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Funded research

 See below for details of some recent funded research projects in The Dickson Poon School of Law. 

Reforming Legal Gender Identity: A Socio-Legal Evaluation 

Principal Investigator: Professor Davina Cooper

Team: Emily Grabham (Co – Investigator); Elizabeth Peel (Co – Investigator); Flora Renz (Co – Investigator); Robyn Emerton (Research Associate); Han Newman (Research Assistant) 

Project overview, outputs and links

Are there good reasons for state law to treat people as either male or female or should it step back and recognise sex/ gender in ways more akin to how it recognises people’s sexuality, ethnicity or religion? This question is posed by a three-year research project on the future of legal gender, led by Professor Davina Cooper at King’s College London and funded by the ESRC (2018-2021):

Currently, in Britain, people have a legal sex, based on the category recorded at birth. Changing one’s legal sex from female to male (or vice versa) is formally regulated under the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Government consultations have been taking place over proposals to reform this legal procedure. However, this debate begs a more fundamental question: are there good reasons for people to retain a formal legal sex/ gender? 

This interdisciplinary project explores this question from several angles. These include the implications of removing sex/ gender from legal personhood for different relations of inequality and exploitation; the investments different social groups have in the status quo and in proposals for change; the implications of reform for the continuation of single-sex provision and the development of new gender identities; and the effects of law reform on the wider legislative and regulatory landscape. More generally as a prefigurative project asking a law reform question not yet on the table, this project takes up law to explore wider political questions about gender’s future. 

Outputs and links

For other outputs including blog posts and forthcoming talks, lectures and events, see our project website.



DADD: Discovering and Attesting Digital Discrimination

Team: Principal Investigator: Dr J M Such 

Other Investigators: Dr M Coté, Professor L Vigano, Dr N Criado, Professor D NelkenProfessor J Tasioulas, Dr M Hedges. 

Project overview, outputs and links


In digital discrimination, users are treated unfairly, unethically or just differently based on their personal data. Examples include low-income neighbourhoods targeted with high-interest loans; women being undervalued by 21% in online marketing; and online ads suggestive of arrest records appearing more often with searches of black-sounding names than white-sounding names. Digital discrimination very often reproduces existing instances of discrimination in the offline world by either inheriting the biases of prior decision makers, or simply reflecting widespread prejudices in society. Digital discrimination may also have an even more perverse result, it may exacerbate existing inequalities by causing less favourable treatment for historically disadvantaged groups, suggesting they actually deserve that treatment. As more and more tasks are delegated to computers, mobile devices, and autonomous systems, digital discrimination is becoming a huge problem.

Digital discrimination can be the result of algorithmic biases, i.e., the way in which a particular algorithm has been designed creates discriminatory outcomes, but it also occurs using non-biased algorithms when they are fed or trained with biased data. Research has been conducted on so-called fair algorithms, tackling biased input data, demonstrating learned biases, and measuring relative influence of data attributes, which can quantify and limit the extent of bias introduced by an algorithm or dataset. But, how much bias is too much? That is, what is legal, ethical and/or socially-acceptable? And even more importantly, how do we translate those legal, ethical, or social expectations into automated methods that attest digital discrimination in datasets and algorithms?

DADD (Discovering and Attesting Digital Discrimination) is a *novel cross-disciplinary collaboration* to address these open research questions following a continuously-running co-creation process with academic (Computer Science, Digital Humanities, Law and Ethics) and non-academic partners (Google, AI Club), and the general public, including technical and non-technical users. DADD will design ground-breaking methods to certify whether or not datasets and algorithms discriminate by automatically verifying computational non-discrimination norms, which will in turn be formalised based on socio-economic, cultural, legal, and ethical dimensions, creating the new *transdisciplinary field of digital discrimination certification*. 

Outputs and links

Visit the project details on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council website.




CARer-ADministration of as needed sub-cutaneous medication for breakthrough symptoms in home-based dying patients: a UK study

Principal Investigator: Professor Penney Lewis 

Project overview, outputs and links


Most people want to be cared for and die at home. As people get weaker in the last weeks or days of life, they usually can’t swallow. In the UK, when this happens, it is standard practice for medicines to be given by a drip under the skin to relieve symptoms. Four symptoms are common in dying people: pain, agitation, nausea and noisy breathing (rattle). These can happen even when a drip is in place and are called ‘breakthrough’ symptoms. When they do, a family member is advised to call a healthcare professional (HCP), usually a district nurse. The nurse will visit and give the patient an injection under the skin. But, it can take a long time, often much more than an hour, for the nurse to arrive and give the medicine. This wait can be distressing for patient and carer and the symptom can worsen by the time the nurse arrives. Carers tell us that this makes them feel powerless to help their loved ones. 

In some countries, like Australia, carers are trained to give symptom-relieving medicine to their dying relatives at home. We are working with a team from Brisbane, who have 30 years’ experience of this. 

We cannot be sure that this approach would be welcomed in the UK, so we need to test it out. When there is uncertainty, the best way to resolve it is to do a randomised controlled trial (RCT). This is a test where, at random, half the patients get ‘usual care’ and the other half the ‘new care’. We hope to conduct a RCT comparing injections given by carers to dying patients looked after at home (the new care) versus HCP-given injections (the usual care). Before doing a large trial, it is good practice to first test the feasibility in a smaller group of patients. Our study is such a feasibility study. 

Outputs and links



LAwTTIP: Legal Ambiguities withstanding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Principal Investigator: Professor Andrea Biondi 

Team: The team from King’s includes Professor Takis Tridimas and Dr Alessandro Spano. See the project's people webpage for full details

Project overview, outputs and links


LAwTTIP – Legal Ambiguities Withstanding the TTIP (“LAwTTIP Network”), is a Jean Monnet Network constituted in 2016 on a consortium of three renowned university centres: 

  1. International Centre on European Law of University of Bologna (CIRDE)
  2. Centre of European Law of King’s College London (CEL)
  3. Institut de l’Ouest Droit et Europe of the University of Rennes 1 (IODE). 

The project has been designed to foster exchange between academics involved in research and teaching on EU law, policymakers, stakeholders and EU citizens on the trade and investment agreements of the EU by means of: 


  • Dissemination through research and teaching activities in EU legal studies, of questions and tentative answers connected to the legal issued arisen in the context of the EU trade and investment agreement
  • Creation of a forum with EU/Member State policymakers and stakeholders for the elaboration of indicators, including benchmarks, to monitor the TTIP talks and their impact on the EU legal order, as well as policy tools and recommendations to overcome the possible shortcomings
  • Translation of scientific and policy-relevant outcomes into publicly-understandable outputs. 


Outputs and links 

For further details of the project's outputs and activities please see the LAwTTIP project website



Feminist legal theory, criminal law, rape, trafficking, sex work, sexual violence, sociology of law

Principal Investigator: Professor Prabha Kotiswaran

Project overview, outputs and links


Professor Prabha Kotiswaran was PI for an ESRC-GCRF grant (under the Strategic Networks Scheme) titled ‘Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: Towards Decent Work for All’ between January 2017 and December 2018.

The strategic network included UK and international academics, the ILO, early career researchers, students, lawyers, trade unionists, journalists, activists, and civil society organisations. Disciplines spanned law, anthropology, sociology, history, cultural studies, gender studies, religious studies, literature, film studies, and development studies. The network included numerous marginalised groups, including sex workers, bonded labourers, transgender rights activists, black and indigenous rights representatives, contract workers, and migrant workers. More than 100 people participated in 4 regional workshops, a majority of who came from OECD DAC countries. The network aimed to articulate a global research agenda on the UN SDG 8.7 from the perspective of the global south, which came together through a series of conferences.

The project has contributed to the knowledge, research, and network formation required for achieving the decent work agenda. It has also shown that the conceptualisation, understanding, and implementation of SDG 8.7 differs widely across countries due to nuances in definitional issues, domestic vocabularies, and experiences of exploitation. Much is overlooked or inappropriately addressed because the ground realities do not fit adequately within the conceptual boxes of forced labour, human trafficking, modern slavery, and child labour set out in the SDGs. This realisation was reinforced over and over again during the project period as academic and non-academic stakeholders discussed ways of addressing the structural, political, economic, and social root causes of global labour exploitation, vulnerability, and unfree labour in the global south, which is a deterrent to economic development.

A report titled Linking Modern Slavery and Human Development: Revisiting the Global Agenda for SDG 8.7 authored by Prabha Kotiswaran, Samuel Okyere, Joel Quirk and Cameron Thibos will be available shortly. 

Outputs and links 

Over 100 outputs from the project are available on the Open Democracy site on Beyond Trafficking and Modern Slavery



Building a Climate Finance Legal Options Toolkit 

Principal Investigator: Dr Megan Bowman

Project overview, outputs and links


Climate change is one of the key challenges facing humanity. In 2016 the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came into force pursuant to which developed nations have committed to financially assist developing nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Meeting these commitments requires increased flows of both public and private finance. Law and regulation are key to mobilising and leveraging the necessary finance, yet legal readiness is rarely identified in this context.

This project investigates questions including: How can law-makers, regulators, and practitioners work together to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement? What is – and should be – the role of law and regulation for a truly systemic transformation by enabling finance at scale, encouraging project pipeline, and ensuring corollary benefits of enhancing economic and social development in a sustainable way? How legal and institutional capacity be built through knowledge-sharing and technical expertise?

This project is funded by a King’s Together Seed Award and British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant.

Outputs and links


European Network on Soft Law Research (SoLaR) 

Principal Investigator: Dr Oana Stefan

Team: SoLaR is a network of academics from Dutch, English, Finnish, German, French, Italian, and Slovenian institutions. The Network has five Academic Coordinators and more than 20 members, divided by policy teams. 

Project overview, outputs and links


SoLaR is a large-scale empirical project funded by the European Commission under an Erasmus + Jean Monnet Scheme, relying on a multi-disciplinary team, and methodologies of comparative law and social science. The network researches the use of EU soft law - instruments that are not legally binding but may produce legal and practical effects - in national jurisdictions. An empirical, comparative law analysis, consisting of documentary case law research and interviews with judges and civil servants, is carried out with respect to a representative selection of legal systems (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the UK) and of policy areas (environmental law, social policy, competition and State aid law, and financial regulation). Through its events and outputs, SoLaR promotes a dialogue between academia and practitioners.

Outputs and links 

  • M. Eliantonio, O. Stefan (co-editors) Soft Law in the EU Legal Order: Reflections and Contemporary Trends, 192p., special issue of the Yearbook of European Law, Vol 37, 2018, p 457-649, ISSN 0263-3264, EISSN 2045-0044.
  • M. Eliantonio, E. Korkea-aho, O. Stefan (co-editors) EU Soft Law in the Member States: Theoretical Findings and Empirical Evidence, forthcoming monograph, Bloomsbury.
  • A national case law database on soft law, available here.
  • Working papers, reports, and other information can be found on the website of the project.

See the SoLaR website for full details 







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