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ESRC SWDTC Studentship: Uncertainty at the science-society interface: the production and consumption of seasonal weather forecasts

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S O'Neill
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The University of Exeter is pleased to be offering a total of up to 22 ESRC funded 1+3 or +3 studentships, including any collaborative projects, as part of the South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC) for entry in 2016-17. Within the DTC, the College of Life and Environmental Sciences is currently inviting applications for the project entitled: “specific title.” This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of merit and strategic fit with the aims of the DTC.

For eligible UK/EU students the full time studentship will cover fees and an annual Research Council stipend of at least £14,057 (2015-16 rate) for up to three years (+3 award) or four years (1+3 award).

For the 1+3 studentships we would require you to register initially on the MRes Critical Human Geographies (Streatham campus). For the +3 studentships we would require you to register on the MPhil/PhD Human Geography (Streatham campus).


Saffron O’Neill Human Geography (University of Exeter)
Karen Bickerstaff Human Geography (University of Exeter)
Richard Betts Geography (University of Exeter)

Project Description:

Meteorological forecasts from the UK Met Office (MO) have, in recent years, become increasingly accurate. There is generally high confidence in the two day forecast, reasonable confidence in the five day forecast and even a 30 day outlook is becoming useful. But as daily weather forecasts extend into seasonal prediction, uncertainty greatly increases. Despite the uncertainty attached to seasonal forecasts, there is a great appetite for such products from Government, insurers, farming organisations and others – as well as from publics, as evidenced by the media coverage which accompanies these seasonal forecasts. However, seasonal forecasts offer very contingent projections of the future, which presents challenges in relation to the consumption and interpretation of this information within and particularly beyond the Met Office (e.g. Monbiot, 2012).

This studentship, working in collaboration with the UK Met Office, analyses the production of seasonal forecasts, the role of different ‘expert’ constituencies within the Met Office and the conceptualisation, negotiation and representation of uncertainty. The project also explores how the representation (and meaning) of uncertainty shifts as the forecast travels beyond the Met Office. The student would spend a period of three months at the Met Office observing and interacting with the monthly to decadal prediction team (part of the Hadley Centre) and the communication team. Semi-structured interview will be conducted with key Met Office personnel, alongside a longer period of ethnographic work based at the main Met Office site in Exeter. Interviews will also be carried out with a wide range of end-users including policy-makers, the media, and commercial organisations.

Academic entry requirements: For the 1+3 programme students must have a strong first degree (at least an Upper Second Class Honours or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. Candidates for the +3 programme must, in addition, have (or be about to complete) a research Masters degree (at least Merit (60%) overall and 60% for the dissertation component) in a relevant discipline or have equivalent research training. The Masters degree should contain a significant element of research training (this is defined as including significant social sciences research design, quantitative and qualitative research methods elements. Your transcript will need to show that a minimum of a third of your programme entailed research methods elements). Personal qualities should include the ability to work independently and the motivation necessary to complete a PhD in three years.

Residency entry requirements: These studentships will be funded by the ESRC and are available to UK nationals and other EU nationals who have resided in the UK for three years prior to commencing the studentship. If you meet the criteria, funding will be provided for tuition fees and stipend. If you are a citizen of an EU member state and don’t meet the UK residency requirement you will be eligible for a fees-only award. Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding. For further guidance about eligibility please refer to Annex 1 of the ESRC Postgraduate Funding Guide.

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