School of Veterinary Medicine and Science

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Pru Hobson-West

Associate Professor in Welfare, Ethics and Society, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



Pru Hobson-West is Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in Welfare, Ethics and Society at the University of Nottingham. She holds an MA Hons (Politics, First Class) from the University of Edinburgh, which included a year of study at Queen's University, Canada. She also holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham. Pru's PhD work (Leverhulme Trust funded) was based in the Institute for Science and Society and her thesis investigated organised resistance to childhood vaccination in the UK. This topic became increasingly politicised following media debate about the combined MMR vaccine. Her thesis and associated publications contributed to social scientific literatures on trust, ethics, public understanding of science, and risk. Pru still works on issues relating to vaccination, and her publications are highly cited.

In 2006 Dr Hobson-West was awarded a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biomedical Ethics to study the UK debate about the use of animals in scientific research. This led to publications on: the emerging field of animals and society; the role of public opinion in the animal research debate; the status of the '3Rs' concept; and the way in which scientists justify their laboratory research. Whilst the fellowship was UK based, Pru also spent a semester as a Visiting Fellow in the J.F.K School of Government, Harvard University (Fall 2006).

Following a research post looking at animal genomics in the School of Biosciences, Pru joined the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science (SVMS) in 2009. She is based in the Centre for Applied Bioethics which spans SVMS and the School of Biosciences

Expertise Summary

Dr Pru Hobson-West is a social scientist with expertise in the fields of vaccination, animals and society, animals and ethics, public understanding of science, risk, and science and technology studies. She is an Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in welfare, ethics and society at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, and holds an Honorary appointment in the School of Biosciences. Pru has significant experience of interdisciplinary working, including with natural scientists and clinicians.

Teaching Summary

Pru has experience of teaching qualitative methods, science and technology studies, social theory, research ethics and veterinary ethics. In January 2015 Pru was awarded Fellow Status of the Higher… read more

Research Summary

I have two primary areas of research - the use of animals as consumers and producers of biomedical science.


The first research area studies the veterinary clinic as a key site of animal and veterinary ethics, and, in particular, seeks to understand the role of the veterinary professional. I was lead supervisor for Vanessa Ashall (Wellcome funded) who was awarded a clinical fellowship to explore the social and ethical issues raised by companion animal blood donation. For an example of an output, please see the following video: I also co-supervise two further PhD projects under this theme: the role of the vet in Antimicrobial Resistance (Leverhulme funded) and the question of informed consent in veterinary medicine (ESRC funded, Birmingham). I am also developing work which focuses on the use of vaccines in veterinary medicine.


The second stream of my work seeks to understand debates around animal experimentation.This began through a personal fellowship (Wellcome Trust funded) to explore how stakeholders, including laboratory animal scientists, draw boundaries between ethics and science. This work then expanded through PhD supervision of Michelle Hudson-Shore (FRAME funded) who looked at the feasibility of phasing out primate use, and Kath Job (Wellcome Trust funded) who focused on the use of ethical review committees and lay members in UK animal research governance. In 2012 started a five year project looking at the relationship between animal research governance and public participation. This is part of the wider Leverhulme programme (2012- 2017) led by the University of Nottingham entitled 'Making Science Public' - please see I am also part of an initiative to further the role of social science and humanities in research related to laboratory animal science (

In 2017 Pru was awarded a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award. This is a 5 year programme of work on 'The Animal Research Nexus: Changing Constitutions of Science, Health and Welfare'. This major grant is led by Professor Gail Davies (University of Exeter) with Dr Beth Greenhough (Oxford University), Dr Rob Kirk (University of Manchester) and Dr Emma Roe (University of Southampton).

Using animals in scientific research has been critical to the development of modern medicine and is contingent upon a complex, entangled network of relations and obligations across science and society. These entanglements can best be understood as the Animal Research Nexus. This major award has three main aims: 1) to understand the historical interrelations between science, health and animal welfare 2) to identify challenges to animal research raised by scientific and social shifts around species and supply, professional roles, and patient engagements and 3) to facilitate dialogue with stakeholders, scientists and publics across the Animal Research Nexus. The overall programme seeks to identify what is required to remake the social contract around animal use in 21st century science and medicine.

Dr Hobson-West will lead a project on professionals in the lab. This project involves work to explore the roles of veterinarians in the laboratory, with Dr Vanessa Ashall, Senior Research Fellow - see Pru is also primary supervisor for Renelle McGlacken, whose PhD will explore the question of animal research and public engagement. This follows a new Mass Observation Archive directive on animal research (funded through the Leverhulme Making Science Public Programme). Please contact Renelle on for more details.


In terms of methods I am best known for the use of in-depth interviews on sensitive topics. Overall I have experience in the use of qualitative methods to analyse documents, websites, focus group and interview data. I also have experience in the use of the Ethical Matrix, a novel tool developed for ethical engagement.

Please email me for more information about any of these streams of work. I am particularly keen in contributing to projects/ publications at the interface of science and technology studies, medical sociology and ethics.

Recent Publications

Pru has experience of teaching qualitative methods, science and technology studies, social theory, research ethics and veterinary ethics. In January 2015 Pru was awarded Fellow Status of the Higher Education Academy after successfully completing her PGCHE qualification. Pru now acts as peer assessor for other PGCHE candidates at Nottingham.

In the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, Pru teaches veterinary ethics within the Animal Health and Welfare (AHW) and Personal and Professional Skills (PPS) modules. Pru is currently embedded module convenor for ethics and professionalism, and was previously co-convenor for PPS1 and PPS2 and convenor for PPS Year 3. She also teaches ethical reflection to final year rotation students.

Pru also contributes to teaching across the University of Nottingham. This includes the School of Biosciences (Bioethics and Animal Nutrition), and the DTP programme (research ethics). Pru also has teaching experience for the Graduate School.

Pru also has significant experience of postgraduate research supervision and would welcome approaches from interested students.

Future Research

I am currently involved with several grant applications on animal ethics/ animals and society/vaccination and would welcome approaches from prospective PhD students or researchers on potential research topics under these headings.

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 6116
fax: +44 (0)115 951 6415

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