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Research clusters

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Blockchain, technology and law

Rapid advances and evolutions in computer technologies, especially in the contemporary fields of blockchains, smart contracts and cryptocurrencies, profoundly affect legal thinking and practice. Pursuing an interdisciplinary and trans-faculty approach, the aim of this research cluster is to critically examine these affects and inform related domestic and international thinking. Rob Herian, Rhonson Salim and Claire Sumner are the law academics leading our research in this field.

Centre for Knowledge in Organisations and Professions

The Centre for Knowledge in Organisations and Professions (CKOP) brings together researchers from The Open University Business School (OUBS) and The Open University Law School (OULS) who are interested in understanding how knowledge is produced, shared and used within organisations and professions. Researchers in CKOP study a wide range of issues related to organisational knowledge and learning. They are also interested in the production of expert and research knowledge – including methodological considerations. CKOP researchers also explore ethical issues related to knowing and knowledge and focus on the development of critical reflexive pedagogies in management and legal education.

Law and Neuroscience

Recent years have seen enormous advances in scientific understanding of the brain and behaviour. Academics within the Law School, including Paul Catley, Dr. Lisa Claydon and Dr. Stephanie Pywell, are examining the use and potential use of evidence from neuroscience and associated brain sciences within the justice system. They are collaborating with neuroscientists, psychologists and psychiatrists to understand the reliability of scientific claims, and working with lawyers worldwide to understand how science is being used in different jurisdictions and to recommend best practice.

International Law

Much of OULS’ research has an international focus, reflecting the global nature of our Masters programme. Academics with a particular interest in international law include Keren Bright, Dr. Olga Jurasz, Dr. Neil Graffin and Rhonson Salim. Keren’s research interest in international law, concerning cultural property, particularly works of art, cultural artefacts, monuments and architecture. More narrowly, Keren’s interest includes the protection of the integrity of artistic works, the debate concerning repatriation claims and the protection of cultural property during times of armed conflict. Olga’s research focusses on gender, international law and human rights: exploring how public international law addresses the long term impact of armed conflict on women, and how women’s rights are protected in the transition from war to peace. Neil Graffin’s interests are in international human rights law and asylum law. Neil’s current research looks at the prohibition on torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial, and also issues concerning the gathering of evidence in asylum claims. Rhonson’s primary international law research interests lie in the areas of private international law, restitution and arbitration. Rhonson is currently collaborating in this area with the British Institute for International and Comparative Law.

Law and Religion

Professor Simon Lee is a leading authority on law, ethics and religion and before joining the Open University was Executive Director of the Cambridge Theological Federation. Jessica Giles is Director of PILARS Research (the Project for Interdisciplinary Law and Religion Studies at The Open University). She is also associate editor of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion – a journal for which several colleagues have written including Emma Jones, Hugh McFaul and Dr. Stephanie Pywell.

The futures of legal education and practice

As the leading provider of supported distance learning in the UK it is no surprise that OULS attracts academics who are very interested in the pedagogy behind distance learning, and in legal education more generally. Colleagues researching in this area include Paul Catley, Jessica Giles, Emma Jones and Dr. Stephanie Pywell. A particular focus of research within the Law School is on the teaching of ethics within Law programmes – researchers in this area include Keren Bright, Roland Fletcher, Dr. Neil Graffin, Hugh McFaul, Francine Ryan and Professor Simon Lee.

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