Robert Skinner


  • EH14 4AS

    United Kingdom


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Robert Skinner is currently involved with a number of Heriot-Watt University research projects.  

The Insign project, funded by the DG for Justice at the European Commission, looks at establishing a pan-European multi spoken/signed language video-interpreting and remote captioning service. The purpose of the platform is to enable Deaf and Hard of Hearing European Citizens to access the European Commission, European Union, European Parliament, European Courts of Human Rights and other European Institutions. Testing of this platform is now complete. The research till now has concentrated on producing a large scale literature review of the field, surveying user experiences when accessing the Insign platform, Insign interpreter’s experience, Insign captioner’s experience, and analysing actual interpreted/captioned calls. The academic research teams at LINCS (Principal Investigator Prof Jemina Napier and Co-Investigator Prof Graham Turner) are now working on a series of publications, which aim to inform Best Practice Guidelines and Standards for interpreting via video or remote captioning.


The Justisigns project, funded by the European Commission's Leonardo da Vinci Lifelong Learning Programme, is a pan-European project investigating the provision of interpreting services within legal settings. The research aims to interview the various stakeholders involved in situations where a sign language interpreters is requested to access the legal system. The final products/resources from the Justisigns project made available online to legal professionals, the Deaf community and interpreter practitioners. The products will range from simple guidelines to vocational educational training (VET) and continuous professional development (CPD) training materials

Translating the Deaf Self project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, investigates how the daily experience of being interpreted or translated has on the development of a Deaf person’s identity. Being interpreted is usually confined to occasional, social, business or official situations, its usually episodic and purposeful. The translated self is not a permanent condition.  However, for Deaf British Sign Language users, this is not the case. Deaf people experience others' perceptions of who they are through sign language interpreter mediation on an everyday basis. Others' experience of Deaf people, largely formed indirectly through the use of interpreters, is rarely understood as intercultural, but typically through the lens of disability. To date analyses of translation and identity have focused on the identity of the translator, but not on the user, and particularly not on the user who is in a permanent state of being translated. The results of the study will inform theories on translation, identity and well being, and will trial a new methodology for conducting research with visual languages.

Robert’s previous research interest includes language processing, or more specifically the effects of iconicity (imagistic properties of a sign) in sign language processing.


Other research interest include: interpreting for television broadcast; live television interpreting coping strategies; developing and producing a live interpretation from a source where the content partially to fully prepared and rehearsed; understanding television content. 



Robert Skinner is an experienced British Sign Language (BSL) and English interpreter practitioner with more than 15 years of experience. Robert’s area of specialism as an interpreter includes: television (BBC news), video remote interpreting, psychology, language processing, applied linguistics, mental health, community and international development.


Robert graduated from the BSL/English interpreting degree programme at the University of Wolverhampton with 1st class hons in 2000. He then went on to complete a Post-Graduate diploma in BSL/English interpreting at SLI (awarding body University of Central Lancashire).


Robert has been involved in a number of international development projects working with sign language interpreters in Albania, Kosovo, Malawi and Nepal. In Albania Robert worked as a Foreign Adviser for the Finish Association of the Deaf (FAD) on a joint partnership project with the Albanian National Association of the Deaf (ANAD) to establish a national television news interpreting service and DVD Albanian Sign Language learning resources.


In 2007 Robert began to develop his research experience at Birkbeck College after completing an MA in Applied Linguistics. For his thesis Robert conducted a typological study of BSL number variation in the UK. His research documented four distinct BSL number systems and several sub-categories. This research led Robert on to working as a Researcher & in-house interpreter for DCAL, UCL. During his time at DCAL Robert worked closely with Gabriella Vigliocco’s lab on a series of sign language processing studies investigating the effects of iconicity (the imagistic properties of sign). As an interpreter Robert worked alongside deaf academics in in neurology (Deaf Brain project), language development (BSL McArthur Bates CDI), sign linguistics and the BSL Corpus project. In 2009, whilst at DCAL, Robert completed an MSc Research Methods in Experimental Psychology. For his thesis Robert developed a phonological decision paradigm where participants were required to recognise if a signed moved up or down. The study found a facilitation effect when the up/down movement itself was iconic. The research contributes to the embodied theory of language processing.


Robert is one of Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) Board of Director’s and founder of the Guinness Book of records event Hot Finger, the faster fingerspeller of the BSL alphabet.

Roles & Responsibilities

Research Associate on the INSIGN and JUSTISIGNS projects

Research Group Contact Details

Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies Scotland

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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