Department of Psychology

Three year PhD studentship: Using big data to inform policy development and public engagement

Fri Dec 19 10:42:00 GMT 2014

Applications are invited for a full-time University studentship to support and work in the Department of Psychology, alongside the Connecting Data across Public Services research team within the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research.


In the light of extensive spending cuts and the requirement to work more smartly, policy officials are increasingly considering the way in which ‘big’ data might be used to develop evidence-informed policy and policy innovation.

These data - both qualitative and quantitative – can encompass information collected about the service use profiles of local residents through to user generated content in social media.

Although there is an active and high level government drive behind the data sharing and use agendas, and no shortage of technological expertise and capacity, there are considerable challenges in using such data to inform policy making and practice, not the least of which is how to ensure the involvement of citizens in the policy process.

Piecemeal initiatives seeking active public engagement have become more formally instantiated within the open policy making agenda – however this has not as yet been considered in relation to how the public might shape the way big data is used to inform the design of local services.

This is the focus of the proposed PhD, which will explore these issues in the vital domain of health and community services.

The student will conduct their research under the supervision of Professor Julie Barnett and Dr Hannah Durrant.

The project

The appointed candidate will work with both Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) Council and NHS BANES Clinical Commissiong Group around real world policy challenges. A multi-methods approach is likely to be appropriate.

A particular focus of the PhD studentship will be identifying and exploring the preferences and attitudes of the public for engagement in service reform and the ways in which this may be informed by data science in policy/service analysis. This will include empirical work exploring the value of ‘policy hacks’ and other novel interactive activities in engaging publics in local governance, and in shaping the services of a local area.

Funding requirements

The successful candidate should:

  1. hold a First or 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology, social sciences or management, from a recognised university
  2. usually have, or expect to obtain, a relevant Masters degree (those with relevant research training/experience will also be considered)
  3. have at least a strong understanding of the current challenges facing local government in England
  4. have experience of both qualitative and quantitative research strategies and methods.

English Language requirements

Certificates must be dated to within two years of the start of the PhD.

  • IELTS 7 (with no less than 6.5 in each component)
  • PTE Academic of 69 with no less than 62 in any component

The award

The successful candidate will be supported for three years, and will include:

  • a £13,863 per-annum stipend based on 2014/5 rate
  • up to the full tuition fee (UK/EU or overseas rate)
  • an annual Training Support Grant.

When applying for this award you will be put forward for either a URSA Graduate School or ESRC SWDTC Discipline-specific pathways studentship (you will be covered under the relevant terms and conditions).

If you are not awarded the full tuition fees then you will need to fund the difference and evidence this after your application.

View details of other funding awards.


How to apply

Applicants should read the how to apply instructions and apply online to study for a full time MPhil and PhD in the Department of Psychology. It is important to quote the project title (Using big data to inform policy development and public engagement) on your application.

As this studentship is to work on a specific project, there is no need to write this formal proposal in this case.

The application will also ask you to complete a funding request form. Use this to explain your experience and reasons for applying for this studentship.

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 12.00 noon (GMT), Thursday, 12 February 2015.


Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Professor Julie Barnett
email: | Tel: 01225 38 3167