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Understanding and addressing the ‘nasty effect’ in online discussions about geological nuclear waste disposal

   Department of Psychology

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  Dr Chris Jones, Dr Ana Gheorghiu, Prof J Smith  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully-funded four-year PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health, and will be supervised by Dr Chris Jones, Dr Ana Gheorghiu and Professor Jim Smith

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for four years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). 

The work on this project could involve:

●        Innovative use of social media platforms to track the spread of public opinion

●       A generous travel budget to allow for travel to national and international conferences 

●       A short secondment with Quintessa Ltd. (a risk assessment consultancy)

Project description

Geological nuclear waste disposal (GNWD) is being championed as a means of contending with legacy waste from nuclear power. Public attitudes and actions relating to GNWD will exert a strong steering influence over where disposal facilities are sited, as well as societal support for the concept of GNWD in principle. 

‘Publics’ increasingly use online resources, including social media, to learn about scientific and technological innovations. While these informal learning environments are a valuable source of information, the manner in which material is presented and discussed by users can go unchecked. The ‘nasty effect’ refers to how the incivility of the social commentary associated with information about innovation can heighten the perceived risk of the innovation.

This project will first run a social media analysis to map how GNWD is currently represented by UK residents in online environments, before running quasi-experimental studies designed to (a) investigate the impact of the ‘nasty effect’ on attitudes and risk perceptions about the technology; and (b) examine the effectiveness of a brief media-literacy intervention in inoculating people to the ‘nasty effect’. We shall also aim to investigate the real-time, real-world propagation of information about GDNW on social media, in the presence or absence of the inoculation intervention.

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

The ideal candidate will have:

  • A background and training in relevant social scientific disciplines (e.g. psychology, sociology, marketing and communication)
  • Research interests in attitudes, risk perception, social influence (particularly in online environments) and/or communication. 
  • A good working knowledge of social media platforms and/or experience with the analysis of data generated from these platforms. 
  • A passion for understanding public perceptions of technological innovation.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Chris Jones ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PSYCH8260623 when applying.

Funding Notes

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for four years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24).

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