grant, UKPRP (MRC). £41099.05
  • 2020: RF200186: Early Warning Scores: Modelling Care in Response to the Covid 19 Pandemic, MRC. £39714.11
  • 2019: CECAN - Centre Transition (£19536.51 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))
  • 2019: Co-I. CECAN - Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus. PI: Prof. Nigel Gilbert. ESRC. Start Date: 03/2019. Project End Date: 03/2021. £3m
  • 2019: Co-I. Component-Specific Air pollutant Drivers of Disease Risk in Early to Midlife: a pathway approach. (DREaM) PI: Ian Mudway (KIng's College London). Project Start Date: 01/03/2019 Project End Date: 01/03/2021. £1.3
  • 2018: DURHAM COMPLEX-IT: A web-based computational modelling and visualisation platform and learning environment for evaluating public policy and services (£3400.00 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))
  • 2014: Co-I. ESRC Seminar Series: Method in the Social Sciences: An Interdisciplinary Approach, with Professor David Byrne (Sociology, Durham University) and PI: Reader Emma Uprichard (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies). Project Start Date: 15/02/2014 Project End Date: 15/02/2017. £30,000

Teaching Areas

  • MA: Quantitative Methods in Social Science
  • Sociology of Health and Medicine

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