Senior Management Team

The CESI Senior Management Team comprises a Director, 3 Strand Leads (Deputy Directors) and 6 Research Programme Leads.  Each Strand consists of 2 Programmes of Work.


Professor Paul Connolly (Acting Director)

Professor Paul Connolly's research interests fall into three inter-related strands: diversity and social inclusion in early childhood in global contexts, with a focus on understanding the impact of social divisions on the lives of young children and identifying early childhood programmes that are effective in promoting social cohesion and inclusion; what works research, with a focus on ensuring the effectiveness of social policies and interventions by providing the best available evidence for policy makers, practitioners and governments; and quantitative methods in educational research, with a focus on exploring the role and uses of quantitative methods in education and building capacity in relation to their practical application.




Dr Sarah Miller (Deputy Director and Strand Lead for What Works for Schools)

Dr Sarah Miller’s areas of research include social emotional development in pre-school and primary school children; literacy and numeracy progression, and; testing the effectiveness of school-based programmes using randomised controlled trials. She has considerable methodological and statistical expertise. Sarah also plays a key role in the Campbell Collaboration - a global network, generating evidence syntheses to promote positive social and economic change.


Professor Maria Lohan (Deputy Director and Strand Lead for What Works for Families)

Professor Maria Lohan is Chair in Social Sciences and Health, Director of Research, School of Nursing & Midwifery and Deputy Director of the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation.  Maria’s research focuses on understanding inequalities in health in society, especially in relation to improving men’s sexual health and involvement in reproduction and parenting. She leads a programme of research undertaking systematic reviews and developing and evaluating evidence-based educational and health care interventions to improve boys’ and men’s sexual health and to enhance men’s involvement in reproductive health and parenting.


Professor Gavin Davidson (Deputy Director and Strand Lead for What Works for Communities)

Gavin Davidson is Professor of Social Care and is the first Praxis Chair of Social Care. His main research interests are in the area of mental health, specifically: the effectiveness of mental health services; the social determinants of mental health; human rights and mental health/mental capacity legislation; and the associations between adverse childhood experiences and mental health.




Dr Liam O’Hare (Programme Lead, Educational Attainment Research Programme)

Dr Liam O’Hare is Lecturer in Prevention and Early Intervention in the School of Social Sciences Education and Social Work. He is an experienced Principal Investigator on large education and social science research projects. Generally his work focuses on the development and evaluation of evidence informed educational attainment programmes. He has been awarded grants for this work by prestigious bodies such as the National Institute of Health Research and the Education Endowment Foundation. He also leads CESI’s work in two ‘Innovation Zones’ in disadvantaged communities in Belfast.


To Be Appointed (Programme Lead, Health and Wellbeing in Schools Research Programme)


Dr Karen Winter (Programme Lead, Children in Care and Child Protection Research Programme)

Dr Karen Winter is a senior lecturer in social work. Her research interests include: children in care (their wellbeing, experiences and outcomes); children’s rights; early intervention and support for vulnerable families and children. She has written and researched extensively in these areas and has been commissioned as an expert by leading voluntary organisations and Health and Social Care Trusts. Her academic work is combined with over 16 years of professional practice as a social worker, team manager and Guardian ad Litem.


Dr Fiona Lynn (Programme Lead, Parental and Child Health and Wellbeing Research Programme)

Dr Fiona Lynn is a health economist. Her research focuses on enhancing maternal and child health and wellbeing, with an interest in identifying and evaluating what works for families from the antenatal period through to the early years of childhood. She has experience of conducting economic evaluations alongside intervention-based studies and is Lead for the Parental and Child Health and Wellbeing Research Programme.


Professor Kevin Brazil (Programme Lead, Chronic Illness and Palliative Care Research Programme)

Professor Brazil’s research focuses on the structure, process, and outcomes in service delivery of quality care for family carers and patients as they near the end-of-life. As part of this work, he examines how personal, social, and environmental factors affect care. This work is designed to assist in the development, evaluation and translation of new and innovative interventions to improve access, quality and outcomes in this population.  He has over 300 publications including 176 peer review journal publications related to these interests. He has taught undergraduate and post graduate learners in palliative care and health services research. He has been active on numerous working and advisory groups at the international, national, and regional levels and has served on several grant review boards in both Canada and Europe.


To Be Appointed (Programme Lead, Mental Health and Wellbeing Research Programme)