Research Project

Essex Autonomy Project

Principal Investigator
Professor Wayne Martin
The Essex Autonomy Project is a research and knowledge-exchange initiative funded by the Wellcome Trust, (January 2017 - January 2022).

The Essex Autonomy Project was initially funded in 2010 with two major grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council; it has subsequently received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, Wellcome Trust and the British Academy.

Our research project is based in the School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex and is a collaborative, interdisciplinary research initiative. Our research aims to clarify the ideal of self-determination in history, theory and practice, both for its own sake and to guide public policy makers and frontline professionals in dealing with the complex issues surrounding mental competence, and the capacity of vulnerable individuals to make decisions for themselves.

Its work includes research on topics such as decision-making capacity after brain injury, the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in care practice and ideals of objectivity in risk assessments. 

Our team works collaboratively with academic researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, legislators and judges across the UK and around the world, and provides consultancy and training services for health and social care practitioners. Our team has worked with local authorities, NHS trusts and third-sector groups across the UK.

In addition to spending much of the year in active research, our members also teach undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Essex. We also host an annual summer school and run ad hoc workshops and seminars throughout the year.

Learn more about how our research team and partners are supporting policymakers and practitioners in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also explore our current research.


Project website

Our news

July 2022

  • Our members have provided vital evidence to a report by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights which warns that gaps remain in how vulnerable people are protected in care settings, leaving their human rights at risk of being breached. Read the article for more information. 
Colchester Campus
Essex Explores: The Ethics of Triage: Philosophy in the Time of COVID-19

Watch Professor Wayne Martin's lecture on 'The Ethics of Triage: Philosophy in the Time of COVID-19'. Professor Wayne Martin is the Director of the Essex Autonomy Project and Professor in the School of Philosophy and Art History.

Watch the lecture
An elderly woman with grey hair and wearing a blue jumper bows her head
Protecting rights in mental health and social care

Explore the impact the Essex Autonomy Project has had on shaping law reform, policy development, and professional practice in the UK and around the world, from delivering specially-designed research-informed training and informing Ministry of Justice and Law Commission positions on the Mental Capacity Act, to influencing the Scottish independent review of Scottish mental health and mental health capacity legislation and providing evidence to the Committee of the National Assembly.

Read more
Arrow symbol
Get in touch
Dr Emily Fitton Project Manager