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Behavioural Economics, Sustainable Food Production and Consumption: Investigating Behavioural Insights into Sustainable Food Production


Project Description

The UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources invites applications for a fully funded 4-year PhD studentship covering UK/EU fees plus stipend to investigate sustainable food production and consumption paths through behavioural economics.

Recent scientific studies increasingly focus on applying behavioural economics theories to address environmental and food-related issues. This branch of research demonstrated that it may be problematic to assume rational behaviour for both individual choices and environmental policy decisions.

Behavioural economics can be employed to inform public policy for an environmentally sustainable development in two ways:

(a) improving benefit-cost analysis (BCA) through methodological adjustments to nonmarket valuation techniques

(b) informing the development of policy mechanisms to influence behaviour that can affect the environment

Insights from behavioural economics are likely to benefit particularly environmental policy, because many of the choices that have significant environmental implications are the outcome of a complex set of motivations. Indeed, such environment-related decisions often require careful consideration between external (e.g. financial), internal (e.g. intrinsic motivations) and social (e.g. norms) factors.

From another point of view, behavioural economics can provide support in identifying food-system policy options with the potential to improve human health and reduce environmental impacts, in particular with the development of specific nudges.

Looking at food production, Czap et al. (2015) focuses on the effectiveness of complementing financial nudging/incentives with nudging for empathy.
In their field experiment, an upstream farmer influences the water quality downstream by choosing the level of conservation: a downstream water user sends a message to the upstream farmer encouraging the latter to “walk-in-his(?) shoes”, meaning to take the perspective of the former (empathy nudging). According to Czap et al., empathy nudging can counteract the elimination of financial incentives, even if it is less effective than the latter. They also find a synergic effect between financial and empathy nudging, with conservation increasing significantly compared to using one of the nudges alone.

Nudges on food can be developed considering not only the agricultural production, but also the food consumption market (or demand and supply side)

The aim of this PhD studentship is to undertake behavioural economics studies on food production and consumption.
In her/his Ph.D., the student will investigate how behavioural insights can lead to sustainable paths in food production and consumption, using nudges and developing analytical methods to support improved decision-making related to food. The research will require development of trials and data collection, as well as the use of econometric techniques for the analysis (addressing issues related to causality, self-selection, identification and construction of adequate counterfactual).

Person specification

• A M.Sc. degree in economics, behavioural economics (or neurosciences/behavioural studies with a B.Sc. in Economics)
• Enthusiastic and passionate about data analysis, developing field experiments and conducting research
• Ability to implement several econometric techniques
• Knowledge of statistical software / programming languages (such as R, Matlab, Python, Stata, SAS) and determination to become an advanced coder
• Ability to use own initiative and prioritise workload
• Good interpersonal and communication skills (oral and written)
• A high level of attention to detail in working methods

Application Procedure

Stage 1 - Pre-application documents including: (1) CV, (2) academic transcripts, and (3) 1-page personal statement outlining motivation, interest and eligibility for the post - should be emailed directly to the PhD Administrator via .

Stage 2 - Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme. Further guidance will be provided.

You are encouraged to contact potential supervisors before applying to discuss the content of the research topic and your suitability. Please email Dr Lorenzo Lotti , Dr Paolo Agnolucci, and Dr Carole Dalin

Deadline for application: 01/05/2019 Interviews to be scheduled for: 15/05/2019
Start Date of the programme: 23/09/2019

Funding Notes

• Stipend: £17009
• UK/EU Fee: £5210

Related Subjects

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