Rachel Simpson's profile

Rachel Simpson

SPS Department

Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

I have an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a Masters by Research degree in Science and Technology Studies from the University of Edinburgh. I am currently undertaking a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Edinburgh exploring how surgical practice is changing with Robot Assisted Surgery. 


2019-present: PhD, Science and Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh.

2019: MSc by Research in Science and Technology Studies (with Distinction), University of Edinburgh.

2017: MA (Hons) in Sociology, University of Edinburgh.

Awards and Funding

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Award, 2020.

Alice Brown Scholarship, University of Edinburgh, 2020.

Highly Skilled Workforce Scholarship, 2018.

Research Interests

Innovation Science and technology studies Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Sociology of the body Robot Assisted Surgery Communities of Practice Social Shaping of Technology Social Learning Medical sociology Surgical Practice Regulation and innovation Governance of emerging science and technology Biomedical knowledge(s), practices and technologies

Teaching Experience

PhD Title

Regulating Robot Assisted Surgery: New Sociological Explorations in Learning and Embodiment (working title)

PhD Supervisors

PhD Overview

Robot Assisted Surgery (RAS) is changing surgical practice, radically altering how surgical skills are learned and performed. As robotic capabilities have been shown to change surgical team dynamics, evidence suggests that RAS systems may potentially alter the knowledge and skills required for safe surgical practice. Incompatibilities between traditional processes and emerging innovations threaten to compromise patient safety, workforce, and data security. The proposed project explores the transformative consequences of RAS within UK surgical practice by investigating the introduction of CMR's Versius system. It will inform how NHS teams are learning to exploit opportunities or ‘affordances’ of new technology, providing insight into whether current robotic training programmes are safe and align with changing practice. A mixed method, qualitative study will employ repeated in-depth, semi-structured interviews, non-participant observation and multichannel video recordings to ascertain how responsibility and accountability are mediated and (re)configured. Focusing on processes of social learning will unearth how technology is shaped by the users, how practice is shaped by the technology and whether or not these processes influence surgical governance by taking place internally or externally from communities of practice.  

Conference Presentations 

Speaker at Critical Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence Ethics Conference, October 2020, University of Edinburgh, UK. Talk: From Robot Surgeons to Surgeon Robots: Balancing Judgement, Authenticity, Artificiality and Accountability on the "Cutting Edge" of Surgical Practice. [Website]

Speaker at Embodying Fantistika Interdisciplinary Conference, August 2019, Lancaster University, UK. Talk: Are Robot-Assisted Surgeons Using the Da-Vinci Surgical System "Cyborgs"? [Programme Link]