Ilke Turkmendag

Ilke Turkmendag started her Mildred Blaxter fellowship at Newcastle University in December 2011, finishing in December 2012, having previously completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham. She is now Lecturer in Law, Innovation, and Society at Newcastle.

What was the focus of your work?

During my project, titled ‘Donor conception, secrecy, and the voice of the UK patients’, I explored four main areas:

  • the governance of assisted conception regulations through online patient support networks;
  • cross border reproductive care (CBRC) movements by the UK patients;
  • ‘right to know’ in donor conception; and
  • Turkish donor conception regulations.

Under the fellowship I built a strong track record of papers and book chapters. One of these books, ‘European Law and New Health Technologies’, has been selected to be part of the prestigious European Law series by Oxford University Press. A second book including my work, entitled Knowledge, Technology and Law, was published in Routledge’s series on Law, Science and Society. I have also published two papers in the leading socio-legal journals by invitation, and two book reviews.

During the fellowship, I sought to disseminate my work and ensure impact beyond the academy by engaging in public consultations within my field. For instance, I submitted a response to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics on mitochondria replacement therapy. I was invited to present evidence at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ donor conception fact-finding meeting held on 30 May 2012. On the invitation of British Federation of Women Graduates, on 29 September 2012, I presented a paper at Bioethics Study Day, to talk about the legal and ethical issues around egg donation for mitochondria research. As a result the Association submitted a response to the HFEA Consultation: Medical Frontiers. During the fellowship I built good research links with bioethicists, sociologists and lawyers who are engaged in socio-legal analysis of biomedical developments. I was a member of the Technoscience, Law and Society: Interrogating the Nexus AHRC Research Network which led to one of the book chapters. I have been invited to several universities as a speaker and presented my work at national and international conferences (including Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands). During the fellowship, I also developed two postdoctoral fellowship research proposals, which were both shortlisted.

What did the Mildred Blaxter fellowship offer you that you would not otherwise have been able to do?

I always say that career-wise, the Mildred Blaxter Fellowship was the best thing ever happened to me.  Research associate posts that are available to new PhDs can be very demanding. If you take one of these posts following your PhD, and then move to another contract, and another contract, you may never find the time or desire to revisit your doctoral work. Working with other research leaders is very important and helpful, but it makes it difficult to establish yourself as an expert in your own area in which you invested 3-4 years during your doctoral work. The fellowship gave me a unique opportunity to focus on my own work, and the confidence to position myself as an expert in my field.  It also looks very impressive in your CV as it shows the employers that you can work autonomously with little guidance and support!

What are you doing now?

I am a Lecturer in Law, Innovation, and Society at Newcastle Law School. This is a post which enables me to use insights from my interdisciplinary background in medical sociology, law, bioethics and science and technology studies.

Lecturer posts are very competitive and I believe that the employers want to recruit potential research leaders. They want to see an evidence of a research track, teaching and grant application experience, publications, and impact. Mildred Blaxter Postdoctoral Fellowship provided me with time and funding to merely concentrate on developing a strong research portfolio that could be attractive to the selection panels at universities.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying for a Mildred Blaxter fellowship?

The Mildred Blaxter Postdoctoral Fellowship is a fantastic opportunity to establish yourself as an early career researcher. I think the secret to success is to explain the funders that you have thought this through and decided what needs to be done during the next 12 months to create yourself a research track. Focus on your publication plans. State the expected outputs clearly. Your plans should be realistic, and if possible well-evidenced. For example, it helps if you are already invited to contribute a chapter in an edited book, or agreed to submit a paper to a special issue.


You can find out more about Ilke’s work on her webpages here and here, and follow her on Twitter. Publications arising from her Mildred Blaxter fellowship include: