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PhD in interdisciplinarity in training the next generation of researchers, University of Edinburgh

Deadline: February 28 2017

Updated: December 09 2016

Funding is available to support a four-year (1+3) PhD programme at the University of Edinburgh covering fees (at the UK/EU rate) and an annual stipend of £14,000 from September 2017

PhD topic: Disruptive influence? The role of interdisciplinarity in training the next generation of researchers

Host institution: Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS), in the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh in partnership with OPTIMA, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Medical Imaging (based at the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde).

Summary statement of topic:
The ascendancy of interdisciplinary research has become a cornerstone of research policy in Europe and internationally (e.g. European Commission, 2007; ESRC, 2009; NSF, 2006; National Academies, 2005; Barry, 2007; Lok, 2010). Yet there remains considerable scope for expanding the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary research training in the UK. Most doctoral and post-doctoral training is still bound within disciplines. Today, there is clear evidence of demand for interdisciplinary research training (e.g. Lyall and Meagher 2012) and much national and international experience on which to draw (e.g. Vanstone et al 2013; Meagher and Lyall 2005, 2009; Razzaq et al 2013; Abt Associates, 2010).

Universities are beginning to lose their monopoly on knowledge production (Frodeman, 2013) and need to reconsider and re-shape their curricula in order to produce the people and research that society needs (Foray and Sors, 2014; Lyall et al., 2015). The majority of graduate students now find employment outside of academia (Vitae, 2013) where an ability to work in interdisciplinary teams is often highly rated; even those who stay within a university research context find that experience of interdisciplinary is becoming more valued (Millar, 2013).

In the UK, the Research Councils are increasingly supporting PhD training through a mechanism termed ‘Centres for Doctoral Training’ (CDTs). These centres seek to bring together diverse areas of expertise in order to create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge links with industry. In many of these CDTs, doctoral study remains circumscribed within the social sciences, natural sciences or medicine, while others are co-funded by more than one research council and place great emphasis on interdisciplinary projects that work across different disciplinary domains.

This study will examine the impact of this doctoral funding mechanism on PhD students and their supervisors. Specifically, it will identify the range of interdisciplinary experiences and environments offered by the CDTs. The study will develop a series of case studies to assess the influence that interdisciplinary CDTs are having on the research community and other stakeholders.

The successful candidate will be encouraged to develop the project according to their own interests and expertise.


The first supervisor will be Catherine Lyall who is a Professor of Science and Public Policy in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science. Her recent research focus has been on the promotion and management of interdisciplinary research (e.g. Lyall et al., 2011) and on the evaluation of non-academic research impacts.

A second supervisor will be appointed during the first year and there will be close involvement from OPTIMA colleagues in order to facilitate access.

Candidates from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Prospective candidates are expected to have an excellent undergraduate degree in either the social (e.g. sociology, anthropology, education etc.) or natural sciences (e.g. chemistry, computer science, biology etc.) and a strong interest in and/or experience of interdisciplinary research.

Note that we are only able to offer fees at the UK/EU level; non UK/EU applicants must be able to fund the additional fees at the international level.
Informal inquiries can be made to Professor Catherine Lyall by email Information about application procedures can be found on our Graduate School website.

The deadline for applications is 28 February 2017for a September 2017 entry. Note that, for this specific studentship, this is earlier than the general deadline specified in the above weblink.

Link to full information: