After studying statistics at UCL, Alison worked as a statistician in agricultural research, transport surveys and on the health effects of air pollution. She then went to London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1975 to work on analyses of data relevant to the health of babies and children. In 1978, she joined the newly formed National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit in Oxford and worked there until 2001 on research related to maternity care and the health of women and babies.
She has particular interests in the evaluation of settings for birth, inequalities in health and children from multiple births and their families. As a statistician, she is interested in the interpretation and use of official statistics and in their relationship with policy, in relation to health and health care in their widest sense as well as to maternity issues in particular.