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Harnessing the value of data in the public sector: an exploration of data governance models

   The Business School

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  Dr L Luca Mora, Dr Paolo Gerli  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

It is commonly agreed that big data could enormously benefit the public sector by enhancing the decision-making processes of policymakers and innovating the delivery of public services (Wirtz et al., 2020). Nevertheless, public organisations at different administrative levels still struggle to leverage the benefits of big data due to the existence of organisational, cultural and legal impediments (Mora et al., 2023).

National and international institutions are increasingly taking actions to tackle these challenges by promoting the development of capabilities for big data analytics and introducing regulations that facilitate the reuse and sharing of data (Davidson et al., 2023). However, the public management literature has evidenced that, to fully harness and capture the value of big data, public administrations also need to develop and implement effective governance models (Desouza and Jacob, 2017).

Drawing upon the burgeoning literature on data governance (Micheli et al., 2020) and innovation management in the public sector (Mora et al., 2023), this doctoral research will apply qualitative methods to investigate how public organisations at different administrative levels are approaching and managing the collection, sharing, storage, and analytics of big data. Examples of research methods that could be applied in this study include, but are not limited to, interviews, surveys, focus groups, participant observation, and content analysis techniques. The PhD candidate will be responsible for selecting the most appropriate methods for conducting the research activity.

By mapping and critically comparing the institutional arrangements and collaborative practices currently employed by public organisations to govern big data, this project is expected to identify the sociotechnical, legal, cultural and political factors shaping the development of data governance models and influencing their effectiveness in different administrative and regional contexts. Furthermore, the analysis is expected to explore how public organisations deal with the ethical issues associated with the usage of big data and the psychological barriers that are known to constrain the acceptance of data-driven innovations (Gerli et al., 2022, Desouza and Jacob, 2017).

This doctoral research will contribute to generate theoretical insights, adding to the literature on public sector innovation and data governance (Davidson et al., 2023; Mora et al., 2023). This project will also help inform a guidance framework for public managers interested in harnessing the value of big data. The PhD candidate will be expected to disseminate the results of this research by producing journal articles and participating to research seminars and conferences.

The successful candidate will conduct research under the supervision of experienced academics working in the field of urban innovation and digital transformation governance, and will become a member of the Urban Innovation Policy Lab of Edinburgh Napier University. This will give the PhD candidate the possibility to engage with a network of international researchers already collaborating with the supervisory team, which include representatives of University College London, Copenhagen Business School, City University of Hong Kong and Erasmus University Rotterdam, just to name a few.

Interviews for this PhD position will be held in the first 10 days of July.

Academic qualifications

A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in Business and Management, Public Administration, Organisation studies, or Sociology with a good fundamental knowledge of digital transformation processes and data-driven innovation in the public sector.

English language requirement

IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University's policy are available online Application process (

Essential attributes

  • Experience of fundamental concepts in data governance and public sector innovation
  • Competent in critical thinking, team working and problem solving
  • Knowledge of governance practices in the context of digital transformation
  • Good written and oral communication skills
  • Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
  • Good time management

Desirable attributes:

  • Knowledge of research design processes in qualitative methods
  • Professional or research experience in the fields of public sector management and/or digital transformations

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will obtain a fee waiver.


Davidson, E., Wessel, L., Winter, J. S., & Winter, S. (2023). Future directions for scholarship on data governance, digital innovation, and grand challenges. Information and Organization, 33(1), 100454.
Desouza, K. C., & Jacob, B. (2017). Big data in the public sector: Lessons for practitioners and scholars. Administration & society, 49(7), 1043-1064.
Gerli, P., Clement, J., Esposito, G., Mora, L., & Crutzen, N. (2022). The hidden power of emotions: How psychological factors influence skill development in smart technology adoption. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 180, 121721.
Micheli, M., Ponti, M., Craglia, M., & Berti Suman, A. (2020). Emerging models of data governance in the age of datafication. Big Data & Society, 7(2), 2053951720948087.
Mora, L., Gerli, P., Ardito, L., & Petruzzelli, A. M. (2023). Smart city governance from an innovation management perspective: Theoretical framing, review of current practices, and future research agenda. Technovation, 123, 102717.
Wirtz, B. W., Müller, W. M., & Schmidt, F. (2020). Public smart service provision in smart cities: A case-study-based approach. International Journal of Public Administration, 43(6), 499-516.
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