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PhD Studentship Opportunity in Privacy and Trust in Distributed Ledger Technology

   Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

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  Dr Mahdi Tavalaei, Prof Glenn Parry  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) has evolved as a new form of organising with the potential to revolutionise established business practices across various industries. This project attempts to address the trust and privacy tensions in DLT.

Proposed Research Question

1.      What trust and privacy paradoxes exist within DLT?

2.       How those paradoxes affect DLT adoption by users, and how can they be overcome?

Theoretical Background 

The specific consensus mechanism and algorithm that can be linked in systems to create smart contracts, provides an infrastructure that enables participants to engage in exchanges without a central authority regulating and verifying transactions. Decentralised governance aims to mitigate some of the drawbacks inherent in centralised platforms. However, alongside the benefits, various inefficiencies and tensions exist at the very core of the technology, which have not received sufficient critical attention. 

Trust- DLT provides an architecture that can provide the so-called trustless system. However, it is not clear whether the trust is able to be replaced by an algorithm and codes or if there is a user need for institutions to supplement them. 

Privacy- DLT is privacy-preserving as long as individual identity is not linked to a wallet address; should such a link be made, all their transactions become visible. Individuals are pseudonymous at best, and always vulnerable to the hacking threat. 

Proposed Method

Whilst research approach and context will be guided by the individual student, we envisage a mixed-method research. At the qualitative stage, the student will conduct interviews with DLT developers as a multiple case study analysis. Based on the insights derived from the interviews, a questionnaire will be designed, analysing the privacy and trust paradoxes from the users’ perspective, followed with secondary data analysis; the quantitative stage. The project concludes by suggesting possible remedies to overcome trust and privacy paradoxes, from organisational perspective. 

Primary supervisor: Dr Mahdi Tavalaei, Fellow at the Centre of Digital Economy (CoDE).

Secondary supervisor: Professor Glenn Parry, Fellow at the Centre of Digital Economy (CoDE).

Co-supervisor: Professor John Collomosse, Director of EPSRC Centre for the Decentralised Digital Economy (DECaDE)

Co-supervisor: Professor Steve Schneider, Director of Surrey Centre for Cyber Security

This is a 3-year project starting in October 2021.

Entry requirements

Applicants must have a Merit in Masters and a minimum of 2:1 in Bachelors, or equivalent, in Business, Management, or Economics (applicants with Science or Engineering background with sufficient knowledge of management studies are also considered).

Competence and experience in quantitative and econometric analysis and related software (preferably Stata) is essential. Knowledge about qualitative research methods is a plus.

Applicant must be resident in the UK during the period and study, they may need to travel to collect data during their studies. 

The applicants ideally should be familiar and/or interested in the topics of digitalization and digital platforms. English language requirements: IELTS Academic 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Management and Business PhD programme page on the "Apply" tab.

Please state clearly the studentship project at you would like to apply for.

Interview dates will be in late June 2021 (subject to slight changes).

You must provide colour copies of your Bachelors and Masters official transcripts and degree certificates (official English translations if the originals are not in English), an up to date CV, and two references.  

We also request a written statement of purpose (explaining why you want to undertake this project, why you have the requisite skill, and how you would approach this project). The statement of purpose should be uploaded in the “research proposal” area of the application portal. 

A further piece of research/assignment work, dissertation section, or publication is also recommended to be submitted. Applicants can contact the supervisory team (Dr Mahdi Tavalaei or Professor Glenn Parry) first to discuss their applications.

Funding Notes

Funding covers:
• Full UK/EU tuition fee
• Stipend at £15,285 p.a. (2020/21)
• RTSG of £1,000 p.a.
• Personal Computer (provided by the department)


Some related papers:
Catalini, C., 2017. How blockchain applications will move beyond finance. Harvard Business Rev, 2.
Catalini, C. and Gans, J.S., 2016. Some simple economics of the blockchain (No. w22952). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Constantinides, P., Henfridsson, O. and Parker, G.G., 2018. Introduction-Platforms and Infrastructures in the Digital Age. Information Systems Research, 29(2), pp.381-400.
Halaburda, H., 2018. Blockchain revolution without the blockchain?. Communications of the ACM, 61(7), pp.27-29.
Iansiti, M. and Lakhani, K., 2017. R.(2017). The truth about blockchain. Harvard Business Review, 9.
Pereira, J., Tavalaei, M.M. and Ozalp, H., 2019. Blockchain-based platforms: Decentralized infrastructures and its boundary conditions. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 146, pp.94-102.
Risius, M. and Spohrer, K., 2017. A blockchain research framework. Business & Information Systems Engineering, 59(6), pp.385-409.
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