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Making impact assessment relevant for the 21st century (BONDAU20SF)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, May 31, 2020
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

The future of impact assessment (IA) (a mandated decision-support process in every country of the world) has to contend with global megatrends, including the fourth industrial revolution (Retief et al., 2016), that are set to change the face of the planet (Dusik et al., 2018). Accelerating technological innovation underpins the fourth industrial revolution, covering fields like “artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing” (Schwab, 2016). Some of the resulting impacts occur on scales that are multi-national, and are therefore outside the scope of mandated IA systems. Impacts of new technologies are also difficult to embrace within IA systems, given that the need for Technology Assessment (TA) is not captured in IA legislation. TA exists as a separate field of research (Porter, 1995), but is not mandated.

This PhD project aims to identify how the fields of IA and TA can collaborate to ensure that the anticipated impacts of the fourth industrial revolution are understood, and are considered by decision-makers. The specific objectives are:

1) To identify the enablers and barriers to the institutionalisation of TA.
2) To determine how TA methods and techniques can be incorporated into mandatory IA processes.
3) To evaluate the effectiveness of a modified IA process as a basis for improving decision making.

The research will help to develop a number of skills including:

• Research design
• Expert elicitation
• Stakeholder engagement
• Documentary analysis
• Interview techniques

The student will be embedded in the 3S (Science, Society and Sustainability) research group ( within the School of Environmental Sciences.

UK candidates who are eligible for Research Council studentships and who develop their own research proposals on this topic are able to apply for ESRC funding for 2020/21 entry. Please see for more information and contact Alan Bond () if you are eligible.


Project supervisor:
Mode of study: Full time
Start date: October 2020
Entry requirements: First degree (2:1 or above) in Environmental Sciences, Geography, Ecology, Social Sciences or Planning.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at View Website.

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. Applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


Dusik, J, T B Fischer, B Sadler, R Therivel and I Saric (2018), "Strategic Environmental and Social Assessment of Automation: Scoping Working Paper", available at Assessment_of_Automation_Scoping_Working_Paper, last accessed 10 May 2019.

Porter, A L (1995), "Technology Assessment", Impact Assessment, 13(2), pages 135-151.

Retief, F, A Bond, J Pope, A Morrison-Saunders and N King (2016), "Global megatrends and their implications for environmental assessment practice", Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 61, pages 52-60.

Schwab, K (2016), "The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond", available at , last accessed 10 May 2019.

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