Professor Petersen has achieved international distinction in the sociology of health, with seminal contributions in critical public health and the sociology of new and emerging technologies. In recognition of his achievements, in 2016, he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, UK, one of the few Australians to have been elected to the ASS. His book, The New Public Health: Health and Self in the Age of Risk (1996) was the first to reveal the implications of discourses of public health for conceptions of self and citizenship, and has been consistently cited (1583 citations). His development of the concept of risk as governance, drawing on ideas from Michel Foucault, has led to new directions in sociology, with scholars using his advances to analyse issues such as the obesity epidemic, genetic testing, and the regulation of HIV risk. In his Contemporary Theorists for Medical Sociology (2012), the leading UK sociologist Graham Scambler comments: ‘It is doubtful if there are more informed, perspicacious, and engaged commentators on Foucault’s relevance for understanding health and healthcare than Alan Petersen’.

Professor Petersen’s contributions to research on genetics and medicine in news media, the production of news on nanotechnologies, and the politics of bioethics have been pioneering. This work has uncovered how public representations of emergent technologies are generated and sustained. He led the first sociological research on stem cell tourism, funded by ARC, which has revealed the significance of discourses of hope and expectation in the economy of new treatment markets. He was invited to present this work to international science and health organisations—a joint meeting of the US National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the International Society for Stem Cell Research in 2013, and the WHO in 2014. In this and other work on new and emerging technologies he has worked closely with scientists, clinicians, patient organisations, policymakers and regulators. In 2017, he was awarded as Sole CI (with international partners) two new 3-year ARC Discovery Projects: one focusing on testing in healthcare, and other on patients’ use of digital media to access treatments, building on his earlier ARC projects, focusing on stem cell tourism and the anti-ageing treatment market, respectively, which he led. His publications have been widely cited in the international literature, having attracted 6680 citations (h-index: 37).

The Australian Government has recognised Professor Petersen’s contributions, with commissions to undertake a review of the social and economic impacts of nanotechnologies (2010) and to develop a framework for assessing the social, economic and environmental implications of emerging technologies (2013-2015), and appointments to two national technology advisory bodies. He currently co-leads the Health and Biofutures Focus Program at Monash University, which is an area identified by the Faculty of Arts for investment and future development. From 2018, he will be Research Coordinator, in the School of Social Sciences at Monash.

  • Member, Strategic and Scientific Advisory Committee, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), La Trobe University (2014–)
  • Member, National Council, National Tertiary Education Union (2016-2018)
  • Member, National Enabling Technologies Strategy Stakeholders’ Advisory Council (Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education) (2011–2012)
  • Member, Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee (Department of Health and Aging) (2011–2014)
  • Honorary Visiting Professor, Centre for Biomedicine and Society, Brunel University, 2011-2015
  • Member, Management Committee, and Working Group 3, EU COST Action ‘Bio-objects and their boundaries: governing matters at the intersection of society, politics and science’ (2010-2014)

Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK) (Elected 2016)

Fellow, RSA

Member, The Australian Sociological Association

Member, The British Sociological Association

Member, The International Sociological Association

Member, The European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Studies

Brocher Foundation Residency, Hermance, Switzerland (November 2014)

Commonwealth Postgraduate Student Award (1982-1986)

MA (With Distinction) (1982)

UWA Postgraduate Studentship (1980-1981)

WA Anthropology Society Prize (1978)

  1. Petersen, A., Munsie, M., Tanner, C., MacGregor, C, and Brophy, J. (2017) Stem Cell Tourism and the Political Economy of Hope. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.
  2. Petersen, A. (2015) Hope in Health: The Socio-Politics of Optimism. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.
  3. Petersen, A. (2011) The Politics of Bioethics. Routledge: New York and London.
  4. Petersen, A., MacGregor, C. and Munsie, M. (2016) ‘Stem cell miracles or Russian roulette?: patients’ use of digital media to campaign for access to clinically unproven treatments’, Health, Risk and Society, 17, 7-8: 592-604.
  5. Petersen, A. and Krisjansen, I. (2015) ‘Assembling “the bioeconomy”: exploiting the power of the promissory life sciences’, Journal of Sociology, 51, 1: 28-46.