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Independence in the “Elder Experience”

School of Social and Political Science

, , Prof Stuart Anderson , Dr James Stewart Sunday, January 31, 2021 Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Edinburgh United Kingdom Artificial Intelligence Data Analysis Data Science Electronic Engineering Health Informatics Software Engineering

About the Project

The Advanced Care Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh is a new £20m interdisciplinary research collaboration aiming to transform later life with person centred integrated care

The vision of the ACRC is to play a vital role in addressing the Grand Challenge of ageing by transformational research that will support the functional ability of people in later life so they can contribute to their own welfare for longer. With fresh and diverse thinking across interdisciplinary perspectives our academy students will work to creatively embed deep understanding, data science, artificial intelligence, assistive technologies and robotics into systems of health and social care supporting the independence, dignity and quality-of-life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments.

The ACRC Academy will equip future leaders to drive society’s response to the challenges of later life care provision; a problem which is growing in scale, complexity and urgency. Our alumni will become leaders in across a diverse range of pioneering and influential roles in the public, private and third sectors.

Increasingly elders will use Autonomous Systems to enable their independence. This interdisciplinary project will explore how elders construct their independence by a process of bricolage involving other people, Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TASs) and repurposed everyday artefacts.

This proposal will provide insights into how advanced AI and data technologies can be safely and productively deployed in ways that contribute to the lived experience of elderly users (regarding their independence and quality of life) as well as the confidence of members of their care networks, allowing elders to participate in the world as “first-class” citizens.

Independence is often seen as an absence of reliance on others but for older people it is much wider than this, relating to self-esteem, self-determination, personal development and continuity of the self among other features. This project will develop a notion of “Elder Experience” by analogy with “Driver Experience” in automotive systems. It will investigate the role of independence in the “Elder Experience” and how it is constructed from many elements, increasingly including TASs. This project will focus on two linked questions

  1. How to incorporate TASs into the “Elder Experience” to reinforce independence? Though qualitative studies of use of autonomous and conventional systems supporting elder independence, this interdisciplinary project will better characterise requirements for trusted autonomous systems enhancing elder experience and explore the potential for scalable co-production of “elder experiences” within a well-governed framework.
  2. How to ensure effective oversight of the “Elder Experience” and appropriate governance mechanisms? Trust and effective governance will be critical in wide-scale deployment of such systems. The project will explore how a governance approach focused on co-production, and scalability can support wide adoption and effective use of Trustworthy Autonomous Systems as technologies of independence. It will Investigate the development of a customisable “digital twin” focused on evaluating innovations in TASs aimed at supporting independence.

The studentship will build upon and enrich a deeply interdisciplinary research community, involving Social Science, Informatics, Law, Engineering, that has come together around the recently funded UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Governance Node led by Prof Ramamoorthy 


You will be working with a highly interdisciplinary team. We therefore welcome applications from a range of relevant computational and social science disciplines with a background and interests could range in qualitative social science research, data science/analytics or in design and development.

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:
View Website

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


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