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Sociology: People


Anna Ross

Anna Ross
Anna Ross
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
Social Policy, Criminal Justice, Sociology of Drugs, Participatory Methods, Drug Policy

Research Overview

It is increasingly apparent that while there is a formal commitment to evidence-based drug policy, current UK drug policy continues to focus predominantly on criminal justice measures as a way of addressing drug related harm despite evidence that questions its effectiveness (Home Office 2014; UKDPC 2012b; MacGregor et al. 2014a). This has highlighted a tension between differing approaches to reducing drug related harm by key policy communities such as the separate policy units of Scotland and the UK, the police, the courts, academic researchers and third sector bodies involved in implementing drug policy.

The problem lies in the debate surrounding the way harm is defined and understood, the impact and effectiveness of drug policy in reducing harm and the use of evidence in the formation and implementation of this policy (Ritter 2009; Stevens 2010; Roberts 2014).  Evidence led drugs policy is an aspiration but one subject to competing normative values and underlying tensions on how much weight is given to one piece of evidence over another (Stevens 2010; MacGregor et al. 2014; Roberts 2014; Monaghan 2014). These normative values stem from narratives which are not only part of the individual policy maker but are built into the policy making system, and research into the impact these narratives have on drug policy is limited (Stevens 2010).

In order to explore these narratives the research will examine what are the existing common and competing cultural narratives within the Scottish drug policy communities . Using Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA), an interdisciplinary research tool drawing on disciplines such as Sociology, Law, Psychology, Social Anthropology and Social Policy, this study will examine drugs policy not simply as a legislative framework, but as a social world of interaction, competing meanings and evolving practices.  Understanding this will add to existing knowledge on the complex relationship between evidence production, participation in the policymaking process, institutional memory, personal experience and policy formation. 

In addition to knowledge creation an aim of this research is to set up lasting deliberative processes involving multiple stakeholders, including drug consumers, to feed into the Scottish drug policy landscape. In order to do this I have been involved in the setting up and convening of a multi stakeholder group called the Scottish Drugs Policy Conversations, hosted by the Academy of Government and attended by multiple stakeholders within the Scottish drug policy communities.

PhD Supervisors

Dr Angus Bancroft

Dr Oliver Escobar

Educational Background

MSc in Alcohol and Drug Studies - University of the West of Scotland - Distinction

Diploma in Legal Practice - The University of Edinburgh

LLB with Honours - The University of Edinburgh - 2:1

Edinburgh Rudolph Steiner School

Relevant Employment History

Teaching - The University of Edinburgh

Tutor: Sociology 1B: The Sociological Imagination
Guest Lecturer: 'How to Make a Drug Problem'. The Sociology of Intoxication
Guest Lecturer: 'Drug Policy in Scotland'. The Parliamentary Placement Programme
Tutor: Sociology 1B: The Sociological Imagination
Tutor: Doing and Desiging Social Research (DDSR)
Tutor: Sociology 1A: Private Troubles, Public Problems.
Tutor: Social Policy and Society
Tutor: Doing and Designing Social Research (DDSR).
Research Assistant: Edinburgh Law School, CRFR, Q step.

Crew 2000

Crew 2000 is an Edinburgh based drug information and support agency. I was a volunteer for Crew 2000 for 11 years, initially as an outreach worker and latterly on the Board of Directors as Vice Chair and a member of the Human Resources committee. I now work on a freelance basis for Crew 2000 as an Expert Witness on drug cases.


The International Society for the Study of Drugs Policy 2017

Conference paper: ‘Developing a Critical Drug Theory: the role of narrative, knowledge and participation.’

Workshop: ‘Discretion, disclosure, identity and the drug-policy researcher’s drug use’.

Knowledge, Organisation and Policy Seminar, 2017. Hosted by the Academy of Government, The University of Edinburgh. Seminar paper (accepted) ‘Broadening the Landscape: the challenges of creating civic led policy networks’.

The International Society for the Study of Drugs Policy 2016

Conference Paper: Getting Voices to the Policy Table: the role of drug consumers and experiential knowledge in measurements of drug related harm. 

New Directions, 2016. The University of Edinburgh.

Conference paper: ‘Scottish Drug Policy: epistemologies of harm in knowledge and policy communities.’

Public Engagement

Adult Education workshop/seminars - Since 2015 I have been involved in an adult education Criminology class where I have presented and engaged the participants in discussion of drug policy in Scotland.

Explorathon 2016 – an EU wide initiative to engage the public in academic research hosted by the Beltane Public Engagement Network. Consisted of a presentation and conversations with the members of the public in a large shopping centre. The topic was ‘Doing drugs policy in Scotland’.

The Edinburgh Active Citizenship Group - Hosted by the Edinburgh city Council, this group meets quarterly to discuss pertinent social issues. It involves a presentation and round table discussions with the group. I presented on the topic ‘Highs and Lows: taking drugs policy seriously in Scotland.’

Beltane Public Engagement Networks’ ‘Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas’ 2017 (Edinburgh Festival event). Seminar and public engagement activity entitled Doing Drugs (Policy): stories, songs and a chance to engage’. I will be engaging the public on drug policy by telling stories collected from my research and my own experience, in addition to playing songs I have composed on the topic of drug use. I will use these to encourage the audience to share their stories of drugs, and the impact it has had on them and their wider community.

The Scottish Drug  Policy Conversation - Convener and member.

Blogs/Articles/Book Reviews

The National - April 2016 -  Analysis: Legislation will not address underlying causes of drug abuse and NPS -related deaths.

Sociology  - March 2016 - Book Review: Chasing the Scream: The First and the Last Days of the War on Drugs

Scottish Justice Matters - May 2015 - The launch of the Scottish Drug Policy Conversation.


Edinburgh University Student Association Teaching Awards 2017: Nominee for Best Personal Tutor and Best Feedback 

The Principals Career Development PhD Scholarship 2015- 18: public engagement strand. The University of Edinburgh

McLintock Prize for Best Performance in Criminology Honours (2007) The University of Edinburgh