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Karen Cooper



Research activity per year

Personal profile


I have a background in Sociology and Criminology and inter-disciplinary research experience across academia and policy. After completing my DPhil in Criminology at the University of Oxford, I was employed as an analyst in the Scottish Government’s Justice Analytical Services.

I then returned to academia, working at the University of Edinburgh on a series of projects linked to young people’s relationships and behaviours, primarily in the online context. I used mixed methods and qualitative enquiry to explore the multi-dimensional nature of issues linked to risk, exploitation, mental health and wellbeing.

In March 2020, I joined UWS as Research Fellow in the Protracted Crisis Research Centre. From May 2022 I have been working as a Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Area of academic expertise - outline

I have contributed to regional, national and international research projects including:

  • Examining the risks and benefits of online environments for care-experienced young people and the impact of these environments on their relationships and mental health. (ENurture)
  • An inter-disciplinary study of the experiences of staff supporting vulnerable groups in temporary hotel accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. (UWS Crucible Funding)
  • A qualitative art project exploring young people’s perceptions of terrorism and violence from exposure to social media. (Innovation and Initiative Grant, University of Edinburgh).
  • Exploration of the risks and consequences for young people generating and sharing online sexual content (e.g. sexting). I worked on a two year EU-funded project, ‘Self-Produced Images – Risk Taking Online’ (SPIRTO) across the UK, Sweden and Germany and examined the influence of cultural factors on parent/professional responses to sexting by undertaking work in South Korea (British Council Travel Grant to EWHA Womans University, Seoul).
  • A national evaluation of the ways in which serious and persistent young offenders can be engaged in education, training and employment opportunities (Youth Justice Board for England and Wales).

Current research activities

I work with disadvantaged/vulnerable groups to explore the interpersonal experiences and behaviours that shape their lives. I am particularly interested in how experiences of risk and coercion impact upon relationships, health and wellbeing. I also collaborate with research participants and stakeholders to co-produce resources aimed at improving knowledge and enhancing support services.

I am currently working with RAND Europe on two projects: 'Research on how Police use Out of Court Disposals to support individuals with health vulnerabilities' and an 'Evaluation of Alternative Provision Specialist Taskforce (APST)'. The aim of the APST is to help reduce serious youth violence and improve pupil outcomes by embedding teams of specialists (e.g. mental health workers, youth justice, family support workers, youth justice staff) in alternative provision schools in serious violence hotspots.

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 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Research Fellow , University of Edinburgh


Research Analyst, The Scottish Government



  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Criminology
  • Mental health
  • Child Protection
  • Gender
  • Qualitative methodology
  • youth
  • Social justice
  • Social Media
  • Risk
  • Health and Wellbeing


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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