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Research Studentships and Fees-only Bursaries

Doctoral Studentships in The Faculty of Arts, Environment and Technology

About the Programme
The Faculty of Arts, Environment and Technology offers a unique environment for integrating research across a range of areas covering culture, creativity, design, sustainability and digital domains. This environment provides opportunities for developing exciting multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research projects.

The Faculty is offering 6 fully funded Doctoral Studentships for an October 2016 entry. The studentships will be for a maximum of 4 years duration. Each studentship has an annual stipend of £14,296. The additional Doctoral tuition fees will be waived. The studentships are available in the following areas.
1. Doctoral Studentship in Computer Security
The Cybercrime and Security Innovation Centre (CSI Centre) aims to improve and incorporate an evidence-based approach into the frontline policing of digital forensics and cybercrime investigations, and to advance human factors of computer security and forensics mechanisms and practice. The Centre acts as a collaborative hub for high quality research, with a collegial, supportive and cooperative research-intensive group, aimed at high-impact outputs. The CSI Centre has a close working relationship with West Yorkshire Police force; working directly with the Digital Forensics Unit (DFU) and Cyber Crime Team (CCT) to investigate and improve the way cybercrime and digital evidence is processed. Our diverse and complementary academic team includes those that specialise in computer security, digital forensics, privacy and surveillance, artificial intelligence and analytics, and criminology. We have a portfolio of research projects (leading £1.5m in recent research funding), and benefit from great links with many partnering organisations and associates. 

We welcome research proposals in any area of computer security (including systems security, cybercrime, and digital forensics). In particular, we are interested in applicants interested in working to propose, design, develop and evaluate novel technical solutions. For example (but by no means exclusively): by extending the Android/Linux platform with new usable security and privacy features; new methods for digital forensics analysis or support for police officers; or new methods for automating or reasoning about security audits/vulnerability assessments/hacking.

The successful candidate should have an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above, or equivalent, in an ICT-related degree, will have a strong interest in security, and will have experience in software development, preferably with programming experience using Java, C and/or C++. 

This position involves some teaching in the areas of digital security and forensics, computer science, and/or computing.

Candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Z. Cliffe Schreuders to informally discuss their application or research ideas.

2. Doctoral Studentship in Ambient Assisted Living
An important area of research within the School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering at Leeds Beckett University is ambient assisted living (AAL). The goal in AAL is to develop systems and tools to support independent living. The school wishes to further develop its existing strengths in AAL by attracting outstanding doctoral candidates that are willing to work on state-of-the-art research projects, making an original and novel contribution to the field. 
Expressions of interest in the following research areas will be considered:
1. Sensor-based human behaviour understanding to assess performance
2. Adaptive task sequencing to support people with cognitive problems
3. Serious games and action recognition to support rehabilitation
4. Real-time fault detection and system recovery for a smart home sensor network.
The research will employ modern pattern recognition methods to identify patterns in complex data and information fusion methods to combine information from multiple sensor modalities.
Your background
Good first degree in computer science, software engineering, computer engineering or other numerate discipline e.g. electronic engineering with a significant computer programming content or MSc in computer science / artificial intelligence, …
Good scientific programming skills (C++, C#, Python, …)
Some familiarity with Artificial Intelligence specifically machine learning techniques, computational modelling techniques…

Candidates are encouraged to contact Professor Dorothy Monekosso to informally discuss their potential application or research ideas.

3. Doctoral Studentship in Machine Intelligence based optimisation of Flying Ad Hoc Networks for disaster management applications

This project will investigate, select and apply appropriate machine intelligence (particularly nature-inspired paradigms) and multi-criteria evaluation techniques for the optimisation of Flying Ad Hoc Networks (FANETS) in disaster scenarios, within a simulated environment. 

A key scientific challenge will be to achieve high level of optimisation performance based on multiple objectives, in such a dynamic environment.

This research project will build on an existing collaborative project (with University of Seville, Spain) which involves the use of artificial intelligence methods for the efficient and dynamic adjustment of the location of drones for natural disaster management and emergency purposes, using simulation scenarios. 

The candidate will normally be expected to have a computer science or electronic engineering educational background with a particular interest and competency in machine learning/optimisation algorithms and a good programming experience. 

Experience in network simulation, Matlab and/or Python will be particularly desirable as will be the aptitude to work effectively as part of a collaborative research project.

Project supervisor: Professor Hissam Tawfik

Candidates are encouraged to contact Professor Hissam Tawfik to informally discuss their potential application or research ideas.

4. Doctoral Studentship in the School of Art, Architecture and Design: Demarco Archive Scholarship

A fully funded PhD scholarship is available for research, utilising the archive of Richard Demarco in Edinburgh. The Demarco archive consists of a mass of material relating to the Edinburgh Festival and Richard Demarco's promotions, from 1947 to the present. The archive includes over 4500 contemporary artworks, one million photographs and over fifty years of correspondence with artists and galleries across the globe. The archive is an entry point to all the artists Demarco brought to Scotland and could provide the scholar with links to museums in Germany, Poland and Romania. 

Demarco is noted for his close collaborations with world leading artists; Joseph Beuys, Tadeusz Kantor, Paul Neagu and Marina Abramović. Since the sixties, Demarco has presented several thousand art exhibitions, plays, music, conferences, and various other performances, often in association with the Edinburgh festival, involving artists from at least sixty countries. His work in the arts has promoted cultural links, collaborations and dialogue between Scotland and the rest of Europe. In recognition of this work, Demarco was awarded the European Citizen’s Medal in 2013. The successful applicant may choose to research on any aspect of this rich archive. The researcher should find a particular issue of interest and should be able to articulate ways in which this issue could be presented. There could be both a written and practical outcome offered, at the discretion of researcher and supervisor. At present there is a PhD student examining ways in which the performance aspects of this archive can inform contemporary performance practice, with appropriate practical outcomes. This second PhD postgraduate opportunity will enable further scholarship in to this large creative resource. There is no obligation to move to Edinburgh as there are many ways in which the Demarco archive can be accessed online. Supervision will be provided at Leeds Beckett University under the guidance of Professor Simon Morris.

Candidates are requested to contact Professor Simon Morris to informally discuss their potential application or research ideas.

5. Doctoral Studentship in Smart Online Monitoring of Nuclear Power Plants
Both existing and new design Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) strive to improve safety, maintain availability and reduce the cost of operation and maintenance. However, plant life extensions and power updates push the demand for the new tools of diagnosing the health of NPP.

A PhD student will be required to build a reliable monitoring tool used in the control room operator desk setting of nuclear plants. The aim is to employ computational intelligence methods to monitor accident progression, predict the onset and evolution of an accident, and support operators in their decision-making process using available information from the plant’s online monitoring database. The tool will improve safety, maintain plant availability and reduce accident handling costs in nuclear power plants.

Candidates are encouraged to contact Professor Jiamei Deng to informally discuss their potential application or research ideas.

6. Doctoral Studentship in the history of British cinema since 1945
The candidate's proposal should be based on the history of British cinema since 1945 and focus specifically on either of the following:
1. Children's cinema and/or depictions of childhood;
2. The representation of women or the work of key female practitioners - this might include actors as well as those behind the camera.

Candidates should have an MA in film, media or cultural studies, or a related area.

Candidates are encouraged to contact Professor Robert Shail to informally discuss their potential application or research ideas. 
Timeline and How to Apply
The closing date for bursary applications is midnight 12 June 2016 for entry in October 2016

A PhD application pack is available here.

The Faculty is always happy to discuss other innovative proposals for research on a case by case basis.

Five full time Postgraduate Research Studentship Bursaries in collaboration with Suffolk County Council starting October 2016

About the Programme

The University has recently won a major contract worth £18 million over five years, to deliver a new and highly innovative Integrated Healthy Lifestyles Service right across Suffolk County Council (some 730,000 people, in urban, rural and coastal communities). This is a major, long-term programme, with services being provided by Leeds Beckett in partnership with MoreLife, Quit 51 and Tobacco Free Futures. The new service was launched on 1st April 2016 right across the whole of Suffolk, a population of some 730,000 people. 

We will be providing a range of services including: 

·         Health promotion and messaging
·         Children, young people’s and adult weight management
·         Specialist behaviour change
·         Support to increase physical activity
·         Tobacco use prevention, harm reduction and cessation
·         NHS Health Checks outreach
·         Screening of high risk groups for cardiovascular risk factors.
Through this programme, the University and its partners will be developing and delivering a wide range of activities and services, with a strong focus on learning and innovation throughout as we generating new material and lessons that we can then apply to strengthen the programme. We will be engaging with local authority, NHS, communities, voluntary sectors and businesses of all sizes. The programme will generate huge amounts of valuable data and other insights that can underpin research work, which in turn can inform the programme locally and for all local authorities nationally.

Because of the scale and importance of this major new contract, the University is offering five fully funded PhD studentships starting in October 2016. This is a great opportunity for the University and for the successful students to be part of this highly significant programme and to generate new learning and research which can really contribute to better ways of working, particularly as many more local authorities are looking to commission integrated services on this type of scale. 

Studentship information and application process
Each studentship will have a bursary of £14,296 per annum (pro-rata into 12 monthly payments) plus UK/EU Fees paid for a period of three years. Normally, candidates will be based in Leeds with a possible requirement to travel to Suffolk. 

We welcome PhD research proposals based on the research themes listed (please see below). Informal enquiries should be addressed to either the project contact or email Professor Paul Gately.

Research Proposal

Applicants must submit a research proposal, developed from one of the research themes listed below. 

  •  Applicants are asked to complete the research student application form
  • A Research Proposal.  The proposal of the research can be up to four A4 pages in length (with references as an addition to the 4 page proposal) using type Arial 12 point.
  •  Applicants are asked to include at the start of the proposal the research theme and the research centre their proposal relates to.
  •  Please scan in all certificates and transcripts for your qualifications.
  •  Please scan in your passport and any visas for the UK if applicable.   
The criteria listed below will be used in selecting those applicants who will be called for interview and those who will be successful in securing a PhD Studentship.

a) Qualifications, expertise and experience relevant to undertaking study for a PhD.
b) Knowledge of the subject area that will ensure the development of a focussed line of enquiry.
c) Knowledge and understanding of research methods appropriate to undertaking a PhD in the area of research.
d) Clarity on the original contribution that the completed PhD will make to the body of knowledge.
e) Scale and scope of the proposed research in terms of delivery within the three year studentship.   

The closing date for applications is midnight 5th June 2016.
Interviews will take place on 15th July and 20th July 2016 at Leeds Beckett University (Headingley Campus).

Research Themes
1. Integration - Local authorities are increasingly moving to commissioning integrated lifestyles services – in other words, commissioning services including smoking, weight management, physical activity promotion and health checks as a package of interventions to ensure greater integration. It is believed a more holistic workforce with behaviour changes skills can more effectively support service users. However, there is little evidence of the impact of integrated services.  The research would evaluate the impacts of integrated services across Suffolk and be at the forefront of understanding how this important development in commissioning is working. 
For further details please contact Professor Jim McKenna tel: +44(0)113 81 27483

2. Digital tools - Digital tools that support dietary and physical activity behaviours are becoming increasingly used by the general public.  Many of these tools are not evaluated so it is unclear what tools work or in what circumstances, and for which groups of users. This research would evaluate the use of digital tools by service users in Suffolk, to get a stronger understanding of which tools could be promoted and what the benefits could be, for service users. 

For further details please contact Professor Dorothy Monekosso tel:+44(0)113 81 27556

3. Rurality - The influence of the wider environment is now recognised as important in the delivery of public health programmes.  Suffolk is a rural county, and this geography creates both opportunities and challenges in delivering effective public health programmes.  Despite the importance of responding to the rural character of the local area, little is understood about the influence on public health programmes of the rural nature of counties like Suffolk.  Therefore this research will explore the influence of rurality on the Suffolk integrated healthy lifestyles programme.
For further details please contact Professor Paul Gately tel:+44(0)113 81 23579

4. Balancing prevention and treatment – There is an important and on-going discussion about balancing limited resources between primary prevention activity and more treatment focused interventions. Primary prevention offers greater reach due to its relatively low cost across a community, however the individual impacts may be small and may not reach those most in need.  In contrast, treatment interventions are relatively more expensive and their reach in terms of numbers is more limited, but they are effective and can better reach those most in need.  At this time there is little guidance for local authorities on how they can balance these seemingly competing priorities to achieve the best local health outcomes for the resources available.  This study would use local prevention and treatment data in Suffolk to explore this question.
For further details please contact Dr Zoe Rutherford tel:+44(0)113 81 24021

5. Meeting the needs of overweight and obese people - Despite evidence of the importance of meeting the needs of service users, most weight management programmes follow a “one size fits all” approach.  Little is understood about the impacts of client led interventions that offer a variety of pathway options.  Little is also understood about the cost effectiveness of such models.  With significant service user throughput expect in Suffolk weight management services there is an opportunity to explore different models of interventions to determine their efficacy and cost effectiveness.
For further details please contact Professor Paul Gately tel:+44(0)113 81 23579

6. Using Community Asset based models to promote health - Community asset based approaches continue to grow as part of public health programme plans, and the Suffolk model proposes a community asset based approach. However, little is understood about the strengths and challenges of such models.  This research would evaluate the use of a community asset based approach in Suffolk.  
For further details please contact Dr Andy Pringle tel:+44(0)113 81 27409

7. Workplace health interventions - Much evidence including NICE guidance recognises that the workplace is recognised as a key location to promote health and wellbeing.  However, there is limited evaluation of workplace health programmes run as part of local public health programmes.  This research would evaluate the implementation of a range of workplace health interventions in Suffolk.
For further details please contact Professor Paul Gately tel:+44(0)113 81 23579

8. Irresponsibility or ignorance - the role of State and Commerce in the healthy eating debate(s): Businesses recognize their role and responsibility in the healthy eating debate.  They, like state actors, spend much time, effort and resource attempting to respond to the issue and to get their message across.  Frequently this fails, is confused or is perceived as distrustful and self-interested marketing of the corporate brand by consumers, government, the media and NGO groups. This research will explore the role of the state at both a national and local level on the debate as well as the important but often misdirected and misunderstood attempts by business to respond appropriately to government as well as consumer and pressure group demands and expectations for a ‘responsible’ approach.  The research may explore the efforts of business to respond to this agenda to build a framework of understanding from a local level and potentially in partnership with actors on the ground.  Processes of communication will be analysed and evaluated to support and build deeper and more meaningful engagement with stakeholders at all levels. 
For further details please contact Professor Ralph Tench tel:+44(0)113 81 27539

9. Smoking interventions during pregnancy - A recently published RCT provided Scottish evidence for using incentives for smoking cessation in pregnancy but recommended wider UK implementation and evaluation. Since 2010 several schemes in the North West of England have replicated these outcomes.  A 2012 Scheme supported 403 women to set a quit date - 69% were quit at 4-weeks and of those 71% were quit at delivery and 51% at 12-weeks post-partum.  There is a need to understand more about these interventions therefore an evaluation of this scheme in Suffolk presents opportunities for longer-term engagement of all those involved to fully understand the short, medium and long term benefits of the scheme eg the impact of social support on quitting outcomes, birth weights and wider community benefits. 
For further details please contact Professor Paul Gately tel: +44(0)113 81 23579

Whole Systems Approach to Obesity: Four PhD Bursaries Starting October 2016

About the programme
Obesity is a major global health crisis, one in four adults are obese and childhood obesity has been classed by the World Health Organisation as one of the most serious challenges for the 21st Century with significant health, social and economic consequences.

However, tackling obesity is a complex and multifaceted problem with over a hundred contributing factors as identified in the Foresight Tackling Obesities systems map. 

Tackling obesity effectively will therefore require the development of a sustained ‘whole systems approach’.  This approach joins up the many influences on obesity that promotes transformative, coordinated action across a wide variety of sectors, many of which are outside what has traditionally been referred to as the health sector. By working across multiple disciplines, this will help us to identify the opportunities to support individuals at key points throughout their lives to help reduce the occurrence and impact of obesity.

A whole systems approach seeks to link together many of the influencing factors on obesity and will require co-ordinated action and integration across multiple sectors including health, social care, planning, housing, transport and business to bring about major change to combating obesity, making better use of resources and improving wellbeing and prosperity

The role of local authorities (LAs) in tackling and working to prevent obesity is crucial. Public Health England, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health are exploring how to make greater in-roads into tackling obesity by developing whole systems approaches’ that act across the local system. Leeds Beckett University has been commissioned to lead a three-year programme to explore with LAs and other partners what a Whole Systems Approaches may look like on the ground.

Leeds Beckett University and a range of other partners will be working closely with LAs to understand what is working well and what the opportunities and realities are for LAs in tackling obesity over the short, medium and long term within a sustained whole systems approach. This programme aims to support the vital leadership role of LAs in tackling obesity by working collaboratively with them.  It will help equip LAs with approaches to make headway in what is an increasingly complex and challenging landscape involving many sectors with competing priorities and resource pressures.

The key to this is exploring what works well and what options might work, drawing on both international learning and the experiences of colleagues working in LAs across England, UK and internationally. We aim to produce a first draft of this roadmap by autumn 2016, and a tested, refined and expanded final version by September 2018.  

The programme is seeking to understand the following major questions:

How can the framework set out by Foresight be best translated into a ‘Whole Systems Approach’ appropriate for the local system?
What does it mean in practice for Local Authorities (LAs)? What does it look like and what are the key principles?
How can LAs create a whole systems approach and what benefits can it bring?

In parallel with our in-depth work with local authorities, we will also be working with national and international colleagues to understand best practice and experience in systems science, whole systems working and evidence and case studies of what works well. We will also be running a series of events and seminars, for a range of different audiences. 
How the PhDs fit in

This programme provides an exciting and unique opportunity to be involved in and make a contribution to a major national programme, with international connections, that is seeking to understand and create a different – and hopefully more successful – approach to tackling one of the world’s most pressing challenges.  Successful candidates will be joining a team of colleagues from different backgrounds and disciplines as well as engaging with decision-makers and influencers in national and local government, and in major bodies that can create more joined up working, more effective and more sustainable solutions. 

As part of this programme, Leeds Beckett University will be generating research material and findings, and seeking to produce a range of publications for different audiences. We recognise that this programme raises a number of opportunities for PhDs, and we are therefore offering four full bursaries for PhD students to join the team. 

These studentships include a UK/EU fee waiver for 3 years and a bursary of £14,296 per annum (pro-rata into 12 monthly payments).

Timescales and Application Process
A key part of the programme, the successful students will be expected to dedicate their full time to the programme for three years, from October 2016. We are not able to accept part time students for this programme as the research work will be integral to the programme, which is of a fixed duration in the first instance. 

Applicants will be expected to attend a research student induction programme in October 2016. 

The deadline for applications is midnight Sunday 29th May 2016. 

Candidates should complete the online research student application form and send completed applications to You should title your email “PHE studentships”   

Applications will then be considered by the University’s Review Panel and shortlisted during June 2016. We anticipate that the interviews will be held between the 8th and the 12th July 2016, at Leeds Beckett University.  

The proposal of the research can be up to four A4 pages in length (with references as an addition to the proposal) using type Arial 11 point.

The criteria listed below will be used in both selecting those applicants who will be called for interview and those who will be successful in securing a Studentship.

Candidates will be asked to give a 10 minute presentation (with or without visual aids) on the following topic: “Explain how your research question contributes to our work on creating a Whole Systems Approach to obesity in local authorities in England”. We are looking for candidates who have considered what is meant by a whole systems approach, have read up on what the programme involves and can explain how their programme of study would contribute. 

As with all PhD applications, candidates should demonstrate:

Qualifications, expertise and experience relevant to undertaking study for a PhD.
Knowledge of the subject area that will allow the development of a focussed line of enquiry; 
Knowledge and understanding of research methods appropriate to undertaking a PhD/MPhil in your chosen area of research
Clarity on the original contribution that the completed PhD/MPhil will make to the body of knowledge in the relevant research literature
Scale and scope of the proposed research in terms of delivery within the two year studentship

So that we can select those candidates who are most likely to benefit from engagement in this programme, please also demonstrate the following, which will also be explored further at interview.   

A good track record of involvement in successful projects, demonstrating effective organisational and planning skills, and working with others
Proven ability to collate and analyse material and present it to colleagues both within the team and more widely
Proven ability to work effectively as a team member, making an active contribution to working flexibly with colleagues within and across teams to achieve goals shared between Leeds Beckett and our partners.
Well-developed communication (written and verbal) and interpersonal skills including the ability to persuade, influence and establish working relationships with a range of stakeholders.  

Candidates will be asked to give an example of how they meet these criteria as part of the interview process. Examples may be drawn from any source, including study, work experience or extra-curricular interests and activities.

For more information about the programme please click here.
Research Regulations
For further information and guidance relating to research degrees and for Research Candidates please click here.


The development and implementation of an Obesity Impact Assessment tool for local authorities

This project is part of a wider collaboration between Leeds Beckett University, Public Health England and Local Authorities to develop a whole systems approach to addressing obesity within local authorities.  Successive governments have highlighted the increasing prevalence of obesity as a public health priority within the UK and since the recent reorganisation has placed responsibility of public health at the heart of local authorities.  The PhD will work in collaboration with local authorities to develop a tool to evaluate the impact of current practice and policies on the prevalence of obesity, obesity risk factors and the wider determinants. The tool will be designed to help reflect on the effectiveness of current actions and to agree future actions based on effectiveness.

The research will use a mixed methods approach and utilise an action research approach, with the successful candidate working in collaboration with researchers and local authority colleagues to develop and test the obesity impact assessment tool within practice. 

For further details please contact Professor Paul Gately  +44(0)113 81 23579  or Professor Pinki Sahota +44(0)113 81 25500  

Whole Systems Approach to Obesity:What is the role of big data
The harmful effects of obesity are not only experienced by the individuals, through worsened health status, but also financially by society. In the UK obesity-related illnesses costs the NHS an estimated £5.1 billion a year. As a result obesity is a cross government national priority in the UK with a national target to achieve a sustained downtrend trend in the level of excess weight.
Of concern, contemporary obesity prevalence data provides little confidence that national obesity targets can be met using existing approaches. Simply identifying the scale of the problem will only achieve so much and it is important to recognise that current approaches are not making enough impact. Governments have repeatedly attempted to address this issue however, their approaches have been ineffective. 

There is now an urgent need to identify evidence-based policy to achieve national targets. The most comprehensive investigation into obesity and its causes described obesity as a complex problem that requires action from individuals and society across multiple sectors and the Obesity System Map was developed. There is now a broad consensus that obesity is the result of a large number of factors, activities and determinants and as a result it is acknowledged that limited or short term solutions will only scratch the surface. There is a call for a coordinated and joined approach from all key stakeholders including local communities, public health, local authorities, the NHS, the voluntary sector and the private sector.

The whole systems approach (WSA) will look across the range of different factors identified in the Foresight systems map and explore greater in-roads to tackling obesity at the local level. This project responds to a call from Public Health England in relation to informing evidenced based policy and explores the role of big data as part of the WSA. Large volumes of new and real time data - ‘big data’ – are rapidly emerging. Many of these data offer novel insight into elements of the Foresight obesity systems map. Tackling obesity is a complex and multifaceted problem with over a hundred contributing factors, identified in the Foresight map. Initially this project will map the big data sources onto the foresight map. There is also a unique to opportunity to gain an insight into the perceptions of big data within LAs and the role of big data at a local level. Big data will underpin the roadmap produced by the wider project team. 

For further details please contact Dr Claire Griffiths  +44(0)113 81 26566
Challenging resistance to obesity communication
The key question this PhD aims to address is how can strategic communication help organisations tackle the challenges associated with the broad concept of uncertainty and the specific case of obesity communication? 

Organisational leaders in public and private settings linked to obesity discourse confront the challenge of operating in uncertain environments. This is a context characterised by a complexity which is shaped by mediatisation, globalisation, rapidly developing communication technology and ‘wicked’ health problems such as obesity. To address these challenges organisations need to engage and collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders, learn from these interactions and then adapt rapidly to changing conditions. 

These strategic responses emphasise the critical role that communication should play in organisational resilience, as well as highlighting its role in tackling some of the most important issues confronting society.  Despite this imperative both public and private sector organisations are often criticised for pursuing instrumental objectives in their communication strategies, such as prioritising perception management over relationship management.

The PhD research outputs could address new knowledge issues associated with communication theory and practice development, communication strategy and orientation, the cultivation of key capabilities, new tools and techniques, as well as influencing leadership development. The PhD could explore innovative engagement methods that build social capital amongst individuals and groups, stakeholder collaboration to resolve complex, wicked problems such as obesity, as well as the broader communicative issues associated with corporate social responsibility.    

The PhD could apply research from complexity science and behavioural economics, communication theory and practice to address the challenges associated with uncertainty and it may also highlight the crucial role communication plays in coping with uncertainty and the support it provides to other health disciplines.  

For further details please contact Professor Ralph Tench  +44(0)113 81 27539
Understanding the effect of the obesity policy environment, using Social Network Analysis
Contemporary prevalence data provides little confidence that national childhood obesity targets can be met using existing approaches (National Obesity Observatory, 2012). The harmful effects of obesity are not only felt by the individuals, through worsened health risks, but also financially; obesity-related illnesses costs the NHS an estimated £5.1 billion a year. Although governments have repeatedly attempted to address this issue, their approaches have been ineffective. 

Local Authorities and partners are central to improving the prevention and treatment of obesity. Whilst, Public Health England, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health are exploring how to make greater in-roads into tackling obesity by developing whole systems approaches’ that act across the local system. Yet, little is known in the literature around the internal policy network structure among these organisations that would facilitate or inhibit the obesity agenda.

Like all organisations, Local Authorities (LA) are social structures, they a made up of individuals who co-ordinate and co-operate to deliver tasks. In delivery of obesity policy LAs face several challenges: first, motivating people to do what the LA wants them to do; second; deciding what should be done; third; accomplishing what needs to be done; and finally; acquiring the needed resources. Furthermore, the borders of the LA are not fixed or clear, and have numerous stakeholders who must be placated or convinced to co-operate. In affect they are a form of collective action with a distinct division of labour and power, they are networks. As such social network concepts, measurements, and propositions can be used to show the formal network structure that exists in LAs. Furthermore, it can explore informal emerging networks that dilute or enhance official power and centrality in these designed networks. How an LA is formally and informally structured will impact upon the delivery of obesity policy. Therefore, the central aim of this study is to work across different types of LAs, and using social network analysis compare and contrast policy structure of obesity with different measures of success.

The most recent call from Public Health England emphasises the need to establish a multidisciplinary, whole systems approach to obesity. A significant factor within the whole systems approach is to better understand and subsequently modify the how obesity policy is delivered. However, such data is inherently difficult to collect, especially on a large scale. It is timely therefore, that we utilise a network approach to better understand and evaluate the effect of LA structure on obesity. 

It is the value extracted from these networks which make this an innovative opportunity. By understanding which structures facilitate successful obesity policy will be of great importance to central Government, LA’s and all other significant bodies charged with decreasing levels of obesity in the population. 

For further details please contact Dr Paul Widdop +44(0)113 81 29113 or Dr Claire Griffiths +44(0)113 81 26566
Using appreciative inquiry (AI) to address whole system approaches to obesity support
Stubborn rates of obesity suggest that existing services are not being delivered to optimise impact. Whole system approaches (WSA) may offer one way to deliver more effective, adaptable and sustainable services. With Local Authorities (LA) increasingly charged to deliver effective obesity-related services, this focuses attention on how well they integrate their services and approaches. To work to help them, researchers need to deploy effective approaches that are not only compatible with, but also enhance, existing LA approaches. Appreciative Inquiry offers a way to address WSA while also enhancing the functioning of that system and the people in it.

Through the Whole Systems Obesity project, this exciting research will address WSA through a case study approach to each of four LA. This project therefore provides an opportunity to add to the growing body of knowledge in this area of service improvement, as well as to develop relevant research that has a sustainable impact in Public Health and wellbeing.
Contemporary rates of obesity and overweight question the effectiveness of existing management and preventive services. Due to the financial limitations associated with post-recession recovery, and a concern for better return on existing investment into health services, attention is increasingly turning to refine services to deliver better patient- and client-centred outcomes. This places local authorities, and the processes they use to refine services, at the heart of a drive to enhance Public Health provision. However, even though it is widely accepted that obesity is driven by multiple factors, integration of services (both formal and informal) remains elusive.
Systems-based approaches focus on how elements within any system influence one another. Within this, a holistic whole system approach (WSA) offers one way to achieve more efficient and effective delivery. WSA has been used to develop public services, and there is a long history of applying system approaches in many scientific and academic domains.
Instead of addressing improvement in isolated services, WSA focuses on how well elements of services work together. By exploring participation at every level of the organisation (and their constituencies of networks, collaborations, social movements and/or markets), WSA seeks to identify daily practice and the scale and methods of integrating service users. This places structure, change and processes as core concerns. 
The flux in contemporary Public Health may help to explain why WSA has not been widely deployed. Lack of engagement with WSA has also contributed to making it difficult to investigate. A further challenge is to find an acceptable, purposeful process that (i) helps system ‘insiders’, (ii) enhances provision of local, bespoke, services and (iii) successfully integrates ‘outsiders’. 
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) represents a paradigm shifting approach that may address these problems. AI focuses on the strengths of the existing system, making it a creative, energising and integrative experience for participants. As a co-creative approach, AI builds on the creative imagination of every organisation and its employees. Importantly, AI is compatible with investigating how systems can be refined to identify and, potentially, address previously unacknowledged ‘blind spots’.
Given the compatibility between WSA and AI, the broad aim of the current PhD study is to address how the respective elements of AI are used to develop WSA approaches to obesity prevention and management in local authorities. 

For further details please contact Professor Jim McKenna   +44(0)113 81 27483
Understanding at risk groups' risk of overweight and obesity: a psychosocial narrative approach
Risk and prevalence of overweight and obesity appears to be greater among a range of at risk groups, including some BME groups, men and those living in more deprived circumstances. 

Society’s assumptions about overweight and weight loss can influence the extent to which the risks of excess weight are viewed and prioritised. For instance, there is still a tendency within society to see excess weight and weight management as predominantly a female issue (Bell and McNaughton, 2007) despite the higher number of men who are overweight (EC, 2011), with a more negative impact through their tendency to have visceral fat (Tchernof and Després 2013). Among some other societal groups there are also cultural norms and pressures that present challenges for health promotion colleagues to raise awareness and engage effectively. If excess weight is considered a norm, or even desirable for other seemingly more compelling reasons, then campaigns and interventions will struggle to engage those who are most at risk, thus compounding inequalities and losing the opportunity to enable these individuals to make a tangible and positive change to their life prospects and wellbeing. 

Feedback from local authorities emphasises the importance of securing a better understanding of the circumstances and influences that affect those in the most at risk groups, so that they can better shape and deliver approaches, partnerships and interventions. It is recognised that poorly designed messaging and approaching is likely to be counter-productive, but that with a greater understanding of the perspectives of at risk groups LAs will be better able to engage communities, partner organisations and individuals in making greater inroads into the issue of excess weight. 

Research design

A psychosocial life-story approach will adopted for this study involving a range of interviews, with more than one with each participant, and that these interviews could be augmented with other approaches that support the participants in reflecting on their circumstances and motivations, to provide insight into the environment that puts them at greater risk of excess weight and potential solutions. We recognise that a number of different study designs could achieve these objectives and that one or more at risk groups could be selected to be the focus of the study.  

This is a detailed approach, creating rich data, and as such the sample is kept small (approximately 30) and will be drawn from one of more local authority area. This could be one of the four pilots that have been selected, or an additional local authority drawing on the University’s connections with a range of local areas to ensure that the chosen at risk group(s) can be engaged. 

A sampling frame will be used to ensure breadth of representation from intersectional and social determinants known to influence risk of overweight and obesity in the chosen at risk group(s) – such as socio-economic status, marital status, and ethnicity. 

This study seeks to examine the interrelation between biographical and social/environmental factors that impact on the risk of this increase in weight. 

This study will directly inform a whole systems approach, which is predicated on listening to Local Authorities and others in specific settings to understand their perspectives on what causes obesity and possible and practicable solutions. This study will take that enquiry to the individuals who are experiencing the issue first hand – those in at risk groups who are overweight or obese. This will enable a detailed picture to be created of the risk factors that those individuals have to overcome. 

For further details please contact Professor Brendan Gough  +44(0)113 812 3934 
Environmental planning and impact on health: factors that can promote positive behaviour change
Obesity is linked to several different long-term conditions, such as diabetes, that both decrease quality of life and have resource implications for local authorities as well as the NHS and national government. Tackling obesity has traditionally taken an individual-level approach in which the cause of the problem, and therefore the solution, is assumed to be the individual. However, lack of e.g. physical activity does not lie solely within the control of individuals, such as simply being due to a lack of motivation to exercise. Recognition of this has led to increasing interest in taking joined-up approaches that incorporate information, behaviour change and environmental design (e.g. Heath, 2012).

The Whole Systems Approach for addressing obesity within Local Authorities offers an opportunity to move away from this, often ineffective, individual-level approach to one in which the interaction of individuals and communities with the environment in which they live, socialise and work can be re-engineered to produce a system that facilitates healthy living and resists obesity-promoting behaviours.

Such approaches can involve investment in visible infrastructure and planning initiatives alongside more modest changes, such as “circles of support” to encourage behavior change or the availability of community resources.  They target all members of a community and operate at a series of levels to impact on behavior, underpinned by social-ecological models of health and include changes to policies and environments. They have been categorised into four different types (Cavill and Foster, 2004) based on the focus of the intervention: community action programmes; community information campaigns; person-focused techniques; community approaches to environmental change. We propose to base this research on community approaches to environmental change, in which a community or advocacy group makes positive changes to the physical environment (King, 1994) that will embed behavior change to address obesity.  A recent Cochrane systematic review (Barker et al., 2015) concluded that while community-wide interventions have had only limited success in increasing physical activity, those interventions that include an environment design aspect have the greatest potential to successfully increase physical activity, and therefore address obesity.

It is insufficient, however, for planners and policy makers to decide, on behalf of its citizens, how the environment can best be changed to promote behaviours that will reduce obesity. The solutions generated may be unacceptable or impractical, leading to communities and individuals feeling further alienated and ostracised. Instead, we propose a programme of PhD research that will take the latest research into behavioural change techniques and use them to co-design – with people who have or who are at a high risk of obesity - environmental changes that will encourage greater levels of physical activity and healthier eating. 

For further details please contact Dr Fiona Fylan +44(0)113 81 23931 or Professor Chris Gorse +44(0)113 81 21941
Building social action to address obesity using a whole system, community-centred approach
Communities, both of place and of identity, form an important part of the public health system and the assets within communities, such as local knowledge, social networks and community associations, are resources for health (1). The Public Health England (PHE) whole system approach to reducing obesity programme offers an opportunity to test out a ‘whole-of-government, whole-of -society’, approach to health, advocated by the World Health Organization (2). This will involve understanding the role of civil society in addressing obesity and then building social action that will eventually be self-sustaining and lead to changes in community norms around food, diet and physical activity. Social action will also lead to improved environmental conditions, as community members take part in designing and changing more healthy environments (3), for example improvements in green space.  There is a strong evidence base about the benefits of community engagement as a strategy to address health inequalities and social exclusion, which will be needed if a whole system approach to obesity is to be effective and reach the population groups with the greatest need (4). 

A whole system approach requires a significant re-orientation to deliver community engagement and mobilise community assets at a population level. This ambition has to be translated into pathways that lead to change and this represents an area for study. Based on the notion of a family of types of community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing, PHE and NHS England have developed a conceptual framework that can be adopted in local areas. It is suggested that a whole system approach will require adoption of approaches across all four strands: strengthening communities using community development; volunteer and peer roles; collaborations and partnerships between communities and services; and improving access to community resources and social activities (5). This PhD study will examine what is needed to implement a whole system approach to obesity which builds in community engagement and social action at all levels of the system and what impacts that has both organisationally and in communities.  

The theoretical framework will use the notion of a health ecology, and build on contemporary understandings of evaluation within complex systems (6). Community-based interventions do not lead to outcomes in a linear way, therefore a systems approach to evaluation requires understanding of cultural factors and the dynamic relationship between the communities and the intervention (6). Whilst the broad orientation of the PhD will be investigating pathways for change, there is scope to focus on either organisational pathways to realise community assets or on growth of community-led social action, using the concepts relevant to social movements. The focus will be on identifying the factors that support change and what actions need to be taken by local government to build community capacity around addressing obesity, and how those actions can become sustainable. Part of the PhD will be to develop an output to support local authorities in working in this way. 

For further details please contact Professor Jane South +44(0)113 81 24406

Understanding how the environment influences obesity: A local level approach
Current UK policy in relation to the influence of the ‘obesogenic environment’ is driven largely on assumptions or speculations that are often not supported by robust information, because empirical evidence is lacking. Furthermore, there is a need to understand the role of the environment at the local level (i.e. LA specific) using LA data, rather than making generalisations from national datasets. The proposed project will address important research areas including [as examples]:
-       Does the “local” environment contribute to health behaviours
-       Health inequalities and obesity
-       Consideration of methodological challenges in defining the environment.

In collaboration with one or more of the Local Authorities (LAs) engaged in the WSA project this research extends and complements that within the Centre for Active Lifestyles. This project will undoubtedly progress our current national understanding through high impact academic outputs, but perhaps more importantly it should generate meaningful local context, so that the findings are relevant to and have the potential to shape future policy decisions at the local level.

For further details please contact Dr Claire Griffiths  +44(0)113 81 26566