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NERC GW4+ DTP Studentship: Environmental and health impact evaluation of food consumption interventions in developing countries

   Cardiff School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr P He, Dr Yixian Sun  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Background 

The food consumption patterns in the developing countries have witnessed critical change in past decades. As a result of rapid socio-economic transformation, diets have been transitioning from starchy-food-dominant style to a more diverse pattern with increased animal-based products. Such shift has significantly recharacterized how the food systems affect the ecological environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity and contamination, land degradation. as well as multiform malnutrition such as excessive intakes of sugar, trans fat, and red and processed meat. Given that most of these countries are nutritional insecure and environmental vulnerable, it is urgent and critical to motivate demand-side transformative policies in addressing these interconnected issues. A thorough understanding is thus essential on what policy interventions could be effective in minimizing environmental impacts of food consumption while achieve stable and equal nutrition security in these countries. However, until now, little research has empirically on various policies affecting food consumption in the Global South. The proposed project seeks to address this research gap by combining perspectives from different social science disciplines to assess sustainability impacts of policies on food consumption. Such knowledge will not only advance the behavioural science and public policy research on food consumption, but also help policymakers design much-needed interventions in the pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a Net-Zero world.  

Project Aims and Methods 

This project will quantitatively estimate the effects of a series of demand-side interventions in improving the environmental sustainability and health benefits of food consumption in the Global South. Combining multi-source micro-level data, the student will adopt statistical learning, behavioural experiment/quasi-experiment, environmental footprint accounting, and global burden of disease assessment to 

  1. examine the socio-economic drivers that characterize the dietary patterns of consumers; 
  2. identify the policy interventions that interact with these drivers to motivate a sustainable dietary transition; 
  3. evaluate the environmental and health performance of various policy scenarios within population investigated.  

Candidate requirements 

The ideal candidate will need to have completed at least one degree in environmental studies, public policy, public health, economics, or food science. An interdisciplinary interest and strong quantitative skills of statistical analysis, impact evaluation, and/or health risk analysis are desirable. 

Project partners  

The student will be co-advised by supervisors from Cardiff University and University of Bath. Based on the networks established by the supervisors with other scholars from GW4 Universities and international experts, the student is encouraged to reach out to researchers with inter-disciplinary interests and skills for further collaborations. The project will have many synergies with existing collaborations of the two supervisors. For instance, the two supervisors are the core team members of the project “The Political Economy of meat system transformation” in collaboration with University of Bern, ETH Zurich, Princeton University, and FAO, funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies. By building linkage among different projects, the student will have a chance to produce publications in high impact journals. 


The student will develop capability in quantitative analysis, especially dealing with large amounts of data using statistical learning techniques and programming skills. The project will also incorporate collaborative opportunities with oversea scholars from different fields, which improves the ability to proceed teamwork and communicate with individuals from diverse disciplinary and cultural backgrounds. 

Entry requirements

In order to be accepted you would need to have a first-class BSc degree or a second-class degree plus an MSc or good MSci. However, for international students, you would need to have a relevant degree in the subject area and have evidence of an English Language qualification. Further information on the English Language can be found here: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/international/english-language-requirements/postgraduate

How to apply

In order to formally apply for the PhD you will need to go to the following web page: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/earth-sciences

In the black box on the right of the page please select the following options:

·Doctor of Philosophy

·Full Time

·1st October 2023

Click on ‘Apply now’.

Please ensure that you include the ‘Project Title’ you are applying for and supervisor and that you add ‘NERC DTP’ under the source of funding.

The application deadline is Monday 9 January 2023 at 2359 GMT. Interviews will take place from 22nd February to 8th March 2023. For more information about the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership please visit https://www.nercgw4plus.ac.uk.

Funding Notes

Students will receive a stipend for 3.5 years of approximately £17668 p.a., payment of their university tuition fees, a Research and Training and Support Grant (RTSG) of £11,000 and an individual training budget of £3,250. The training budget of £3,250 are for each student to undertake specialist training relating to their specialist area of research and career development and to pay for travel and accommodation.


Springmann, M. et al. Mitigation potential and global health impacts from emissions pricing of food commodities. Nature Climate Change 7, 69–74 (2017).
Poore, J. & Nemecek, T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science 360, 987-992 (2018).
Willett, W. et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet 393, 447-492 (2019).
He, P., Baiocchi, G., Hubacek, K., Feng, K., & Yu, Y. (2018). The environmental impacts of rapidly changing diets and their nutritional quality in China. Nature Sustainability, 1(3), 122-127.
Fesenfeld, L. P., Wicki, M., Sun, Y., & Bernauer, T. (2020). Policy packaging can make food system transformation feasible. Nature Food, 1(3), 173-182.
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