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Big data, urban analytics and ethical considerations


Institute for Future Cities, Economics

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Dr R Rogerson No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Summary:

The University of Strathclyde has appointed Capita as its Strategic technology partner. As part of the Partnership agreement, Capita funds have been used to support four PhD Studentships (including this one), with additional funds coming from across the University.

In an era when massive quantities of information are being gathered and produced about people as they live their lives in cities, there remain critical questions about the ethical storage, analysis and use of ‘big data’. The diversity of such data from health records, social media interactions, phone logs, camera images, government records and the many other ‘digital traces’ that people leave as they move within urban spaces raises issues which go beyond the analytic capabilities of large scale data searching and mining, to cover social attitudinal and moral dimensions about security, permission and sharing of such content.

Debates over ‘big data’ approaches have tended to focus on the more technical and instrumental aspects of the capacity to search, aggregate and cross-reference that is the essence of such analysis. Whilst proponents and critics of big data analysis debate the nature of objectivity, the merits of small versus large data, and the importance of meaning and context of data, public attitudes to the ethics associated with data on them individually and communities collectively is changing.

This doctoral study will examine how society’s attitudes to data security and permission are changing in the digital age, and how social attitudes differ from realities and social benefit aspirations of commercial data exploitation. The study will use survey techniques to explore public attitudes to data use and examine attitudes of businesses towards data collection and use. The study will also examine the attitudes and behaviours of business and public sector organisations as aggregators, users and transmitters of data – considering the individual attitudes and behaviour of managers and employees within such organisations, as well as the collective behaviour and policy position of organisations as a whole. Identification of business examples of successful and unsuccessful adaptation of data governance and practice can be analysed to reveal the economic and reputational drivers, benefits and costs.

Student eligibility

This 3-year full-time PhD studentship is offered with a start date of October 2014. The primary supervisor will be Dr Robert Rogerson. The successful candidate will receive an annual stipend of £13,863 and fees (up to the Home/EU rate only) will be covered. Applicants should hold at least a good Honours degree (2:1 or above) in a relevant Social Sciences discipline. In addition, a Master’s degree with a research methods training element or equivalent research experience would be advantageous.

To apply:

• Email, by the closing date, to [Email Address Removed], a CV and covering letter explaining your interest in and suitability for undertaking this PhD
• Provide, in the covering letter or CV, the names of two academic referees
• Applicants already holding doctoral qualifications should not apply

It is likely that shortlisted applicants will be called for interview.

Academic lead contact details: Dr Robert Rogerson, Deputy Director, Institute for Future Cities
Email/telephone: [Email Address Removed], 0141 444 8628

Graduate School contact details:
Email/telephone: [Email Address Removed] / 0141 444 8400
Closing date: 30 June 2014
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