3-year funded PhD studentship in behavioural and data science

Updated: about 14 hours ago
Location: Nottingham, SCOTLAND
Deadline: 20 Aug 2022

Closing Date
Saturday, 20th August 2022

Project Title: UK’s Infectious Disease Geospatial Project: Mapping incidences to understand and predict behaviour. 

Contacts: We are currently recruiting a PhD candidate to join the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Brian O’Shea (Psychology, 50%), Dr James Goulding (Computer Science, 40%) & Dr Alexa Spence (Psychology, 10%).

Description: We have recently developed a new database of infectious disease incidences (ICI) across US counties (N=3,142) to enable us to determine the impact that infectious diseases have on social and political behaviour at a higher resolution than previously available. The candidate will build IDI and infectious disease mortality (IDM) databases across counties and districts within the UK to enable comparisons to the US. Crucially, these new databases will have a host of benefits for public health, epidemiology, and social physics/geography psychology, especially with understanding how regional level infectious diseases impact racial bias (O’Shea et al., 2020) and political beliefs (O’Shea et al., 2022). 

Multilevel modelling, time-series analysis, geospatial mapping and machine learning can be used to answer complex questions regarding the relationships between infectious disease and behaviour. For example, more theory is needed to understand why conservatives, who are consistently more germ averse, were less fearful of COVID-19 than liberals. This studentship will allow the replication and expansion of findings outside of the US context and with high precision. The candidate will have access to the necessary datasets from Project Implicit (UK), which has continuously been gathering data from online volunteers since 2006. Seven tasks are available (Gender-Science, Race, Skin-Tone Weight, Age, Sexuality and Nationalism IATs) with ~400,000 completed sessions. This unique and rich dataset has the potential to unlock crucial knowledge for society, especially in developing strategies to ameliorate prejudice towards marginalised groups. 

Key Readings:

O’Shea, B. A., Vitriol, J. A., Federico, C. M., Appleby, J., & Williams, A. L. (2022). Exposure and Aversion to Human Transmissible Diseases Predict Conservative Ideological and Partisan Preferences. Political Psychology, 43(1), 65–88. 

O’Shea, B. A., Watson, D. G., Brown, G. D. A., & Fincher, C. L. (2020). Infectious Disease Prevalence, Not Race Exposure, Predicts Both Implicit and Explicit Racial Prejudice Across the United States. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 11(3), 345–355. 

Location and funding: The successful candidate will be based in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, and they will be affiliated with N-Lab (https://www.nlab.org.uk/ ) at the Business School. The studentship is funded by the Faculty of Science and will provide a stipend to cover living costs and will cover Home University fees (Stipend £ 15,875pa, Home fee estimated £4,587pa; 36 months). International students are welcome to apply, but the studentship will not cover international fees. International students are welcome to apply, but we would recommend you send your C.V. to Dr O'Shea to discuss sources of funding to make up the difference in the home versus international fees.  

Deadline: 20th of August 2022. Zoom interviews will be in early September. 

Starting date: October 2022 or January 2023.   


  • Candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree (minimum 2:1 or equivalent) and a Master’s degree in Behavioural Science, Data Science, Data Analytics, Economics, Political Science or a related field.
  • Essential: the ideal candidate should be highly motivated with strong written and verbal communication skills. They should have advanced data management, wrangling and analytics skills using R or Python.
  • Desirable: the candidate should have the ability to understand how large-scale macro-level factors (e.g., diseases, poverty, temperature, population density) impact individuals’ behaviours and decisions.

Informal enquiries can be directed to Dr Brian O’Shea (brian.oshea@nottingham.ac.uk)  

How to apply:

All applications are to be made directly to the University, selecting PhD Psychology (36 months duration) as the course. Please apply at:

https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/pgstudy/how-to-apply/apply-online.aspx .  

In the research proposal section please include “Brian O’Shea advertised PhD position” in the title. No research proposal is required. You are required to upload the following documents to your application:

  • A maximum of a 2-page C.V. 
  • Degree certificate and transcript (if already graduated) or a recent transcript.
  • 600 words personal statement (maximum but excludes references) about why the candidate is interested in doing this PhD, how the ideas outlined in the advert align with the candidate’s interests and if any previous experience is relevant to this studentship.
  • Either two references (in a non-editable format, on headed paper and signed by the referee) or the details of two referees that we can contact). One of the references must be academic.

If you have any questions about the application process through MyNottingham, please contact sciencessupport@nottingham.ac.uk for further advice.

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