PhD studentship: Big Data, Health and Development

by Beckie Marsland

PhD Multidisciplinary Studentship – Big Data, Health and Development

We are looking for an outstanding candidate to examine the role new forms of data are playing in shaping global health and development agendas.

As part of a new initiative by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) we are offering a final studentship, to begin September 2013, to examine the role that a newfound emphasis on data is playing in terms of shaping global health and development priorities, policy and practice – with a particular emphasis on Neglected Zoonotic Diseases (NZDs) in Africa.

There is a discernible shift in terms of how we think about aid and its impacts. Debate is growing around the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals, aid effectiveness and how we measure impact. Influential actors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are emphasising the need for proper data and quantifiable development targets. New approaches, often derived from public health, such as Randomised Controlled Trials and systematic reviews are increasingly seen as the gold standard for policymakers.

Nevertheless, this turn towards ‘Big Data’ in health and development is open to critique, about ignoring context, prompting approaches that can be quantified and putting power in the hands of fewer and fewer actors. This studentship will set out to explore the implications of and experiment with some of these emerging approaches (as well as adopting others such as social network analysis) – with particular reference to NZDs in Africa – and will contribute to an exciting cluster of research around health and development policy, based in the Centre of African Studies.

This studentship is fully-funded for four years and will provide an enhanced stipend (c. £15,000 per annum). We anticipate that successful applicants will already hold a masters degree in an appropriate area of study (for example in quantitative analysis, statistics, research methods or global health. These studentships are available to UK citizens.

To be considered please send a cv and cover letter to James Smith (

Professor James Smith
Chair of African and Development Studies
Assistant Principal, Global Development
University of Edinburgh

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 4321
Twitter: @jrsmith73