Who wants to do a PhD? You do! Apply by Friday 5th July for a funded doctoral study at Edinburgh Napier University

Centre for Social Informatics bannerThe School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University is currently advertising three funded PhD places. Applications are due by Friday 5th July 2019, with the successful applicants embarking on their doctoral studies in academic year 2019/20. The funding includes fees (UK/EU rates) and a stipend (living allowance) at the standard UK rate (currently £15,009 per annum).

Applications are invited to any of the nine research groups in the School, including the Centre for Social Informatics. The application process is explained below. If you would like to complete a PhD in one of the following areas (or one that relates to them), we would love to hear from you:

  • Democratic digital engagement
  • e-Government
  • Information Policy
  • Information seeking behaviour and use
  • Knowledge Management
  • The Information Society
  • Online communities
  • Open data and open government

Undertaking a PhD within our group

Our PhD students are especially well-catered for within the Centre for Social Informatics. In short, we have a lively and supportive research environment within our group, in which the PhD students hold a key role as full members. The high quality of our research, and the excellent environment in which it is undertaken, were recognised in the results of the last UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014 (Unit of Assessment 36 ‘Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management‘).

Like all other PhD students in the School, those in the Centre for Social Informatics are supervised by at least two academic members of staff, and are also assigned a third who serves are their independent PhD panel chair. Many of our academic colleagues have been externally recognised with prizes for their teaching and research excellence, including a recent award for outstanding PhD supervision.

On arrival within the School, each new student is allocated a computer, desk space and storage in one of our PhD student offices. These offices were designed with input from the School’s PhD community, and are situated in the same corridor as supervision team members. Our PhD students also have access to ‘Core 44’, a multi-purpose room ‘owned’ by the School’s PhD student community, and used for both social gatherings and collaborative work. As might be expected within a School of Computing, our students are especially well catered for in terms of access to computer software, hardware and lab space, including the Sensorium.

It is our practice within the Centre for Social Informatics to hold weekly PhD supervision meetings in the first year of study. Thereafter students usually opt to meet with their supervisors on a fortnightly basis. Every six months there is also a formal meeting with the supervisors and panel chair. This is to check that the work is progressing well and to offer additional support, should it be required. As well as meetings that focus on the students’ own doctoral studies, all the PhD students in our group are invited to participate in the weekly Centre for Social Informatics research update meetings on Wednesday afternoons, and all other research-related meetings. These include presentations by visiting academics (such as our Visiting Professor Dr Brian Detlor), and conference paper dry-runs by other Centre for Social Informatics PhD students and staff who are preparing to present their work externally. Our six-monthly ‘All centre’ meetings in December and June each year provide an opportunity for us to celebrate our successes of the previous six months.

Many of us also socialise together during both during breaks on campus. For example, we often meet in Core 44 for lunch. Some of us also meet outside work, but I should emphasise that this is not mandatory!

In terms of research training, all students within the School of Computing have access to the full range of courses offered by the University. The series of events is underpinned by Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework structure to help our PhD students develop as rounded researchers. PhD students’ training needs are reviewed at the six-monthly panel meetings and then provision identified to ensure that a full and comprehensive training programme is provided over the course of the doctoral study.

The Centre for Social Informatics PhD students also benefit from the provision offered by the ESRC-funded Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, due to our membership of the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies and Information and Communication Studies pathway of the Doctoral Training Partnership, whether or not their fees and stipend are paid by the ESRC. This means that we also work to ESRC guidelines in the training provision for the Centre for Social Informatics PhD students within our School.

Given that our PhD students are often considering a career in academia, some of the training on offer relates to the development of teaching skills. Most of our PhD students also take up the opportunity to undertake paid teaching within the School. At the start of their studies this is typically as tutors who support the learning of undergraduate students in tutorial groups. Towards the end, they deliver specialist lectures on their research, and some may also be engaged as full members of module teams. (For further information about the career opportunities that open up thanks to doctoral study within our group, please see my recent blog post ‘From PhD to the workplace: job destinations of doctoral students‘.)

We also offer funding for our students to travel to international conferences to present their work, and attend associated doctoral colloquia. In the past couple of years, for example, with the support of their supervisor co-authors, Centre for Social Informatics PhD students have contributed papers to:

  • Association for Information Science and Technology Annual Meeting (ASIST) (Vancouver, Canada in 2018, and Washington DC, US in 2017 )
  • Concepts of Library and Information Science (CoLIS) (Ljubjana, Slovenia in 2019, and Uppsala, Sweden in 2017)
  • European Conference on Knowledge Management  (ECKM) (Barcelona, Spain in 2017)
  • Information Seeking in Context (ISIC) (Kraków, Poland in 2018)
  • Information: interactions and impact (i3) (Aberdeen, UK in 2017)
  • International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries (Oxford, UK in 2017)

Much of the work initially presented by our Centre for Social Informatics PhD students at conferences is developed further and published as full papers in highly-rated international peer-reviewed journals. For example, seven papers that we presented at Information: interactions and impact (i3) in 2017 were subsequently written up and accepted as full journal articles for publication in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science in 2018.

For further information about the experience of studying for a PhD within the Centre for Social Informatics, you may also like to take a look at the blogs of Frances Ryan, who will be graduating on 4th July 2019, and Lyndsey Middleton (née Jenkins), who will be submitting her thesis later this year. There are also profiles of current PhD students within our research group, and the research that they are undertaking, in our pdf flyer. This also provides an overview of academic staff research interests and expertise in our group.

Criteria for selection

The minimum qualification requirement to register for a PhD at Edinburgh Napier University is a good undergraduate degree (1st class, or 2.1) in a relevant subject area. Students who do not have English as their first language must also have an IELTS score of at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components).

It should be noted that the majority of PhD students within the Centre for Social Informatics come to us having already completed both an undergraduate and a Masters degree. Since Social Informatics is an interdisciplinary area, our PhD students arrive with qualifications in a variety of subjects, mainly in the social sciences, as illustrated in the profiles below:

  • BA Business and Management, MSc Information and Library Studies
  • National Diploma in Clothing Design, MSc E-Business
  • BA Communication Science, MSc Data Visualisation and Infographics
  • BA Contemporary Popular Music, Postgraduate Diploma Career Guidance and Development
  • BSc Energy Engineering, Masters in Business Administration, MSc Software Engineering
  • MA Fine Art, MSc Interactive Media
  • BA Information Management (undergraduate degree only, complemented with extensive track record in senior public sector roles)
  • BA Information Science, MA in Information Science
  • BA Interactive Media Studies (undergraduate degree only, complemented with extensive industry experience)
  • BA Library and Information Science, MA Music, MA Education
  • BSc Psychology, MSc Developmental Psychology
  • BSc Psychology, MSc Human Resource Management
  • BSc Psychology, MSc Library and Information Science
  • BA Public Relations, Communications and Historical Tourism, Master of Letters Media and Culture

From this round of applications we are keen to recruit students who:

  • have a genuine interest in the research field
  • are able to grasp and synthesise information from the literature, and write clearly about it
  • think independently in generating ideas and suggestions about the research that they might undertake for a PhD –  we don’t necessarily expect ideas to be fully-formed, or even ‘correct’ at the application stage
  • think flexibly, listen, take on board new information, and adjust their thinking as appropriate to the work in progress

The application process

There is a three-stage application process for the three PhD places. All applicants will complete Stage 1. A selection will then be asked to progress to Stage 2. Those successful at Stage 2 will then complete the full application documentation required for admission to Edinburgh Napier University as a PhD student at Stage 3. (This is also explained in the full advertisement on jobs.ac.uk.)

To apply at Stage 1, please first send a copy of your CV and a 2-3 page research proposal to Alison McIlveen a.mcilveen@napier.ac.uk by Friday 5th July. The research proposal should include:

  • A tentative title for your doctoral research project
  • The name of the research group to which you are applying – in this case the Centre for Social Informatics
  • The context for your research idea – please write a couple of paragraphs that explain the context for your proposed study, and the reasons that you consider it worthwhile to research this topic
  • Background for your research idea – in around one page, please summarise some of the previous research that has been conducted in the area of relevance to your project idea. In this section you should make reference to peer-reviewed academic papers and journal articles.
  • Potential avenues for research – in up to half a page, please outline the important research questions that your research project may address
  • Approach – in up to half a page, please outline the stages that you anticipate that you would take to address the research questions that you have identified (i.e. how your project might be implemented), and the means you could deploy to evaluate the outcomes of your research project

In Stage 2, a selection of applicants will be invited to come and meet us. They will discuss their proposals further with potential supervisors and others for about one hour. The proposals submitted in Stage 1 will be used as a basis for the discussions.

Following the Stage 2 discussions, a number of applicants people will the be invited to complete the formal paperwork for an Edinburgh Napier studentship (Stage 3).

We look forward to receiving your application!

Alicja Pawluczuk, Lyndsey Middleton, Dr John Mowbray, Lynn Killick, and Frances Ryan

Some current and recently graduated PhD students from the Centre for Social Informatics: Alicja Pawluczuk, Lyndsey Middleton, Dr John Mowbray, Lynn Killick, and Frances Ryan


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