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Interdisciplinary projects

Some of the types of project that we are interested in supervising cannot be exclusively identified with one of the general disciplinary or subject area categories that structure research degree activity at the University. Those types of research have the greatest scope for, or in some cases even require, the combining of disciplines. We have, therefore, described those areas below for ease of identification. In each case, the departmental home for teaching purposes would be determined by the subject expertise of the GTA.

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Another feature of these so-called ‘interdisciplinary’ projects is that they are ones where the disciplinary background required is open. The descriptions below can be interpreted in various ways depending on the disciplinary perspective(s) that one brings to them. We will draw from expertise across the University to form appropriate supervisory teams tailored to the nature of the specific projects proposed by applicants and to support the necessary knowledge and skills development required by each GTA to meet the demands of the project.

These are certainly not the only multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary topics on which we would be interested in supervising projects, just those that are difficult to categorise. If you are interested in proposing another interdisciplinary project, remember to look through the various subject categories to identify the best one in which to apply.


Please direct all enquiries about proposed projects on topics related to these interdisciplinary themes to the Graduate School by emailing stating the specific research theme/s of interest to you. We will also be able to advise on the process to apply for an interdisciplinary project as this is different to the other projects advertised.

Also, see the University’s research repository for further information on the research outputs of each member of staff.

Research themes

The following are prompts, not projects or titles. We invite applicants to design and propose a project.

The impact of digital technologies (particularly Artificial Intelligence and virtual reality) on how we think about what it is to be human

It should go without saying that digital technologies have changed our lives considerably in various ways (that is, after all, what they are designed to do). Rather less obvious is various ways in which digital technologies have influenced how we think about what it is to be a human being. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality have perhaps had the greatest influence in that regard. We are interested in receiving proposals for doctoral projects that explore any matters raised by that observation.

  • Conceptions of the human and the influence of the computational metaphor.
  • Locating and critiquing scientism in all its forms.
  • Concept-possession, knowledge and the growth of AI: are we losing the human?
  • The neuro-computational picture and normativity.
  • Who decides? Judgement, human beings, and machines.
  • Virtual reality and learning.
  • Is the virtual real?
  • Can robots make art? AI and the intention of the artist.
  • Liberating AI from the shadow of the fanciful: what are the implications of moving beyond the mechanical and the computational images of human beings?
  • What are the implications of a four Es conception of cognitive science for AI and the place of the human in the modern world?
  • Is occasion-sensitivity an insurmountable problem for Artificial General Intelligence?

Responsible AI

In addition to having an impact on how we think about being human, AI raises a host of ethical issues. We are interested in receiving proposals for projects that would explore such matters.

  • Responsibility and AI: this could involve a focus on responsible uses of AI or on clarifying where responsibility lies in our uses of AI. Responsibility doesn’t run out because digital technology is involved. As machines do more for us, we don’t move to a situation in which we are not responsible for what they do. If an automated vehicle hits someone it is not the case that there is no agent responsible for the incident, but it isn’t the car that is responsible. There are implications here for social media companies, internet search engine providers, etc.
  • Data and our responsibilities.
  • What is it to own data and what follows from that in relation to ethics?
  • Unintended consequences, technology (particularly AI and virtual reality), and responsibility.
  • The ethics of data science.
  • Artificial Intelligence and bioethics.
  • Human learning, machine learning and the ethics of education (the ethics of education research and/or educational policy).
  • Our responsibility to previous generations and our responsibility to future previous generations: we will all be part of a previous generation eventually. What would it be to deal with digital footprints responsibly?
  • Digital technologies, mental health and wellbeing.

Rationality, irrationality and motivated irrationality    

There is a great deal in the way of global challenges at present that make questions of rationality, irrationality and motivated irrationality (reason being usurped by what we want, wish for, or are in some other way motivated to think or believe), along with related concepts such as self-deception and implicit bias, seem particularly helpful as a means of making some sense of that which often appears to make no sense at all. For example, we continue to run towards the edge of the cliff in relation to climate change and sustainability. Populist politics, conspiracy theories, and the notion of post-truth seem to thrive beyond all reason. Extremism, terrorism, intolerance and discrimination are all alive and much more well-established than reason would suggest they should be. Those are far from the only things where irrationality of one kind or another seems to have a central role. Diet and exercise, addiction, attitudes to support for developing nations, attitudes to migrants and our uses of social media, along with attitudes to vaccinations, lockdowns, social distancing and mask-wearing during the Covid-19 pandemic might all be thought terrain where consideration of matters of rationality, irrationality and motivated irrationality may help improve our understanding of human behaviour, reasoning and lack of reasoning.

Perhaps history tells us there is nothing new in any of that. Conflict and wars, inequality and economic turmoil are certainly nothing that we haven’t seen often enough before with depressing regularity, and that is, itself, important. We are interested in receiving proposals for doctoral research projects that could explore issues related to these matters.