Dr Qian (Sarah) Gong

Sarah Gong image

Lecturer in Media and Communication (HEA)

Contact details

Room 1.03, Bankfield House

Tel: 0116 252 5293

Email: qg8@le.ac.uk

Personal details

  • PhD in Communications Studies, University of Leeds
  • MA in Communications Studies, University of Leeds
  • BA in English Language, Nanhua University
  • PG Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education, University of Leicester

Prior to my appointment at Leicester I was a teaching associate at the Department of Culture, Film and Media at the University of Nottingham (2011-2012). Before that I was a research associate at the University of Sheffield (2009-2011), leading a work package of a European Research Council funded project ‘Consumer Culture in an Age of Anxiety’.

From 2007 to 2009 I worked as research assistant at the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Leeds on a British Academy project ‘Political Communication in New Democracies’. I also worked in academia and media industry in China. I was a lecturer at Sichuan Normal University (2002-2003) and a part-time TV journalist/presenter at Hengyang TV station (2000-2002).

Professional activities

  • Editorial board member of academic journal: Interactions: Studies in Communication and Culture
  • Member of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR)
  • Reviewer of international leading journals including New Media and Society, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture and International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics.
  • Research Fellow at the Institute of Health and Environmental Communication, Academy of Media and Public Affairs, Communication University of China, China.

Departmental responsibilities


I convene:

  • MS7002 Mass Communication Theory (semester 1)
  • MS7306 Advertising Research Methods (semester 2)

Office hours

By appointment


My current research interest lies in the area of in health communication as I investigate the communication of risks to smokers in China and the health communication aspect of the NHS maternity service for ethnocultural women in the UK.

My past research investigated parenting culture, consumer culture and advertising within the wider context of ‘risk society’, and political communication in the areas of political journalism, citizen journalism and media and democracy in China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Current research project

1. Communicating smoking-related health risks – a scoping study of professional and lay understandings in China Principal Investigator

Funded by College of Social Sciences Development Fund (2017) -- with CIs Jason Hughes, Martin Tobin, Louise Wain

Tobacco smoking is one of the foremost public health problems in China. With more than 300 million smokers, the annual number of deaths from smoking is projected to rise from 1 million in 2010, to 2 million in 2030 and 3 million in 2050. Despite the dire projections, Chinese smokers’ motivation to quit is low: only 16.1 per cent of Chinese smokers plan to quit and less than 10 per cent succeed in doing so long-term (WHO, 2010).

Chinese smokers’ relative lack of motivation to quit has been linked to a number of socio-cultural, economic and political factors. While there are some survey-based studies of their basic knowledge of the hazards of smoking, there is a lack of in-depth investigation of smokers’ understanding of health risks associated with smoking within this context. Such an undertaking is particularly important because public health discourse has become increasingly risk-centric in China. It is hoped that health risks, when effectively communicated, can engender attitudinal and behavioural change.

However, (health) risks are complex, and experts and the public often take different approaches (objective, rational, analytical vs. subjective, emotional, heuristic) towards risk, sometimes causing a gap between expert knowledge and lay understanding. In the meantime, a major discovery has been made in medical research concerning how individuals’ genetic make-up can predict the risk of serious lung diseases as well as underpin the development of genetically-informed preventive drugs for smoking cessation.

In order to understand whether and how new knowledge in the field of human genetics can help improve the health prospects of Chinese smokers (either through raising public awareness and ultimately motivating smokers to quit, or switching to other less harmful sources of nicotine), this study investigates the communication of smoking-related health risks (both general, and genetically specific) in China with a focus upon the interaction between professional and user understandings of risk.

2. Health communication for pregnant Chinese women in Northern England - an explorative qualitative study

Funded by Wellcome Trust (202709/Z/16/Z) 2017-2018 Principal investigator

This explorative study (with co-investigator Dr. Kuldip Bharj) intends to make a contribution to the research of the health communication aspect of the maternity care in England. It focuses on pregnant Chinese migrant women, an ethnic minority group which has been so far insufficiently studied in the health research literature. This study explores Chinese migrant women’s own accounts of their experiences of maternity care during their pregnancy, focusing particularly on how health information is communicated to them through in-person and (media) mediated channels.

The study also investigates midwives’ experiences of providing health advice to Chinese migrant women as part of the maternity care. The study analyses the processes and outcomes of the health communication, and explores whether and how the provision of health-related information helps these women making informed choices in their personalised maternity care. This in-depth qualitative study is based on semi-structured interviews with women and midwives, as well as participant observations of women’s midwife appointments in Leeds and Manchester where both cities have large Chinese communities.

3. 'DEPAC’: Digital enablement, promise and uncertainty in maternity care (2017-2018) - funded by the University Tiger Teams grant. Co-Investigator (PI Nicola Mackintosh, CI Nervo Verdezoto)

The team critically engages with and provides new interdisciplinary scholarly insights into the mediation of digitised diagnosis in maternity care. It will examine how these technologies shape women’s experiences of pregnancy and potentially contribute to new ways of engaging with healthcare. This will reveal vital insights for current management of serious complications in maternity and for understanding relationships between risk and uncertainty, society and digital technologies.

4. Digitizing Reproduction: new technologies, intersectionality and the politics of inclusion - Research Development Grand funded by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.  Co-Investigator (PI Nicola Mackintosh, CIs: Nicky Hudson; Tania Mcintosh; Jane Sandall and Nervo Verdezoto)

Past research projects

Parental anxieties about children's healthcare and media engagement in China (2014-15)
Funded by College of Social Sciences Development Fund, University of Leicester  
See related book and article

Consumer Culture in an Age of Anxiety' - Consumer perceptions of food safety in China (2009-2011) Funded by the European Research Council (REC) Principal Investigator Prof. Peter Jackson. See related article on parental practices, article on infant formula advertising and article on news geopolitical representation of global food crisis.

Political Communication in New Democracies: Government-Media Relationships in Transition (2007-2009) Funded by the British Academy, Principal Investigator Prof. Katrin Voltmer. See related article on Taiwan and article on South Korea.

Research grants and awards

2017:        Research Development Fund, the CSSAH and School of Media, Communication and Sociology £3,822
2016-18:   Wellcome Trust Society & Ethics Small Grant £4,980
2014-15:   Research Development Fund, the CSSAH and School of Media, Communication and Sociology £3,582
2010:        Travel scholarship awarded by Global Environmental Change and Food Systems £ 400 
2009:        Travel scholarship Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania £ 500 
2007-08:   Conference scholarships awarded by the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds £1,500 
2007:        Research fund awarded by Allan & Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust £4,000 
2007:        Research grant awarded by Great Britain-China Educational Trust £1,500 
2007:        Research grant awarded by The Universities' China Committee in London £1,545


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I welcome PhD proposals in the areas of health communication, media construction of risks, political journalism, citizen journalism and media and democracy in authoritarian (e.g. China) and new democratic countries in East Asia (e.g. Taiwan, South Korea). I also welcome research proposal on consumer culture and advertising.

Current PhD students:

  • Cui WeiCrisis Communication Strategies (CCSs) of the Chinese Government: A Study of the H7N9 Crisis.
  • Nuhsodah Wanapia, The Media and Policy Decision Making in Nigeria.
  • Gao Zhenghan, Citizen journalism and the crisis of doctor-patient relationship in China.
  • He Tianshi, Communicating Corporate Responsibility: A case study of a Chinese multinational enterprise (Huawei)

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Contact Details

School of Media, Communication and Sociology

Campus based courses
E: mcs-enquiries@le.ac.uk
T: +44(0)116 252 3863

Distance Learning Courses
E: css-dl@le.ac.uk
T: 0116 252 3755

Research degrees (campus-based and distance learning courses)
T: +44(0)116 252 2785
E: MCS-Research@le.ac.uk

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