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Professor David S. Byrne

Emeritus Professor

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Emeritus Professor in the Department of Sociology32 Old Elvet: Room 207 
Fellow in the Durham Research Methods Centre  
Associate Member in the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)  


Attended University of Newcastle and LSE before teaching at Durham 1970-74. Research Director North Tyneside Community Development Project 1974-77. Reader in Sociology Ulster Polytechnic 1977-80. Since at University of Durham. National positions have included Treasurer Social Policy Association, Treasurer Joint Universities' Council for Social and Public Administration, Chief Examiner for Sociology studentships ESRC. Editor of Sociology. Member ESRC College of Assessors, Member ESRC Research Training Board, Academician - Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences. In 2012, received the Social Policy Association (SPA) Special Recognition Award.

Current research engagements include:

Methodology – working with Knowledge for Use - K4U on issues surrounding the nature of evidence and the use of evidence in policy formation and implementation.

Evaluation – working with Centre for Evaluating Complexity Across the Nexus (environment, energy, food and agriculture) – CECAN on approaches to evaluating interventions in complex systems.

Taxation and Inequality – see Book with Sally Ruane,

I am currently writing a book for the Routledge series on Complexity in Social Science with the working title: Inequality in a Context of Climate Crisis: A Complex Realist Approach which will integrate my methodological interests and my concern with social inequality broadly defined. I continue to work with various community groups, particularly in the Scottish Borders where I live and on Tyneside. My interest in tax has led to working with the Scottish Labour Party on the possibilities of a wealth tax and collaborating with others on establishing a tax interest group in the Social Policy Association and in contributing to public debate on this fundamental issue.

Research interests

  • complexity theory
  • postindustrial social structures
  • privatization of welfare systems
  • quantitative methods
  • case based methods
  • urban systems

Research Projects

  • CECAN - Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus
  • Comparative analysis of local strategies to tackle health inequalities.
  • Health Inequalities in an Age of Austerity, Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Grant, £1 million (2013-2018)
  • Imagine, The social, historical, cultural and democratic context of civic engagement: imagining different communities and making them happen
  • K4U: Knowledge for Use: Making the most of Social Sciences to build better policies
  • Knowledge for Use (K4U)

Awarded Grants

  • 2019: 2019: RF200166 Co-I. CECAN - Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus. PI: Prof. Nigel Gilbert. ESRC. 2019-03-01 - 2022-02-28. £3.8mil

Esteem Indicators

  • 2009: Academician - Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences: Nominated by Social Policy Association
  • 2009: International Presentation: Presentation to Institute for Advanced Studies - University of Stellenbosch on Complexity.
  • 2009: International Presentation: Participation in and plenary presentation to International Symposium on Complexity and Transformation Netherlands
  • 2009: Journal Editorships: Editor Sociology, AcSS, SPA nominee for RAE panel, participant in international Gulbenkian review of future of science in general, various international and prestigious UK plenary presentations in areas of complexity and socila exclusion.
  • 0000: International Presentation: Presentation to staff Cleveland Western Reserve and Cleveland State University - Comparison of post-industrial industrial cities.
  • 0000: International Presentation: Presentation to staff and postgraduates Erasmus University Rotterdam - Research the trajectories of complex cities.
  • 0000: International Presentation: Presentation to staff group Technical University of Delft - Researching the trajectories of complex cities.
  • 0000: International Presentation: Presentation to staff and postgraduates University of Arizona - Exploring causality in the trajectories of complex systems.

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Health & welfare services: health & social class
  • Health & welfare services: social change
  • Health & welfare services: poverty
  • Museums: regional heritage
  • Social Policy: Family, youth, race & gender issues: family, youth, race & gender issues
  • Social Policy: Employment & development issues: urban & regional development
  • Social Policy: Employment & development issues: North-East region
  • Social Policy: Employment & development issues: economic & social change
  • Social Policy: Employment & development issues: urban regeneration
  • Social Policy: Employment & development issues: single regeneration budget
  • Social Policy: Employment & development issues: quangos
  • Regional Economy: regional economy
  • Regional Heritage: regional heritage


Authored book

  • Byrne, Dave (2018). Class after Industry. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Byrne, D. & Ruane, S. (2017). Paying for the Welfare State in the 21st Century. Policy Press.
  • Byrne, D. & Callaghan, G. (2013). Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences. The state of the art. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Byrne, D. (2011). Applying Social Science: The role of Social research in politics, policy and practice. Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Byrne, D. (2005). Social Exclusion. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Byrne, D. (2002). Interpreting Quantitative Data. London: Sage.
  • Byrne, D. (2001). Understanding the Urban. Palgrave (Macmillan).
  • Byrne.D. (1998). Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences. Routledge.
  • Byrne, D. (1989). Beyond the Inner City. Open University Press.

Chapter in book

  • Byrne, David (2019). The Statistics of Devolution. In Data in Society: Challenging Statistics in an Age of Globalisation. Evans, Jeff, Ruane, Sally & Southall, Humphrey Policy Press. 133-144.
  • Byrne, David (2018). Researching Large Scale Complex Interventions. In Doing Realist Research. Emmel, Nick, Greenhalgh, Joanne, Manzano, Ana, Monaghan, Mark & Dalkin, Sonia Sage.
  • Byrne, D. (2016). Explanation and Empirical Social Research. In An End to the Crisis of Empirical Sociology. McKie, L. & Ryan, L. Routledge.
  • Byrne, D (2016). Energy Systems and Energy Related Practices. In Complex Systems and Social Practices in Energy Transitions. LaBanca, N. Springer. 305-320.
  • Byrne, D. & Uprichard, E. (2012). Useful Complex Causality. In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science. Kincaid, H.
  • Byrne, D. (2011). What is an effect? Coming at Causality Backwards. In The SAGE Handbook of Innovation in Social Research Methods. Williams, M., & Vogt, W.P. London: Sage. 80-94.
  • Byrne, D. (2010). Comparison, Diversity and Complexity. In Complexity, Difference and Identity. Cilliers, P. & Preiser, R. Springer. 61-78.
  • Byrne, D. (2009). Using Cluster Analysis, Qualitative Comparative Analysis and NVivo in Relation to the Establishment of Causal Configurations with Pre-existing Large N Datasets: Machining Hermeneutics. In The SAGE Handbook of Case-Based Methods. Byrne, D. & Ragin, C. Sage. 260-268.
  • Byrne, D. (2009). INTRODUCTION: Case-Based Methods: Why We Need Them; What They Are; How to Do Them. In The SAGE Handbook of Case-Based Methods. Byrne, D. & Ragin, C. Sage. 1-10.
  • Byrne, D. (2009). Complex Realist and Configurational Approaches to Cases: A Radical Synthesis. In The SAGE Handbook of Case-Based Methods. Byrne, D. & Ragin, C. Sage.
  • Byrne, D. (2006). Exploring Organizational Effectiveness: The Value of Complex Realism as a Frame of Reference and Systematic Comparison as a Method. In Complexity and Management. Maguire, S., Allen, P., & McKelvey, B. Sage Publication Ltd. London.
  • Byrne, D. (2004). Complex and Contingent Causation - The Implications of Complex Realism for Quantitive Modelling The Case of Housing and Health. In Making Realism Work: Realist Social Theory and Empirical Research. Carter, B. & New, C. London: Routledge. 50-66.
  • Byrne, D. (2004). Evidence based? What constitutes valid evidence? In Governing medicine: theory and practice. Gray, A. & Harrison, S. Buckingham: Open University Press. 81-92.
  • Byrne, D. (1995). Complex and Contingent Causation - the implications of complex realism for quantitative modelling - the case of housing and health. In Doing Research. Carter, B. & New, C. Routledge.

Edited book

  • Byrne, D. & Uprichard, E. (2012). Cluster Analysis. Four-Volume Set. Sage.
  • Byrne, D. & Ragin, Charles C. (2009). The SAGE handbook of case-based methods. London: Sage.
  • Byrne, D. (2008). Social Exclusion - Critical Concepts in Sociology. Four-Volume Set. London: Routledge.

Journal Article


  • Blackman, T., Wistow, J. & Byrne, D. (2011). Towards a new understanding of how local action can effectively address health inequalities. Report for the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation programme. Wolfson Research Institute and School of Applied Social Sciences . National Institute for Health Research.
  • Blackman, T., Byrne, D. & Wistow, J (2010). Variations between Spearhead areas in progress with tackling health inequalities in England. Durham University, Wolfson Research Institute.

Supervision students