Prof O'Brien talking to colleagues at an Art Gallery

Dave O'Brien


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Personal profile


Dave O'Brien is a globally recognised expert on the cultural and creative industries. Since completing his PhD on urban cultural policy in the Department of Sociology at the University of Liverpool, he has written extensively on key issues in the cultural and creative economy. These include the use of culture in urban regeneration, how policymakers use evidence, the stratification of cultural consumption, and inequalities in cultural work. His recent book, Culture is bad for you, co-authored with Orian Brook and Mark Taylor, was widely praised, and he is currently working on both a second edition and a follow up research project.  

His policy work includes the ground-breaking Measuring the value of culture report, and he was a co-author on the Panic! report, as well as the Creative Majority report. He has twice been an advisor to the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiries, and has recently worked with the House of Lords’ Communications and Digital Committee on their At Risk: Our creative future report.

As well as extensive work on the cultural and creative sector, he has also published high profile papers on class identity and social mobility.

He is part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, and his current funded projects include work on education, skills, and diversity in the creative workforce; culture and heritage capital; class inequalities in the television industry; and how museums can better use data to understand staff and audiences.

Current research themes include a focus on inequalities in creative higher education; downward social mobility; new forms of distinction in cultural consumption; and the meaning of ‘good’ work in the cultural sector.

He is the co-editor of the Palgrave Sociology of the Arts book series, an Associate Editor of the Journal of Cultural Economy, and the host of the New Books Network’s New Books in Critical Theory channel.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Areas of expertise

  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • HM Sociology
  • HT Communities. Classes. Races
  • JN101 Great Britain
  • NX Arts in general
  • AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)


  • Creative Industries
  • Culture
  • Sociology of Culture
  • Cultural Policy


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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