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Stephen has worked as a sociologist and qualitative researcher in the fields of primary health care, public health and substance use since 1995. During this time, he has held pre-doctorate research positions at the Universities of Newcastle (Department of Primary Health Care), and University of Glasgow (Centre for Drug Misuse Research); completed an ESRC-CASE PhD studentship at the University of Plymouth (Department of Sociology and Law), and held post-doctorate Research Fellow positions at The University of Manchester (Department of Primary Care) and the University of Oxford (Department for Primary Care Health Sciences). Stephen joined the National Addiction Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London in February 2019 to provide qualitative support across several projects relating to opioid use and associated treatment.

Stephen’s area of expertise is the application of ethnography (and associated methods) within health-related research in order to provide ‘real world’ findings for service commissioners, service providers, service users and associated stakeholders.

Stephen has conducted ethnographic research in   Shetland, Central Scotland, the North of England, the Midlands and in many areas of the South of England. Topics that he has addressed with ethnography include young people’s routes into substance use, community responses to problematic drug use and health care workers’ understanding of patient experience data. His most notable ethnographic work relates to a multi-site study (2006-2012) of street-based injecting drug, drug-related litter and associated harm and hazard from the perspectives of people who inject drugs and frontline staff who encounter such issues in their daily employment. Throughout this entire period of work, Stephen also acquired expertise in the use of visual methods (photography and video) for applied purposes.

Research Interests

  • Drug-using environments (‘place and space’)
  • Harm reduction (practice and policy)
  • Injecting drug use
  • Homelessness
  • Overdose
  • Naloxone
  • Social Theory
  • Qualitative Research Methods

Expertise and Public Engagement

Stephen has regularly engaged with NHS Trusts, local authorities, police constabularies and assorted advocacy agencies in matters relating to health research (especially alcohol and other drugs). These contributions include:

  • writing articles for trade magazines and advocacy agencies with a harm reduction focus
  • providing harm reduction consultation on matters relating to street-based injecting drug use
  • responding to requests from local authorities on matters relating to the management of drug-related litter
  • leading conference workshops on harm reduction intervention in public settings
  • providing training sessions with needle and syringe programmes (NSP) on issues relating to the social organisation of street-based injecting drug use (and related harm and hazard)
  • curating and staging an exhibition of photographs of drug using environments at three international events (to emphasise harm reduction approaches to street-based injecting drug use)

Addiction Journal

Stephen leads the Qualitative Journal Club within the National Addiction Centre. This is a forum open to staff and students within IoPPN wishing to develop further understandings of qualitative research for applied purposes. 


Parkin, S. (2014) An Applied Visual Sociology: Picturing Harm Reduction. London, Routledge Publications Ltd.

Parkin, S. (2013) Habitus and Drug Using Environments: Health, Place and Lived Experience. London, Routledge Publications Ltd.


Locock, L., Montgomery, C., Parkin, S., Chisholm A., Bostock, J., Dopson, S., Gager, M., Gibbons, E., Graham, C., King, J., Martin, A., Powell, J. and Ziebland, S. (2020) How do frontline staff use patient experience data for service improvement? Findings from an ethnographic case study evaluation. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy.


Elvey, R., Bailey, S., Checkland, K., Parkin, S., McBride, A., Hodgson, D. (2018). Implementing new models of primary care: learning from the demonstrator pilot experience. BMC Family Practice, 19, 89

Parkin, S. (2017). Observant participation with people who inject drugs in street-based settings: reflections on an ethnographic method used during applied research. Addiction Research and Theory, 25, 1, 39-47.

Checkland, K., Parkin, S., Hodgson, D. and Bailey, S., (2017). Institutional work and innovation in the NHS: the role of creating and disrupting. In McDermott, A., Kitchener, M. & Exworthy, M. (eds.) Managing Improvement in Healthcare: Attaining, sustaining and spreading quality. Palgrave Macmillan Ltd., p. 237-254 (17 pages) Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan.

Bailey, S., Checkland, K., Hodgson, D., McBride, A., Elvey, R., Parkin, S., Rothwell, K., Pierides, D. (2017). The policy work of piloting: Mobilising and managing conflict and ambiguity in the English NHS. Social Science and Medicine, 179 (April 2017) pp210-217.

Parkin, S., (2016). Salutogenesis: Contextualising place and space in the policies and politics of recovery from drug dependence (UK). International Journal of Drug Policy, Special Issue (Situating Drugs and Drug Use Geographically). 33, pp21-33.

Parkin, S., (2016). Colliding intervention in the spatial management of street-based injecting and drug-related litter within settings of public convenience (UK). Space and Polity Special Issue. Drugs, law, people, place and the state: ongoing regulation, resistance and change, 20, 1, pp74-96.

Parkin, S. (2014) An Applied Visual Sociology: Picturing Harm Reduction. London, Routledge Publications Ltd.

Parkin, S. (2013) Habitus and Drug Using Environments: Health, Place and Lived Experience. London, Routledge Publications Ltd.

Parkin, S. (2011) Identifying and Predicting Drug-Related Harm with Applied Qualitative Research. In Katz, J, Peace, S. and Spurr, S. (eds) Adult Lives: A Life Course Perspective. Policy Press, Bristol.

Parkin, S. and Coomber, R. (2011) Public Injecting Drug Use and the Social Production of Harmful Practice in High-Rise Tower Blocks (London, UK): A Lefebvrian Analysis. Health and Place, 17, 717-726.

Parkin, S., and Coomber, R., (2011). Injecting Drug User Views (and Experiences) of Drug-related Litter Bins in Public Places: A Comparative Study of Qualitative Research Findings Obtained from UK Settings. Health and Place, 17, 1218-1227.

Pearson, M., Parkin, S., Coomber, R., (2011). Generalizing applied qualitative research on harm reduction: the example of a public injecting typology. Contemporary Drug Problems 38, 1, 61-91.

Parkin, S., and Coomber, R. (2010). Fluorescent Blue Lights, Injecting Drug Use and Related Health Risk in Public Conveniences: Findings from a Qualitative Study of Micro-Injecting Environments. Health and Place 16, 629-637.

Parkin, S., and Coomber, R. (2009). Value in the Visual: On Public Injecting, Visual Methods and their Potential for Informing Policy (and Change). Methodological Innovation Online. 4, 2, 21-36

Parkin, S., and Coomber, R. (2009). ‘Informal Sorter Houses’: A Qualitative Insight of the ‘Shooting Gallery’ Phenomenon in a UK Setting. Health and Place, 15, 981-89

Parkin, S., and Coomber, R. (2009). Public Injecting and Symbolic Violence. Addiction Research and Theory, 17, 4, 390-405.