Leading sports and exercise-focused social scientist, Professor Emma Rich, has become the latest Fellow to join the Academy of Social Sciences.

The Academy’s Fellowship comprises 1,500 leading social scientists from academia, the public, private and third sectors. Their expertise covers the breadth of the social sciences, and their practice and research addresses major challenges facing communities, society, places and economies.

Professor Rich has been recognised for her research and educational contributions which span sociology, education and health. Specifically, her research focus looks at how people learn about health and their bodies and the impact of this on their identities, health practices, and physical activity.

At Bath she leads the Physical Culture, Sport and Health Research Group within the Department for Health, which contributes critical insights across a range of contemporary issues affecting health, sport and physical cultural contexts – from PE at school, to the legacy of major sporting events and even the growth and effects of online sports gambling.

Professor Rich’s own work looks at rethinking how obesity and eating disorders are framed to avoid detrimental impacts on young people. Her book, ‘Education, Disordered Eating and Obesity Discourse: Fat Fabrications’ was the first to examine the relationship between schools’ policies and practices and young people’s disordered eating experiences.

Building on this, her more recent work has focused on the interplays between digital technologies and health. A high-impact report published by the team in 2020 found that over 70% of young people, some as young as eight, are using apps and social media and called on school digital literacy to be expanded to cover the technologies used by young people.

The project behind this, ‘Digital Health Generation’, has also been recognised locally, nationally and internationally. In 2019, the team led by Professor Rich, won the Research Impact Award at the Bristol and Bath Health and Care Awards. The work has also had policy influence via select committees and via the World Health Organization.

Additionally, Professor Rich is an expert advisor to the national eating disorder charity Talk ED (formerly Anorexia and Bulimia Care). She is also the academic lead for the Bristol Health Partners Eating Disorders Health Integration Team (EDHIT). This work has helped to influence the policies and practices of educational institutions internationally

Throughout her career, generating impact through engagement has been a core part of her work. This has included numerous public engagement initiatives, with both health practitioners and medical communities. Her work has also inspired art exhibitions and new documentaries and films.

Commenting on the accolade she said: “I am a social scientist driven by an interest in understanding and shaping how the contemporary world influences how we experience our bodies. I research and write about contexts of physical activity, sport and health with a focus on developing equal opportunities.

“I am delighted to be elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. I feel incredibly honoured to join a community of such distinguished fellows and it means a great deal to be nominated by people I really admire.

“I am grateful to the Academy for the nomination and for the work they do in providing a platform to promote the vital and important research undertaken by the social sciences. I am grateful to so many supportive and inspiring colleagues here at the University and beyond who have played such an important part in my own research journey.”

Acting Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Professor Joe Devine, said: “This accolade is a tremendous recognition both of the quality but also the impact Professor Rich’s work has had. Across an impressive career her work has generated significant advances across health, education and sociology more broadly.

“Within the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences we are all particularly proud of Emma and grateful for the many contributions she is making both in terms of her research impact but also here at the University in supervising PhD students and delivering innovative approaches to our own teaching and learning.”