Digital Economy & Society: ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership / Health and Care Research Wales PhD Studentship: Understanding and Predicting Falls of People Living with Dementia

Closing date: 1 February 2018

Key Information

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Swansea University, supported by the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales (Wales DTP), invites applications for funded PhD study, available to start in October 2018. The following collaborative studentship is available in the Digital Economy and Society pathway of the Wales DTP:

 In collaboration with Health and Care Research Wales: ‘Understanding and predicting falls of people living with dementia’ (working title)

Project description:

Falls are a serious health and social care concern, as they are related to lack of social interaction (going out), hospitalisation, hip fractures, death, immobilisation, etc. There is published evidence that cognitive impairment, especially dementia, is an increased risk factor for falls due to reduced ability to dual-task and share attention. Recent research has focused on developing AI-based methods for detecting falls. However, this research is yet to be set in wider social and psychological contexts.

The project aims at addressing this shortage by combining computer science and psychology methods in a study that seeks to understand the fall mechanisms, and the wider context within which people have falls. This new understanding should allow devising intervention strategies. Key research questions are likely to include:

  • Can AI-based methods be developed to detect mobility and stability losses, and be deployed in real environments?
  • What are the environmental factors associated with the detected falls, and that favour attention shift?
  • Can interventions be designed to alleviate these identified factors?

The successful applicant will design AI-based methods to detect instabilities in gait and posture that are indicative of higher fall risk. These methods will be based on, and extend, the main supervisor’s successful works on identifying movements that deviate from a learnt ‘normal’ model in home environments. They will be used to identify areas in homes that present a higher risk of fall.

Participants aged 65+ with early and middle dementia stages will be recruited, for studies either at home or in care-homes. Focus groups and neuropsychological tests will help link the detected fall-prone areas with the likely causes of increased fall risk, such as causes of attention shifts. Possible interventions to reduce or suppress these elements may be discussed during focus groups as well.

An iterative development strategy will favour user-involvement in the design and evaluation of methods. This will ensure that the developed methods are useable in real scenarios and realise impact. HCRW will help gain direct exposure to Welsh policymakers to help influence policies and enable a maximum impact in Wales.

We welcome applications for both full and part-time study, and studentships are available as either ‘1+3’ (i.e. one full time year of research training Masters followed by three years of full-time doctoral study, or the part-time equivalent), or ‘+3’ (i.e. three years of full-time doctoral study or its part-time equivalent), depending on the needs of the applicant. Swansea University values diversity and equality at all levels and encourages applications from all sections of the community.

Research is at the core of Swansea University’s vision. We aim to foster research excellence across a broad range of subject areas, with internationally leading research staff informing all our teaching. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, showed that Swansea is now a top 30 research university, soaring up the leagues table to 26th in the UK from 52nd position in 2008.

SUPERVISION

These studentships are ‘collaborative’ awards. Applicants should take careful consideration of the working title and description of the project, and may wish to contact the named supervisor and / or the Swansea pathway contact for a discussion prior to applying. They are:

Supervisor: Dr Adeline Paiement (a.t.m.paiement@swansea.ac.uk)

Pathway contact: Dr Matthew Roach

Eligibility

ESRC studentships are highly competitive. Candidates should have an excellent background in the social sciences, holding a 1st or strong upper 2nd class degree; applications from those also holding a relevant research training Master's degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a ‘+3’ award. 

Residential eligibility:

Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. 

Full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold either a full-time job, or a permanent part-time job, during the period of their award. Part-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold a full-time job.

Funding

Studentship awards commence in October 2018 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £14,553 per annum for 2017/18 for full-time students, updated each year) and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, overseas institutional visits and other small grants.

A ‘1+3’ studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Master's in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A ‘+3’ studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent). 

How to Apply

To apply, please complete and return the following documents to esrcdtp@swansea.ac.uk:

  1.  Covering letter: Please address to Dr Matthew Roach. The covering letter must set out your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Swansea University, and the chosen pathway; your understanding, and expectations of doctoral study; your academic interests generally, and particularly how these relate to the description of the project supplied. The covering letter should be no more than two pages. Please specify whether you wish to apply on a ‘+3’ or ‘1+3’ basis. Remember also to specify that your application concerns ESRC Wales DTP collaborative studentships and include in your application the title of the project to which you are applying.
  2.  Academic / professional qualifications: Where appropriate, this should also include proof of English Language Competency (7.0 IELTS minimum).
  3.  References: All applications require two academic references to be submitted in support. Candidates must approach referees themselves, and submit the references with their application.
  4.  Curriculum Vitae: It should be no longer than two pages.
  5.  Research Proposal: For collaborative studentships, the proposal should build directly on the outline description that has been supplied. The proposal should be up to a maximum of 1000 words, not including bibliographic references. We suggest that you use the following five headings in your research proposal:
  • Your reflections on the title, aims and purpose of the research;
  • An overview of some key research literature relevant to the study;
  • Your proposals for developing the design and methods of the study;
  • A description of potential outcomes of the project for understanding, knowledge, policy and practice (as appropriate to the topic);
  • Bibliographic references.

Please note that incomplete applications or applications received after the specified time will not be accepted. 

The deadline for applications is 4pm on 1 February 2018.

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview; interviews are expected to take place in March 2018. After interview, a final shortlist of applicants will be put forward to a Panel convened by the ESRC Wales DTP Management Group at which final decisions with regard to studentship awards will be made. In most cases, successful applicants can expect to hear by mid-April 2018. 

Informal enquiries about these studentships are welcome, and should be directed to Dr Matthew Roach (m.j.roach@swansea.ac.uk)