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UK’s Infectious Disease Geospatial Project: Mapping incidences to understand and predict behaviour.

   School of Psychology

  , Dr James Goulding, Dr Alexa Spence  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We are currently recruiting a PhD candidate to join the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Brian O’Shea (Psychology, 50%), Dr James Goulding (Computer Science, 40%) & Dr Alexa Spence (Psychology, 10%).

We have recently developed a new database of infectious disease incidences (ICI) across US counties (N=3,142) to enable us to determine the impact that infectious diseases have on social and political behaviour at a higher resolution than previously available. The candidate will build IDI and infectious disease mortality (IDM) databases across counties and districts within the UK to enable comparisons to the US. Crucially, these new databases will have a host of benefits for public health, epidemiology, and social physics/geography psychology, especially in understanding how regional-level infectious diseases impact racial bias (O’Shea et al., 2020) and political beliefs (O’Shea et al., 2022).

Multilevel modelling, time-series analysis, geospatial mapping and machine learning can be used to answer complex questions regarding the relationships between infectious disease and behaviour. For example, more theory is needed to understand why conservatives, who are consistently more germ averse, were less fearful of COVID-19 than liberals. This studentship will allow the replication and expansion of findings outside of the US context and with high precision. The candidate will have access to the necessary datasets from Project Implicit (UK), which has continuously been gathering data from online volunteers since 2006. Seven tasks are available (Gender-Science, Race, Skin-Tone Weight, Age, Sexuality and Nationalism IATs) with ~400,000 completed sessions. This unique and rich dataset has the potential to unlock crucial knowledge for society, especially in developing strategies to ameliorate prejudice towards marginalised groups. 

We would recommend you send your C.V. to Dr O'Shea (), who can advise on whether you will be a competitive candidate for the position.  

Deadline: Rolling submissions until we identify a suitable candidate.  

Starting date: October 2023.   


·        Candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree (minimum 2:1 or equivalent) and a Master’s degree in Behavioural Science, Data Science, Data Analytics, Economics, Political Science or a related field.


·        Essential: the ideal candidate should be highly motivated with strong written and verbal communication skills. They should have advanced data management, wrangling and analytics skills using R or Python.

·        Desirable: the candidate should have the ability to understand how large-scale macro-level factors (e.g., diseases, poverty, temperature, population density) impact individuals’ behaviours and decisions.

How to apply:

All applications are to be made directly to the University, selecting PhD Psychology (36 months duration) as the course. Please apply at:

In the research proposal section, please include “Brian O’Shea Geospatial PhD position” in the title. No formal research proposal is required. You are required to upload the following documents to your application:

·        A maximum of a 2-page C.V.

·        Degree certificate and transcript (if already graduated) or a recent transcript.

·        A 1,000-word personal statement (maximum but excludes references) should address the following points:      

(1) Why is the candidate interested in doing this PhD?

(2) Does the candidate have any previous experience that is relevant to this studentship?

(3) Describe how the ideas outlined in the advert align with the candidate’s interests?

(4) What does the candidate plan to do after this PhD (long-term goals)?

·        Two references (in a non-editable format, on headed paper and signed by the referee). One of the references must be academic.

If you have any questions about the application process through MyNottingham, please contact  for further advice.

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will be based in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, and they will be affiliated with N-Lab (View Website) at the Business School. The studentship is funded by the Faculty of Science and will provide a stipend to cover living costs and will cover Home University fees (Stipend £ 17,668 pa, Home fee estimated £4,587pa; 36 months). The studentship will not cover international fees. However, international students are welcome to apply, but details of how they plan to cover the high international fees (> £22,000 per annum) will need to be presented.


O’Shea, B. A., Vitriol, J. A., Federico, C. M., Appleby, J., & Williams, A. L. (2022). Exposure and Aversion to Human Transmissible Diseases Predict Conservative Ideological and Partisan Preferences. Political Psychology, 43(1), 65–88.
O’Shea, B. A., Watson, D. G., Brown, G. D. A., & Fincher, C. L. (2020). Infectious Disease Prevalence, Not Race Exposure, Predicts Both Implicit and Explicit Racial Prejudice Across the United States. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 11(3), 345–355.

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