David Townend

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Data Protection and Privacy in Big Data Research;
Confidentiality and Privacy;
Property and Privacy;
Autonomy and Solidarity in Health and Life Science Governance;
Legal Theory, Cultural Studies, and Manners.


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr David Townend is Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy in Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Maastricht University, NL. In Maastricht, he leads the Health Law group which takes a socio-legal approach to issues in health and life science governance; the work brings together doctrinal legal study, theoretical work in ethics and legal philosophy, and practical, qualitative study of the operation of the law and legal concepts in society. He and the group are situated in the multi-disciplinary department of Health, Ethics and Society; in the Care and Public Health Research Institute (CAPHRI) in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences; and in the University's Institute of Data Sciences (IDS).

Before joining Maastricht in 2008, Townend was a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in the Law School at the University of Sheffield, UK. There he was Sub-Dean (Postgraduate Studies) and Deputy Director of the Sheffield Institute for Biotechnological Law and Ethics (SIBLE).

Townend gained his LL.B. (1988) and M.Phil. (1995) from the University of Sheffield, and his Ph.D. (2012) from Maastricht University. His Ph.D., awarded "cum laude" defended the thesis, "The Politeness of Data Protection: Exploring a Legal Instrument to Regulate Medical Research Using Genetic Information and Biobanking".

Townend's theoretical (jurisprudence) work is in questions around the authority of law in modern cultures, and the balance between autonomy and solidarity in society and governance. His work uses ethical rationalism of Kant and Gewirth, and discourse ethics theories (particularly working on Shaftesbury's theory of politeness from the late 17th and early 18th centuries). Particular current work concerns the creation and usefulness of the concepts of property and the public interest. The practical issues in which he currently focuses this theoretical work are in international, European, and national contexts of information and personal data governance (particularly in international health and life science research), and in the operation and legal arrangements of research ethics committees (RECs or IRBs). Part of his work involves effective public engagement as the basis of creating effective governance structures.

External positions

Visiting Professor in Health Law, University of Lincoln, UK

1 Jul 2014 → …


  • K Law (General)
  • Legal Theory
  • Socio-legal Studies
  • Health Law
  • Data Protection
  • Property
  • Privacy and Confidentiality
  • Public Interest
  • BJ Ethics
  • Politeness
  • Ethical Rationalism
  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Manners