Professor Carl May


of Medical Sociology


15-17 Tavistock Place
United Kingdom

0207 958 8292

 I am a medical sociologist and implementation scientist with a wide range of research interests across the sociology of health technologies and of human relations In the healthcare systems of the advanced economies. This work has ranged from very applied evaluation studies in health services research (especially in qualitative studies nested within randomised controlled trials) through studies of the social construction of professional-patient relations and different disease entities, to fundamental social science research on the dynamics of human agency under conditions of constraint. 

An important part of my work over the past two decades has been the development of middle-range theoretical models that identify , characterise and explain the mechanisms that motivate and shape implementation processes (Normalisation Process Theory). Building on this, I have developed theoretical models of the ways that socio-technical transformations and policy restructuring in healthcare systems affect patients and caregivers (Burden of Treatment Theory). I have collaborated widely with colleagues in the UK and internationally to develop this work. 

Supervision of MSc/MPhil, PhD/MD and Post-Doctoral Fellows is a central part of my role and one which I enjoy enormously. I have supervised 21 doctoral students to successful completion. Seven of these are now full professors. I welcome enquiries about PhD/MD supervision and about mentoring competitive Post-Doctoral Fellowships.

I am a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in the UK, and a former ESRC Research Fellow and NIHR Senior Investigator.


Department of Health Services Research and Policy
Faculty of Public Health and Policy


Centre for Global Chronic Conditions


I contribute widely to modules in the School's MSc and DrPH Programmes. I am currently developing a distance learning module on Implementation Science. 



I research and publish across the whole range of topics in medical sociology and implementation science. I have a particular interest in understanding the dynamics of human relations and socio-technical transformations in healthcare systems. My work focuses on two key applied research questions.

(a) How do professionals and patients interact, and how are these interactions shaped by clinical knowledge, technique, and technology in practice?

(b) How are new knowledge, techniques, and technologies made workable and implemented in health care organizations?

Underpinning these questions are more fundamental problems about (a) the dynamics of human agency under conditions of constraint, and (b) the social mechanisms implicated in the translation of strategic intentions into everyday practices. These questions inform my research practice, which involves empirical work using qualitative methods (discourse and content analysis, and ethnographic techniques) and mixed methods studies that link qualitative work to the development of structured research instruments. I regard explanation as a centrally important part of the sociologist's craft, and my empirical research has been closely linked to the development of rigorous theoretical models that are amenable to both qualitative and quantitative investigation.

Research Area
Complex interventions
Health services research
Behaviour change
Health services
Mixed methods
Implementation research
Qualitative methods
Social Sciences
Disease and Health Conditions
Cardiovascular disease
Chronic disease
Non-communicable diseases
East Asia & Pacific (all income levels)
Europe & Central Asia (all income levels)
North America

Selected Publications

Interdisciplinary team working in the Irish primary healthcare system: Analysis of 'invisible' bottom up innovations using Normalisation Process Theory.
Tierney E; Hannigan A; Kinneen L; May C; O'Sullivan M; King R; Kennedy N; MacFarlane A
Health Policy
Ethnographic study using Normalization Process Theory to understand the implementation process of infection prevention and control guidelines in Ireland.
Agreli H; Barry F; Burton A; Creedon S; Drennan J; Gould D; May CR; Smiddy MP; Murphy M; Murphy S
BMJ open
Health care professionals' views towards self-management and self-management education for people with type 2 diabetes.
Ross J; Stevenson FA; Dack C; Pal K; May CR; Michie S; Yardley L; Murray E
BMJ open
Helping people discontinue long-term antidepressants: views of health professionals in UK primary care.
Bowers HM; Williams SJ; Geraghty AWA; Maund E; O'brien W; Leydon G; May CR; Kendrick T
BMJ open
See more Publications