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Applying for a Nominated Award 2012

12 December 2011

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This year the School is offering a number of PhD awards in nominated topic areas, as follows (details available by clicking on the links below):

The Labour Market in Recession
Home-startUK
Anomaly Detection in Social Data
Child protection in Wales
Alternative schooling
Millennium Cohort Study

 

The Labour Market in Recession

The British workforce has experienced two recessions in the last couple of decades, with the 2008-09 recession being the longest and severest in living memory.  At the same time, there have been structural changes in labour markets such as increased flexibility in work arrangements, the rise of female participation, and rising qualification and skills levels.

These cyclical and structural changes raise a number of important research questions: Has the 2008-09 recession been 'tough but fair' in terms of the groups it has affected most; why has 'under-employment' grown more in the 2008-09 recession than in the past, who has it affected and what are its consequences; how have recessions affected social and political attitudes, and is the 2008-09 recession any different; what are the longer term effects of recession on individuals and their families; despite the economic cycle, has work become less central to people's lives; what effect have structural changes to the labour market had on work-life balance, the domestic division of labour within households, and physical and mental well-being?

The proposed study will address some or all of these questions, drawing on a range of existing cross-sectional and/or longitudinal datasets publicly available from the Data Archive. Applicants are expected to use basic and advanced statistical techniques to analyze these quantitative data. The studentship provides an excellent opportunity to address issues of both academic and policy relevance.

Supervisory team: Professor Alan Felstead & Dr Sin Yi Cheung

Further information: AlanFelstead@cf.ac.uk CheungSY@cf.ac.uk

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Home-startUK

Home-start UK was founded in 1973 in Leicester and provides volunteer support, friendship and practical help for families with at least one child under five. Today the organisation supports 334 affiliated local Home-start projects across the UK and manages 16,000 volunteers working with over 70,000 vulnerable children,. With Home-start UK aiming to collect baseline and longitudinal data on almost all of these interventions, there is rich potential for quantitative and qualitative investigations into a wide range of areas including young families’ support needs, the nature of the helping relationship and the impact of family support delivered by volunteers.

The student would be expected to develop a detailed set of research questions and corresponding research design during the early part of their doctorate. The selection process will include assessment of the applicant’s outline ideas of how they might approach a research question of relevance to Home-start’s work. Priority will be given to applicants who plan to incorporate quantitative and qualitative research methods in their design. Potential research areas include: the role of volunteers in promoting children’s well-being, the involvement of fathers in family support services, volunteers and the development of social networks, staged disclosure of needs and risk in a volunteer-parent relationship, an exploration of the effectiveness of any aspect of Home-start’s work. Applicants may suggest any other research area that is relevant to Home-start’s work.

Home-start will provide access and opportunities for primary data collection and secondary analysis of datasets. Successful applicants will also be expected to spend approximately eight weeks full-time in additional project work for Home-start to take the form of a Home-start internship. There will be a need to spend occasional short periods away from home in Leicester or London.  In addition to producing a doctoral thesis at the end of the studentship, the student will be expected to produce policy and practice briefings based on their research findings.

The studentship will fund a 3 year PhD. Applicants will have already completed the MSc in Social Science Research Methods or its equivalent. In exceptional cases a candidate without this research training will be considered, but he she must be prepared to undertake research training in the early part of the studentship.

Lead supervisor: Dr. Sally Holland

Further information: HollandS1@cf.ac.uk

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Anomaly Detection in Social Data

The current explosion in social media and the interactive web opens up the potential for systematic data mining and mixed method analysis in relation to key social science concerns and questions. In this context, the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) is working to operationalise a next generation ‘social computational tool kit’. The proposed studentship will contribute to this work through the examination and development of the ability to automatically detect anomalies in time sequence datasets.

In social media data such anomalies might relate to usage patterns or number of messages sent, the fan out ratio, etc within a given time period. Similar techniques are used by credit card firms and banks to highlight unusual spend patterns by customers, which may indicate the credit card has been stolen (or the card holder has gone on vacation). This approach has also been used within healthcare to look for anomalies in patient data – such as ElectroCardiogram signals. Thus, this innovative methodological work is relevant to a range of substantive social science areas and of critical importance to the development of computational social science in Wales.

The student will benefit from excellent connections with the commercial and public sectors and voluntary organisations interested in the development, use and application of computational social science and social media analytics.

SOCSI/COMSC Research Network Pages

Lead supervisor: Dr. William Housley & Professor N.J. Avis

Further information: HousleyW@cf.ac.uk N.J.Avis@cs.cardiff.ac.uk

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Child Protection in Wales

 This two-stage study offers applicants the opportunity to build a unique quantitative analysis of the multiple processes and decision events surrounding protection work in devolved Wales and how this compares with other UK jurisdictions. This initial analysis would then be followed up by a second stage enquiry focusing on Welsh local authorities, sampling the data collected to investigate the domestic circumstances and professional decision making that lead to protection investigations and subsequent admission to public care.  This second stage enquiry would entail various modes of qualitative investigation into the nature of professional judgements and system effects that underwrite protection practice in selected local authorities.

The conceptual focus will draw on theories of risk, organisational learning, professional decisioning and the impact of system features that enhance or impede sound safeguarding of vulnerable children. The research will make for a challenging and engaging PhD study as well as producing analysis of value to the development of children’s policy and services in Wales. It is our hope that the project will develop in partnership with other relevant research centres and service providers in the UK

Supervisors: Prof. Andy Pithouse & Dr. Sally Holland

Further information: Pithouse@cf.ac.uk HollandS1@cf.ac.uk

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Alternative Schooling

In recent years, we have seen the emergence a wide variety of alternative schools designed to supplement or replace conventional state-funded comprehensive schooling. This diversity includes increasing numbers and forms of home-schooling, as well as specialist institutions such as military preparation colleges; supplementary schools, which can be organised after school or on Saturdays to cater for children with specific language or cultural attributes (eg Muslim schools, Greek, Polish schools etc).

The proposed doctoral study could examine a number of questions in this context, adopting a mixed methods approach and using existing datasets where available. Possible research questions include: Who are the home-schooled? What is the relationship between education and the military? What is supplementary about supplementary schools? What alternative identities do alternative forms of schooling foster? Although quantitative data will be used to background the research, it is likely that the majority of data collected will be qualitative in nature (possibly diaries, narratives and interviews).

As relatively little is known about alternative forms of schooling, the research in this area provides fertile ground for intellectual enquiry, not least in its connection to broader issues about the nature of cultural transmission and the respective roles of the state and the family in shaping  young people’s identities and citizenship.

Supervisors: to be arranged, according to topic area.

Further information: Prof Sally Power PowerS3@cf.ac.uk

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Millennium Cohort Study

The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) is a multi-disciplinary research project following the lives of around 19,000 children born in the UK in 2000/1. It is the most recent of Britain’s world-renowned national longitudinal birth cohort studies. The four surveys of MCS cohort members carried out so far – at age nine months, three, five and seven years – have built up a uniquely detailed portrait of the children of the new century.

The proposed PhD study provides an opportunity to work on the MCS data set, working closely with Dr. Chris Taylor who has recently been awarded an ESRC Fellowship to carry out his own MCS analysis. The particular focus of the doctoral study is open at this stage, to be developed by the successful applicant following an initial analysis of the data and a review of the literature. Indicative topics include: the impact of testing in schools; living and growing up in rural areas; use and development of the Welsh language and bilingualism amongst children; spatial and social mobility of families in Wales; social capital in Wales  and the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on attitudes towards education and future prospects. This is envisaged as a largely quantitative study, but need not be based entirely on the MCS and quantitative data. (primary data collection, either quantitative and/or qualitative, as also a possibillity).

Lead supervisor: Dr. Chris Taylor

Further information: TaylorCM@cf.ac.uk