Dr Catherine Coveney

Job: Research Fellow

School/department: School of Allied Health Sciences

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0) 116 255 6869

E: catherine.coveney@dmu.ac.uk


Personal profile

My research interests fall at the intersection between medical sociology, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and bioethics, focusing on the sociological and ethical aspects of biomedicine. In particular, the meanings and uses of biomedical technologies in different realms of social life, especially uses at the therapy-enhancement boundary for purposes of not only repair and normalisation, but also optimisation and enhancement.

I am working in the Centre for Reproduction Research as a research fellow on the ESRC funded project “Egg-donation in the UK, Belgium and Spain: An interdisciplinary study”. The overall aim of this study is to explore the social, political, economic and moral configuration of egg donation across the three countries. The study is largely qualitative and uses multiple methods of data collection, organised across five phases, including documentary analysis, policy mapping and interviews with key stakeholders and egg providers. As well as developing theories about the provision and commercialisation of human tissue, the findings will be used to directly inform policy and practice in the UK and Europe. Beneficiaries include policy makers, infertility clinicians, egg providers and related advocacy organisations.

My previous research has taken an interdisciplinary focus and looked the moral meanings of medicines in everyday life, the sociology of human enhancement, the medicalization and pharmaceuticalisation of sleep, the domestication of digital self-tracking technologies in health practices, the ethics of using novel experimental biological therapies in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries in the world of elite sport and the commodification and commercialization of biological material in the emerging bioeconomy.

Research group affiliations

Centre for Reproduction Research

Publications and outputs 

  • Williams, S.J., Coveney, C.M., Gabe, J. (2017) The concept of medicalisation reassessed: a response to Busfield. Sociology of Health and Illness. Online early view. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.12576.

  • Faulkner, A., McNamee, M.J., Coveney, C.M & Gabe, J (2017) Where biomedicalisation and magic meet: therapeutic networks of elite sports injury in professional British football and cycling. Social Science and Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.02.011

  • Gabe, J., Williams, S.J., Coveney, C.M (2017) Prescription hypnotics in the news: A study of UK audiences. Social Science and Medicine, 174:43-52.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.11.029

  • Gabe, J., Coveney, C.M., Williams, S.J. (2016) Prescriptions and proscriptions: Moralising sleeping pills, Sociology of Health and Illness 38(4): 627–644. doi:  10.1111/1467-9566.12383

  • Williams, S.J., Coveney, C.M., Meadows, R. (2015) M-apping Sleep: Trends and transformations in the digital age. Sociology of Health and Illness. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12283

  • Gabe, J., Williams, S.J, Martin, P., & Coveney, C. M. (2015). Pharmaceuticals and society: Power, Promises and Prospects. Social Science & Medicine 131: 193 – 198. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.02.031

  • Coveney, C.M. (2014). Managing sleep and wakefulness in a 24 hour world. Sociology of Health and Illness, 36(1):123-136. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12046

  • Williams, S.J., Coveney, C.M., Gabe, J. (2013). Medicalisation or Customisation? Sleep, Enterprise and Enhancement in the 24/7 Society, Social Science & Medicine, Special Issue on Sleep, Culture and Health 79:40-7. doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.07.017

  • Pollock, K., Moore, J., Coveney, C.M., & Armstrong, S. (2012). Configuring the caller in ambiguous encounters: volunteer handling of calls to Samaritans emotional support services. Communication and Medicine, 9(2). DOI: 10.1558/cam.v9i2.113

  • Coveney, C.M., Pollock, K., Armstrong, S., & Moore, J. (2012). Caller’s experiences of contacting a national suicide prevention helpline: report of an online survey. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 33 (6): 313- 324. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000151.

  • Coveney. C.M., Gabe, J., Williams, S.J. (2012). Potenziamento della capacità mentale? Dalla medicalizzazione della cognizione alla farmacologizzazione delle routine mental life (Boosting brainpower? From the medicalisation of cognition to the pharmaceuticalisation of routine mental life), Salute e Societa, 2 (15): 151 -165. doi: 10.3280/SES2012-S02010.

  • Coveney, C.M., Williams, S.J., & Gabe. J. (2011). The sociology of cognitive enhancement: Medicalisation and beyond. Health Sociology Review, 20(4): 378-390.

  • Coveney, C.M., Nerlich, B., & Martin, P. (2009). Modafinil in the media: metaphors, medicalisation and the body. Social Science & Medicine, 68(3): 487-495. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.11.016

  • Martin, P. A., Coveney, C.M., Kraft, A., Brown, N., & Bath, P. (2006). Commercial development of stem cell technology: lessons learnt from the past, strategies for the future. Regenerative Medicine, 1(5): 801-807. doi:10.2217/17460751.1.6.801


Books and book chapters

  • Meadows, R., Williams, S.J., Gabe, J., Coveney, C.M and Arber, S (2017) The Sociology of Sleep, in Cappuccio, F, Miller, M. and Lockley S. (eds.). Sleep, Health and Society, Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Coveney, C.M. (2011). Cognitive enhancement? Exploring modafinil use in social context in Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences, Editors: M.D. Pickersgill and I. van Keulen, Bingley: Emerald, pp. 203-228.

  • Martin, P., Pickersgill, M., Coveney, C.M., & Williams, S. J. (2011). Pharmaceutical Cognitive Enhancement: Interrogating the Ethics, Addressing the Issues in Fenter, F. (ed.) Augmented Cognition, Lausanne: EPFL Press.


Other Publications

  • Coveney, C.M., Williams, S.J., Gabe, J. (2014) The Sleep of the Nation: Problems and Prospects, Discover Society, Issue 11, 5th August 2014.

  • Moore, J., Coveney, C.M., Pollock, K., & Armstrong, S. (2010). An Evaluation of Samaritans Telephone and Email Emotional Support Services: Case studies. Report by the University of Nottingham, published June 2010.

  • Pollock, K., Armstrong, S., Coveney, C.M., & Moore, J. (2010). An Evaluation of Samaritans Telephone and Email Emotional Support Services. Report by the University of Nottingham, Published May 2010.

Key research outputs

I acted as a guest editor for a special issue section on “Pharmaceuticalization: Problems and Prospects”, published in Social Science and Medicine (2015). Co-editors: Prof. Jonathan Gabe (Royal Holloway, University of London), Prof. Simon Williams (University of Warwick) and Prof. Paul Martin (University of Sheffield).

Areas of teaching

  • Sociology of Health and Illness
  • Social Theory
  • Sociology of Technology
  • Qualitative Research Methods


  • PhD (Science, Technology & Society)
  • MA Research Methods (Genetics and Society)
  • BSc (hons) Genetics

Conference attendance

  • Pharmaceuticals, Sleep and Society, Royal Society of Medicine, Sleep medicine section, is society sleep deprived? Presented by invitation on 7th Feb 2017

  • The ethics of platelet rich plasma use in professional football: between evidence and placebo. Paper presented at the FA Medical Society Meeting, London 13th April 2015. Mike McNamee, Alex Faulkner, Catherine Coveney and Jonathan Gabe.

  • Tensions in the emergence of bio-therapies and regenerative medicine for musculoskeletal injury in elite football. Paper presented at the 8th world Congress on Science and Football (WCSF2015), held in Copenhagen, Denmark, 20 - 23 May 2015. Alex Faulkner, Catherine Coveney, Jonathan Gabe and Mike McNamee.

  • Novel Sports medicine treatment and the placebo effect: ethical, epistemological and social issues. Paper presented at the 20th annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Malmö, Sweden. 24-27th June 2015. Mike McNamee, Alex Faulkner, Catherine Coveney and Jonathan Gabe.

  • Biomedicalisation of elite sport: institutional pressures and evidence practices. Paper presented at BSA Medical Sociology Conference, University of York, 9-11th September 2015. Alex Faulkner, Catherine Coveney, Jonathan Gabe and Mike McNamee.

  • De-Pharmaceuticalizing' Sleep? Patient and Professional Perspective on Presciption Hypnotics in UK Primary Care. Paper presented at theISA conference, Yokohama, Japan, July 2014. Jonathan Gabe, Simon Williams and Catherine Coveney.

  • Exploring patient and professional views around the prescription of hypnotics in UK primary care. Catherine Coveney, Jonathan Gabe, Simon Williams. Paper presented at BSA Annual Conference, Leeds, 23rd – 25th April 2014.

  • Prescriptions and Proscriptions: Moralising Sleeping Pills. Jonathan Gabe, Catherine Coveney, Simon Williams. Paper presented at BSA Medical Sociology Annual Conference, York, 11th- 13th September 2013.

  • Cognitive Enhancement, Sleep and Drugs. Catherine Coveney, Jonathan Gabe and Simon Williams, Paper presented at the BSA Annual Conference, London, 3-5th April 2013.

  • The De-Pharmaceuticalisation of sleep? Prescription hypnotics in the news. Jonathan Gabe, Catherine Coveney, Simon Williams, John Abraham. Paper presented at BSA Medical Sociology Annual Conference, Leicester, 5th- 7th September 2012.

  • Boosting Brainpower? From the Medicalisation of Cognition to the Pharmaceuticalisation of Routine Mental Health. Jonathan Gabe, Catherine Coveney, Simon Williams. Paper presented at ASA Annual Meeting, Denver, Colorado. 17- 20th August 2012.

Externally funded research grants information

I am a network member acting on the project “Sleep, ethics and social media” funded by the Wellcome Trust and organised by the University of Surrey.

Professional esteem indicators

I act as a peer reviewer for different journals and have recently completed reviews for Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness, Medical Humanities and Science, Technology and Human Values


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