Professor Adam Burgess

Professor of Risk Research,
Director, Risk and Uncertainty Research Cluster
+44 (0)1227 827540
Professor Adam Burgess


Professor Adam Burgess is a sociologist of risk. He is fascinated by the changing ways in which we make sense of, manage and communicate the risks and uncertainties. Adam is interdisciplinary in his approach, working with lawyers, historians, psychologists and others similarly interested in how we understand and manage what might happen across a wide range of issues and concerns. 

Professsor Burgess completed his PhD on the ‘story’ of health concerns about mobile phones at Kent. After jobs at the universities of Reading, Bath, Westminster and Brunel, he returned to Kent in 2004. He is a research fellow at the Centre for the Analysis of Risk and Regulation at the LSE and was a visiting fellow at Princeton in 2015.

Outside of work Professsor Burgess is a fan of crime fiction, new music, cinema and Liverpool Football Club.

Research interests

There are three main strands to Professsor Burgess's work at the moment. 

Firstly, historical perspectives on how the language and institutions of risk evolved historically, looking at areas such as reactions to environmental events and life insurance. 

Secondly, contemporary behavioural responses to perceptions of risk; he is beginning a project on the growing trend for people to abstain from the consumption of meat, alcohol and gluten, for example. 

Thirdly, he's also concerned practically with improving how risk is communicated and understood, and has engaged with various projects over the years. 

Professsor Burgess's most recent articles concern environmental risk narratives, individualism and risk, and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, that stimulated my original interest. These can all be viewed under 'Publications' or on Kent


Professsor Burgess has taught introductory courses on risk and society for nearly 20 years. He currently teaches an MA module on risk and undergraduate lectures on health and introductory sociology.


Professsor Burgess is happy to consider PhD supervision on any topic, but particularly welcomes projects looking at risk-related topics, or individualisation, in a comparative or historical perspective.

Current PhD students:

  • Changes in the UK Media Reporting of Risk Since the 1980s (Martin Rooke) 
  • A new way of eating: creating meat reducers, vegetarians and vegans (Trent Grassian) 
  • A comparative analysis of food risk and regulation in South Africa (Joy Malebo) 
  • Negotiating the boundaries of Internet Privacy (Hayley Finnemore) 
  • Visual and aesthetic dimensions of risk (Francesca Cavallo)


Professsor Burgess has spoken at over 60 international conferences on risk-related subjects, including keynote addresses. He is on the board of the risk and uncertainty thematic group of the International Sociological Association and welcomes interest from others who might like to be involved. 

Professsor Burgess has provided advice to various risk related initiatives over the years, such as the Risk Regulation Advisory Council, the National Cyber Security and NESTA. He's currently convening a group of experts providing input into a new initiative, ‘Collaboration to explore new avenues to improve public understanding and management of risk’ (CAPUR), organised by the science and media institute, Atomium. 


Professsor Burgess's research is regularly covered by various media.

Professsor Burgess was interviewed on drink spiking research by several radio stations, including Radio 4’s The World Tonight. It was covered by print media, including the New York Times , Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail. The study was identified by the British Academy as an example of how ‘rigorous, evidence-based research projects can inform social policy’ in their 2010 report on The Public Value of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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