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Building explainable user models of older adults from data

   School of Informatics

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  Dr J Fleuriot, Dr Sohan Seth, Dr S Shenkin  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) is a new, multi-disciplinary, £20M research centre at the University of Edinburgh. The ACRC will lead society’s response to the grand challenge of an ageing population that is growing in size, longevity and needs through the pursuit of research intended to deliver “high‐quality data‐driven, personalised and affordable care to support the independence, dignity and quality‐of‐life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments”.

The ACRC Academy is a dedicated Centre for Doctoral Training, co-located with the ACRC, whose students will deliver key aspects of the ACRC research agenda through a new doctoral-level research and training programme that will also equip them for careers across a wide range of pioneering and influential leadership roles in the public, private and third sectors.

The PhD with Integrated Study in Advanced Care is a novel, structured, thematic, cohort-based, programme of 48 months duration. Each PhD research project within the Academy has been devised by a supervisory team comprising academic staff from at least two of the three colleges within the University of Edinburgh. Each annual cohort of around twelve will include students with disciplinary backgrounds spanning from engineering and data science to humanities, social science, business and commerce, social work, medicine and related health and care professions. This unique level of diversity is a key attribute of our programme.

As artificial intelligence increasingly permeates all spheres of life, it is becoming clear that there is a need for predictive models that can explain their decisions. This is particularly important in safety-critical areas such as health and care, where the wrong decision can be a matter of life or death.

This project will explore how health and care outcomes for the older person can be improved through explainable, predictive machine learning. In particular, it will develop interpretable AI models of older adults, based on a combination of statistical and symbolic approaches using data related to care, physiological monitoring, activities of daily living and other events (e.g. social network interactions).

By developing robust, yet adaptive and transparent, user models that can support the individual’s needs and are attentive to physical/non-physical decline over time, it should be possible to increase the reliance on AI when making non-trivial care interventions.

Some of the objectives include:

  • Exploring how already-labelled data about care treatment, alarm calls, history of falls etc. can be used to detect adverse events and trigger personalised alerts that are robust to noise;
  • Investigate whether decline can be predicted based on reduced interactions with entertainment systems, games, frequency of audio/video chats family and friends, etc.
  • Investigate how public datasets can be used to extend the explainable models with data about activities of daily living (ADL), physiological monitoring and other events.

The project will be part of the ACRC theme on New Technologies of Care and is aligned with  other themes such as the one on data-driven insight and prediction. The project will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of academics with expertise in Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and geriatric medicine.


  • A good undergraduate degree or Masters degree in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science or Data Science
  • Some experience with machine learning
  • Some experience with knowledge representation and reasoning
  • Strong interest in health and care and associated data
  • Ability to work in a multi-disciplinary team

Candidate Specification. We are specifically looking for applicants who will view their cutting-edge PhD research project in the context of the overall vision of the ACRC, who are keen to contribute to tackling a societal grand challenge and who can add unique value to – and derive great benefit from – training in a cohort comprising colleagues with a very diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds. We advise prospective candidates to engage in dialogue with the named project supervisor and/or the Director of the Academy prior to submitting an application.


In order to fill the few remaining ACRC Academy places we are currently running a rolling recruitment process, with project adverts staying posted until recruitment is complete. Applications received from 8 May 2021 onwards will be reviewed on a twice weekly basis.

Funding Notes

PhD's are fully funded with an above industry stipend for the full 4 year period.

The call is open to candidates of any nationality but funded places for overseas nationals will be strictly limited to 3 international students who can apply for the highly competitive ACRC Global Scholarship.

Application forms are now available here:

Find more information on how to apply on the How to Apply section of our website:


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