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Independence in the 'Elder Experience'

   School of Social and Political Science

  Prof Robin Williams, Prof Stuart Anderson, Dr Luciana D'Adderio,  Friday, February 03, 2023  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

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”.

This project sits within the ACRC Academy , 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.



To experiment with and evaluate the significance of independence to in the “Elder Experience” and how trustworthy autonomous systems can support and extend independence. 


  • To develop a notion of “Elder Experience” by analogy with “Driver Experience” in automotive systems with a focus on support for independence. 
  • To develop means to ensure effective oversight of the “Elder Experience”  
  • To develop governance approaches for the “Elder Experience”  
  • To explore the potential for scalable co-production of “elder experiences” within a well-governed framework. 

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 investigate the role of independence in the “Elder Experience” and how it is constructed from many elements. Increasingly this includes Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TASs). This project will focus on how:

·TASs can be incorporated into the “Elder Experience” to reinforce independence.

·Appropriate governance mechanisms for such systems.

·Investigation of the development of a customizable “digital twin” focused on evaluating innovations in TASs aimed at supporting independence.

This interdisciplinary project will involve qualitative studies of use of autonomous and conventional systems supporting elder independence to better characterise requirements for trusted autonomous systems enhancing elder experience. It will be pursued in cooperation with The UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Governance Node led from University of Edinburgh 


We are looking for a candidate with an interest in undertaking interdisciplinary research at the interface between social science and data sciences informatics. In that sense we are pleased to consider students with a first degree in either area. We are not only looking for applicants with prior experience.

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. 

You must read How to apply prior to application

Please Apply here

Funding Notes

PhDs are funded with an enhanced 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 4 international students who can apply for the highly competitive ACRC Global Scholarship.
It is essential to read the How to Apply section of our website before you apply:
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Please apply here:
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