Science and Research

Science is at the core of our work to identify and control health hazards. Research answers key questions that inform policy and action. Innovation is needed to identify and implement solutions to complex public health challenges.

Explore UKHSA research

Research areas & capability

We conduct research and employ evidence-based practice throughout all parts of the organisation, particularly within the Science and Public Health and Clinical Groups.

Infectious Diseases

We are responsible for protecting the population's health from infection and aim to reduce the burden from infectious diseases on the NHS and social care, and tackle inequalities through:

  • Robust surveillance and intelligence systems
  • Timely detection, investigation and control of outbreaks of disease
  • Developing, implementing and evaluating interventions to prevent and control infectious diseases
  • Advising the central government, local government and other partners to inform public health policy and action
  • Providing advice to the public to prevent and manage communicable diseases
  • Focusing on how we can use sequencing to diagnose and manage infectious diseases
Infectious diseases.

Specialist areas

  • Blood-borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Countermeasures
  • Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases
  • Epidemology
  • Gastrointestinal Infections
  • Genomics
  • Healthcare Acquired Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Vaccines and Immunisation

Environment and Health

The Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) is part of the PHE Health Protection and Medical Directorate and is the focal point for independent advice on health risks from exposure to:

  • Radiation
  • Chemicals
  • Environmental change
  • Extreme weather events such as flooding

Specialist areas

  • Toxicology of chemicals
  • Climate change and extreme events
  • Radiation

Emergency Response

Our Emergency Response Department works at home and abroad to improve public health resilience by providing world-class, trusted EPRR services backed by evidence based scientific and medical research. ERD’s role in EPRR is to ensure plans are in place, and are tested, to prepare for health emergencies and compliance with WHO International Health regulations.

Emergency response.

Areas of work

  • Emergency preparedness
  • Emergency Operation Centre guidance, plans and exercises
  • Horizon scanning and risk assessment
  • Training and exercises with Skills for Health quality assurance
  • Process for lessons identified and review of actions
  • Evidence based scientific and medical research informing all EPRR services

Behavioural Sciences

The Behavioural Science and Insights Unit (BSIU) provides leadership in the application of behavioural and social science to health security, and in support of initiatives to help build system-wide capacity and capability. We have expertise in behavioural and social science, behavioural insights, evidence-based risk and crisis communication, and the psychological and behavioural aspects of health protection incidents and health security. We work nationally, regionally and locally to support teams responding to outbreaks and incidents, including Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear incidents.

Working with public and private sector partners, we conduct and coordinate behavioural science and insights advice, guidance, evaluation and research. Our research has a track record of peer-reviewed publications, dissemination and translation. We contribute to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and its behavioural science sub-group SPI-B, and work with a range of cross-Government partners and networks and international working groups and bodies.

Person washing their hands.

Other Research and Evaluation methods

  • Literature reviews and evidence syntheses
  • Behavioural analysis
  • Primary qualitative and quantitive data collection
  • Inform intervention design (online and field-based pragmatic RCTs)
  • Intervention implementation
  • Evaluation and research

Statistics and Modelling

Our Statistics and Modelling teams develop and implement a variety of models focussed on a range of strategic objectives, for example, assessment and prediction of the public health impacts of newly emerging or re-emerging infectious disease threats, informing on the cost-effectiveness of national vaccination programmes, assessing the impact of interventions, estimating disease burden, determination of increased disease reporting to detect outbreaks.

We give evidence-based analysis and advice to PHE, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Government advisory committees such as JCVI, APRHAI, and SPI-M, and other bodies.

Crowd of people.

To address these challenges we develop data driven models that combine

  • An understanding of how populations mix,
  • Our current understanding around parameters that describe the natural history of an infectious pathogen,
  • Our understanding of the data generation processes underlying our surveillance data,
  • An understanding of the zoonotic infections and their potential eco-epidemiology (MEZE),
  • Spatial and behavioural processes

Spotlight On: COVID-19

UKHSA has contributed to the generation of knowledge and evidence of SARS-CoV-2 through research in a wide variety of topics from characterisation of the virus to behavioural aspects of the response. Each month we will highlight a key study led or co-led by UKHSA's researchers.

Learn more on Covid-19

Research facilities and data

Research Facilities

UKHSA hosts specialist facilities and services in the following areas:
Microbiology, molecular biology, diagnostics, medical science, forensics, chemical, radiation & environmental hazards, production facilities, collections, animal sciences, bio-maths, ecotoxicology/environmental fate and quality systems and accreditation.

Digital, data and technology

The strengthening and application of our digital, data and technology (DDaT) capability is key to maximising the opportunities afforded to us through research. This could be through the greater use of data-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to improve diagnoses, or through improved use of data to generate new evidence on the effectiveness of interventions.

Research Facilities

UKHSA is also a member of the National Laboratory Alliance (NLA), one of 10 Public Sector Research Establishments (PSRE) forming part of the Government’s wider science capability. Some our facilities are also open to research scientists and engineers working in the public and commercial sectors in the UK and internationally.