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Defining a capitals approach to evaluating the socio-economic benefits of space exploration

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Budd
    Prof M Patel
    Dr V Pearson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project investigates the socioeconomic benefits of space exploration, particularly in light of the expansion of the space sector to the private sector and non-traditional nations.

Project Highlights:
• Evaluating the socio-economic benefits of space exploration;
• Utilising a capitals approach as central to a Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) evaluation framework;
• Defining and applying how science can be integrated into a capitals approach, to classify and identify the benefits of space exploration.


As space exploration moves outside the remit of traditional government organisations, there is a need to evaluate, particularly for emerging space-faring nations, the socio-economic benefits of space exploration. Indeed, the benefits to society of ‘science’ led programmes may be unclear. However, regardless of the mission goals, behind these programmes lie an emerging space economy that encompasses many previously unnoticed socio-economic benefits.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defined the space economy as (OECD, 2009):
“…the full range of activities and the use of resources that create and provide value and benefits to human beings in the course of exploring, understanding, managing and utilising space.”
The development of a space economy also feeds into public policy, for example, the European Commission’s industrial policy, Space 4.0:

“Space policy can help boost jobs, growth and investments in Europe. Investing in space pushes the boundaries of science and research. Europe has a world-class space sector, with a strong satellite manufacturing industry…[] …The European space economy, including manufacturing and services, employs over 230 000 professionals and its value was estimated at €46-54 bn in 2014, representing around 21% of the value of the global space sector. (European Commission, 2016) 2 Evaluating the complex interaction between the Space and Earth economies and the value chains that underpin their activities is challenging, with classifying and measuring qualitative benefits one of the biggest barriers to evaluation. One method for addressing this challenge is the capitals approach, which has been increasingly used in studies evaluating public policy programmes (Nussbaum, 2011; Thomas and McElroy). Capitals (Bourdieu, 1985) may include, inter alia: cultural/symbolic capital; educational capital; environmental capital; financial capital; human capital; organisational capital; social capital and technological capital.

The purpose of this studentship is to evaluate the categories of socio-economic benefits that arise from particular space exploration programmes by defining and applying a capitals approach. Of particular interest here is exploring how science is integrated and measured; ‘science capital’ is an established approach used to evaluate the various influences that impact on an individual’s (specifically young people’s) science identity and participation in science-related activities (Archer, et al., 2015), but its utility in the context of socio-economic analysis is yet to be tested.

Eligibility and Requirements

E3 studentships are available to UK and EU applicants. A first degree at grade 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant science subject is required. A Masters degree (MSc or integrated MSci) or equivalent experience is desirable.

How to apply

We strongly advise you to contact the lead supervisor of the project(s) that interests you before submitting an application. The application process requires you to send an email to the following email address:

[Email Address Removed]

Please attach the following items to your email:
(1) a cover letter outlining why the project is of interest and how your skills match those required,
(2) your CV and contact details of 3 academic references,
(3) a E3 application form, and
(4) a completed Home OU application form (if you are resident in the UK or European Economic Area).

Closing date for applications: 30th September 2019 at (12pm, noon)

Interviews will take place between 21st and 28th October 2019, anticipated start date is 1st February 2020.

We promote diversity in employment and welcome applications from all sections of the community, particularly from groups that are otherwise underrepresented in academic communities.

Funding Notes

Astrobiology OU has recently been awarded £6.7 million by Research England to develop their capacity. This will allow the group to expand to bring together expertise in technology, international development and governance to address the scientific and governance challenges associated with the advancement of astrobiology and related space exploration missions. The funding for these studentships comes from this grant and covers a 3 year stipend, and a £8000 stipend for research and travel. The student will also benefit from a number of career development opportunities organized for all members of the group.

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