Lesley Henderson


  • United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

public perceptions of plastics pollution; reusables and behaviour change; popular media plastics and social change, communicating microplastics 'myths'.

Personal profile

Personal Statement

Lesley Henderson is Professor of Science Communication and was recruited under the Global Talent Programme to drive cross University interdisciplinary research.  Since joining Strathclyde in 2022 she has set up the innovative doctoral training centre in Social Dimensions of Plastics: Communications, Behaviours and Social Change, partnering with Professor Paul Flowers (Psychology) sustainable business, NGOs and Innovate UK/NERC to train the next generation of interdisciplinary plastics pollution researchers and build a transformational hub of research capacity. She has also hosted an EARTH scholarship doctoral student (Australia, SGSAH/British Council) to explore gamification, plastics and behavioural change.

Lesley completed her PhD in the Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Glasgow and has held various research and teaching posts at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Brunel University London where she provided strategic leadership and founded the Sustainable Plastics Research group (SPlasH) as well as hosting 2 Blue Charter Fellowship scholars to explore the global context of plastic pollution in Nigeria and Sri Lanka (funded by the Association of Commonwealth Universities). Over the past 25 years she has built an extensive track record in externally funded research which explores the interlinked areas of science, public health, and environmental communications (previous projects funded by AHRC, ESRC, The Wellcome Trust). She is an expert in leading interdisciplinary challenge focused work packages on public perceptions of (micro)plastics and behavioural change and Co-I on current projects in Indonesia, UK, Spain and Germany (NERC/GCRF/UKRI/European Space Agency (total 4.5 million GBP). She has over 100 peer reviewed articles, books, chapters, OA contributions and policy reports (h-index 24, i-10 index 32, citations 2423) and is author/lead editor of:  Communicating Plastics Pollution: Making of an Environmental Crisis (forthcoming, Routledge); Media Analysis and Public Health: Contemporary Issues in Critical Public Health (Routledge); Television news, Politics and Young People: Generation Disconnected? (Palgrave Macmillan) and Social issues in Television Fiction (Edinburgh University Press).

Lesley contributes to international policy on marine litter, plastics pollution and microplastics for the EU, DEFRA, UN and was a member of the SAPEA working group on microplastics, Rapporteur for Social and Behavioural Sciences Perspectives on Communicating Microplastics (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities) and co author of the influential report 'Microplastics in Nature and Society' (2019). Her research has been used to prioritise the cultural context of plastics use, media framing of the problem and role of communications in behaviour change. This has influenced European regulation (SAPEA) and EU policy (Circular Economy Action Plan) and led plastic-free oceans becoming a ‘cross-cutting priority’ for the European Commission.

Professor Henderson is member of the new UKRI Interdisciplinary Assessment College peer review college, European Science Foundation, UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab and panel member for strategic interdisciplinary UKRI and Science Foundation Ireland programme calls (EPSRC, NERC). She has been invited to provide independent scientific advice for industry and business and was an invited member of the British Standards Institution steering group which codeveloped specifications for the Design, implementation, and maintenance of voluntary agreements (Sponsor Innovate UK). Other contributions include acting as scientific advisor on the award winning adventure documentary film "A Plastic Ocean" (Netflix), advising on children's global awareness films "Litter Things Matter" (Wastebuster for UN World Environment Day) and writing regularly for the BMJ and The Conversation as well as invited public talks (e.g. Edinburgh International Festival). She was a founding member of Cost of Living (an academic blog funded by the BSA Medical Sociology group to engage wider publics in Sociological research) and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Critical Public Health (Editor Prof. Judith Green, Exeter) and Microplastics and Nanoplastics (Editor in Chief, Prof. Bart Koelmanns, Wageningen- the first interdisciplinary inclusive journal dedicated to microplastics).

She welcomes PhD applications which focus on science and environmental communications

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Framing pollution

    Henderson, L., 28 Dec 2023, Encyclopaedia of Health Research in the Social Sciences. Dew, K. & Donovan, S. (eds.). Cheltenham, p. 128–134 7 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

  • Global perceptions of plastic pollution: the contours and limits of debate

    Henderson, L., 20 Nov 2023, In: Cambridge Prisms: Plastics. 1, 7 p., e21.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    15 Downloads (Pure)