ESRC Co-funded/Collaborative Research Studentships: 2019 entry

Nine Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) 1+3/+3/+4 studentships are available at one of the largest DTPs in the UK for projects involving non-academic partners.

1.Complementary therapies in palliative care: building the evidence to inform an outcome measure appropriate to practice

Complementary therapies are popular and accepted adjuncts to conventional medical treatments. In palliative care settings, complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, reflexology and massage are often provided as part of a holistic package. Despite their popularity there is limited evidence on their effectiveness. Without knowledge of any clear evidence from robustly designed studies on their effect and with increasing funding pressures, the place of complementary therapies is in question in this setting.

Preliminary work involving a multi-level evidence synthesis found that what was measured in trials of complementary therapies often did not capture what palliative care patients’ value. This doctoral studentship will take this work forward by conducting in-depth theoretical work, alongside co-design workshops, to understand the nature of complementary therapy practice in a palliative care setting such as a hospice. Thereby it aims to provide an evidence base for the development of a more appropriate outcome measure and in doing so the doctoral research will provide evidence to inform the design of future trials of complementary therapies in palliative care.

See  for further details and direct enquiries to at the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department. The studentship is available on a three-year full-time basis but candidates seeking part time study will also be considered. Closing date: 20th February 2018.

2. The development of personalised molecular therapeutics: A comparative ethnographic perspective on the use of genetic testing in ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer clinics 

This doctoral training partnership project is co-funded by the UBEL DTP and UCLH Charity. It is collaboration between Institute for Women’s Health, Anthropology (home discipline), UCLH and UCL Cancer Institute. Due to start in October 2019 the proposed ethnographic study  will examine the socio-cultural impact of genetic testing technologies within the broader context of personalised cancer therapeutics. It will understand and theorise the sociocultural context and meaning of using genetics in cancer treatment for patients and health professionals providing an empirical window on the NHS aim of delivering ‘truly personalised care’ across its cancer pathways. It will examine the impact of genetic testing on the experiences of patients with different cancers with potential to contribute to and inform the development and delivery of personalised therapeutics. By taking a multi-sited, comparative and ground up approach to examining the socio-technical context of genetic testing in cancer therapeutics, the project will outline the diverse meanings attached to genetic knowledge across different arenas of cancer care.

The project will be co-supervised by Sahra Gibbon (Anthropology) and Anne Lanceley (Institute for Women’s Health). Please consult for more information about the host department and direct any further enquiries to The intention is that the studentship will be allocated on a +3 full time basis. We will also consider candidates seeking part time study or full or part time secondment. Closing date: February 20th 2019

We invite interested applicants to  send full CV and cover letter outlining their interest in and suitability for the doctoral studentship. Please send this to

3.What is special about being watched? Finding the neural and physiological signatures of nonverbal interaction

This project uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy to study the fundamental mechanisms of human non-verbal communication in a real-world context. In a series of studies, you will examine how the behaviour, brain activity and physiology (heart rate / breathing) of adults changes when they perform challenging tasks with or without being watched by another person. You will analyse these data and develop methods to integrate the data recorded from different systems (fNIRS / physiology / behaviour) in an appropriate fashion. The results of these studies will reveal the neural mechanisms of the ‘audience effect’ and help us understand some of the fundamental processes of human social interaction. The PhD is based at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, which is one of the world’s leading institutions for the study of human cognitive function and has a vibrant and international research community. The project is part of a collaboration with Shimadzu Europe. The student will be expected to spend 9 months over the next 3 years working at the Shimadzu Innovation Centre in Duisburg, Germany.

To apply, please prepare the following information:

A cover letter stating your research interests and your motivation for applying for the studentship.

A detailed curriculum vitae, with information on courses, grades and specific skills relevant to this position.

contact details for 2 referees.

Please put all this information in a single .pdf file named with your surname (e.g. Smith.pdf) and email it to Antonia Hamilton ( by the deadline; 1st March 2019.

4.  Farmer’s decision making process: lessons learnt from rural farming communities in Ethiopia & Kenya.

Applications are invited for a +3 studentship to be held at the UBEL DTP in September 2019. This studentship is offered in collaboration with the Pesticide Action Network UKand the UBEL DTP. The Structure ‘+3’ study will involve the MPhil/PhD in Development Economics at SOAS.

Summary of the Project

This project examines the role of smallholder farmers in forming the future of African farming by analysing their decision making processes using a wide range of disciplinary approaches. By exploring the reasons behind the uptake of agricultural innovation and assessing the impacts of these, the project contributes to advancing our understanding of knowledge transfer  and implementation in general, and providing useful information to further facilitate the ongoing debate on organic farming in particular. Click on title link for details on how to apply.

The studentship offers a wide range of truly interdisciplinary research experience in environmental and development economics, anthropology, and agriculture and ecology, as well as practical field experience in Ethiopia and Kenya, facilitated by Pesticide Action Network UK and PAN Ethiopia. The PhD is jointly supervised by Dr Risa Morimoto (SOAS) and Dr Matt Davies (IGP/UCL).

5.‘Understanding young people’s aspirations to teach’ (with the Royal Society of Chemistry)

The current and projected teacher shortage in England remains an issue of considerable concern. The need for teachers is most acute at secondary level. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects have been identified as having some of the most chronic teacher shortages. This studentship will make a valuable and distinctive contribution to advancing knowledge of how young people (aged 10-23) form their aspirations and ideas about teaching, particularly science teaching. Using mixed methods (surveys and interviews), the student will conduct both new empirical research and secondary analysis using the ASPIRES/ ASPIRES2 studies, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and led by Professor Louise Archer. The Royal Society of Chemistry is the biggest non-governmental investor in chemistry education in the UK and has a particular interest in understanding the current specialist STEM teacher shortage. Applications are particularly welcomed from candidates with experience and interest in teaching and STEM education research and a Masters degree in Education, Sociology or another relevant social science discipline. Consult: for further details on the ASPIRES/ASPIRES2 research study and direct enquiries to at UCL Institute of Education. The intention is that the studentship will be allocated on a +3 full time basis. Applicants should send their full CV and cover letter outlining their interest in and suitability for the doctoral studentship to Closing date: Wednesday 20th February.

6. Where orchids and dandelions grow: investigating differential susceptibility to environmental influences during early learning 

Childhood is changing: three hundred years ago only 5% of the world’s children grew up in cities, compared to 50% today. This has led to radical changes in the types of environment in which much early learning takes place. Yet, surprisingly little research has investigated how, exactly, environmental settings might influence young children’ attention, physiological stress and mental health outcomes in educational contexts. This PhD will investigate two questions. First, using  miniaturised cameras, microphones and wearable physiological stress monitors, we shall record, for the first time, children’s small-scale fluctuations in physiological stress and attention, learning and social behaviours in indoor and outdoor settings. Using advanced quantitative analyses derived from Granger causality and non-linear time series modelling we shall assess how small-scale fluctuations in children’s physiological stress differ between indoor and outdoor settings, and assess how these fluctuations influence children’s cognitions and emotions. Second, we shall assess whether the educational environment influences physiological stress, attention and learning in some children more than others. The project will be supervised by Dr Sam Wass ( at the University of East London, Dr Jennifer Allen at the Institute of Education ( and Jan Dubiel at Early Excellence ( For more details contact intention is that the studentship will be allocated on a +3 full time basis or part-time equivalent. Closing date: ASAP.

7. Hybrid geodemographics and creation of the 2021 Output Area Classification
Industry Partner: Office for National Statistics
First Supervisor: Professor Paul Longley Second Supervisor: Dr James Cheshire
Industry Supervisor: Dr Chris Gale
Geodemographics are small area indicators of neighbourhood conditions, conventionally used to depict the variegated residential geographies of towns and cities. Although the approach has its roots in the primary data collection of urban sociologists Park and Burgess in 1920s Chicago, procedures of ascribing neighbourhoods to social, economic and demographic types relied upon secondary data from population censuses until the 1980s. With the advent of applications in commerce and public service delivery, data have been supplemented and partially replaced by commercial and open sources that offered greater frequency of update and depth (particularly in ascertaining income and spending preferences). Over the last ten years, improved access to censuses and the innovation of the Open Data movement has led to the addition of open geodemographic classifications that present greater transparency of data and methods. A final innovation has been the reconfiguration and re-use of census data to provide small area classification of activities other than night-time residence, specifically workplaces or their extension to explore varying temporal geographies.
In the first work strand, the methodologies used to develop the 2011 and 2001 Output Area Classifications (OACs) from conventional Census data will be evaluated, and neighbourhood change statistics will be compared and contrasted for different parts of the UK’s urban and regional system. In the second work strand, the student will develop methods for regularly (e.g. annually) updating Output Area Classifications. A third strand of the research will use consumer data to characterise the overall activity patterns associated with neighbourhoods, and their interrelatedness with workplace zone geographies. This will be a high impact project. The 2001 and 2011 OAC products have been made available through the ONS website and have attracted a wide user base from within the local authority, business and industry sectors. In addition, the classification arising from this research will be mapped using the very popular and highly interactive website and ONS will consider rejuvenating the OAC 2011 User group which attracted membership from local authorities and government across the UK. Additionally, we anticipate that the activity indicators will be of interest to the businesses that supply data to ONS under the terms of the 2017 Digital Economies Act or through associated voluntary activities. The agenda that is proposed here also has clear relevance to retailers and businesses with interests in store location planning and the provision of facilities to improve customer experience of multi-channel retailing. Please apply to Dr Tank Green ( by 28th February 2019
2019. Please send:
• Max 500 word covering email summarising your interest in pursuing a particular cofunded PhD studentship with the CDRC.
• Academic CV including marks awarded to date plus details of 2 referees

8. Capturing the vibrancy of the British retail landscape through new forms of data
Industry Partner: Local Data Company
First Supervisor: Dr James Cheshire Second Supervisor: Professor Paul Longley
Industry Supervisor: Barnaby Oswald
It is clear that consumer behaviour in the UK is changing with dramatic and profound consequences for the economy and for society. For example, in recent months Marks & Spencer has announced store closures, Homebase is to close 42 outlets and cut many head office jobs, and House of Fraser has been purchased by Sports Direct. These developments are symptomatic of major structural changes in the service and leisure sectors; in 2018 alone, there have been over 30,000 job losses in retailing and a negative £1.5bn hit on GDP. It is therefore becoming critical that all stakeholders in business and service planning better understand changes in the nature of consumer behaviour with respect to a full range of goods and services. It is also crucial that academic researchers seek to understand these changes through partnering with business to benefit from access to new forms of data that may reveal the changing consumer landscape in real time. By working with the Local Data Company, this co-funded PhD builds on an existing and very fruitful relationship to draw together a range of data to create innovative indicators of the composition and vibrancy of retail areas (high streets and town centres) in Britain. The primary aim of this co-funded PhD, therefore, is to improve our understanding of the spatiotemporal dynamics of high-street retailing in Great Britain. Unlike online retailing, this involves quantification and measurement of human activity to capture both demographics and also flows. These are already the subject of active research, but very little has been done to realise the potential of new forms of data in the context of retailing. This project will demonstrate the potential for monitoring the success and vibrancy of retail areas, thus providing immense value to occupiers,
landlords, local authorities, investors and consumers within the retail industry.
Research Questions
1. How can new sources of data be used to assess the vibrancy of British retail areas?
2. How do such sources impact on existing methodological approaches to retail decision
3. What are the key barriers to implementing data driven decision making in GB retail?
1. A comprehensive retail vibrancy index that can be mapped and updated quarterly.
2. An appraisal of the role of new forms of data in the monitoring of the retail landscape.
3. A basis for forecasting changes in British retailing and recommendations for making retail areas more vibrant and sustainable.
This is likely to be a high impact project since the research will investigate the factors affecting the vibrancy of retail areas in Britain. This is highly topical and hugely important. The research will benefit from the most comprehensive datasets available to academic research and will therefore produce significant insights that will be of interest to academics as well as retail practitioners.

Please apply to Dr Tank Green ( by 28th February 2019
2019. Please send:
• Max 500 word covering email summarising your interest in pursuing a particular cofunded PhD studentship with the CDRC.
• Academic CV including marks awarded to date plus details of 2 referees

9. Using Online Word Games to Study Language Comprehension Skills across the Lifespan (with Cauldron Science Ltd)

The ability to understand spoken and written language is a core human ability that provides the foundation for social, educational and professional aspects of society. This project focuses on a key aspect of language comprehension: the ability to rapidly and accurately access the meanings of words within sentences. Decoding the meanings of words is made more difficult by the presence of ‘lexical ambiguity’: words whose spoken (or written) form can refer to more than one concept. For example when decoding the sentence “What an enormous trunk!” the listener must work out whether the speaker was referring to an elephant’s nose, a large suitcase, a car’s boot, or the main stem of a tree. The aim of the project is to establish the specific cognitive factors that contribute to individual differences in word-meaning access across the lifespan. This will be done using online, fun language games that will be developed for both children and adults in collaboration with Cauldron Science Ltd. Cauldron Science ( is a private sector company that creates bespoke software (websites, apps and games) for experimental behavioural scientists.  Their remit is to support scientific experimentation through providing easy to use and easy to customise software that works on a wide range of platforms (computer, tablet, mobile) and operating systems

Consult for further details and direct enquiries to Dr Jenni Rodd ( at). The intention is that the studentship will be allocated on a +3 full time basis, although applications for a full time 1+3 programme will also be considered, as will candidates seeking part time study or a full/part time secondment. Closing date: 28th February 2019.