REF: EGIS2018SP

This exciting PhD scholarship which covers tuition fees will be associated with, and extend on, an EPSRC funded project called DeStress, Designing and Engineering Soundscapes To enable Restorative Environments for Sustainable Societies. 

Research into soundscapes is multidisciplinary, including drawing on psychological theories and acoustic principles. There is a growing body of evidence, particularly from case study examples, on the importance of soundscapes to people’s health and wellbeing, both positively and negatively. Unlike many other pollutants or resources that need protecting, we cannot measure soundscapes with standard monitoring equipment, such as sound level meters. As soundscapes involve people’s evaluation of sounds, cognitively and affectively, we need to understand and monitor individual perspectives, associations, and meanings applied to the sound sources within each given context. International Standards for soundscape methods are currently under discussion but given the contextual variances, it is unlikely one methodological approach will be suitable for all situations. However, standardisation across studies will help compare and collate data sets, thus creating stronger evidence which is important for policy and planners for creating appropriate guidelines. 

Salutogenic environments support people’s health and wellbeing, thus salutogenic soundscapes are a vital ingredient to those environments. This project will particularly focus on positive features rather than negative aspects, and explore what is necessary to create salutogenic soundscapes. Project DeStress will have identified publically accepted quiet and calm areas in three UK urban cities. These quiet and calm areas can be examined further in this project to gain a greater understanding of what makes these positive environments for people to visit, pass through, and cognitively/emotionally restore. 

This PhD will therefore explore which soundscape assessment methods and ‘health and wellbeing’ indicators are the most appropriate to consistently utilise when evaluating public urban places. The urban places we are particularly interested in exploring are those that provide opportunities for cognitive and emotional restoration or those that encourage active behaviours such as walking and cycling. Furthermore, this research topic would benefit from utilising a combination of controlled laboratory experiments alongside ecological valid real-world case studies and interventions.

The successful candidate will be in the research theme group Health and Wellbeing in the built environment, in The Urban Institute, in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. This interdisciplinary school has a strong research background and postgraduate community consisting of around 150 PhD students at the Riccarton campus, ranging from social scientists, acousticians, planners, to engineers. 
Contact Dr Sarah Payne, s.r.payne@hw.ac.uk, for informal enquiries.

Eligibility and Funding
This scholarship is open to ALL applicants, whether home, EU or overseas.

Applications will particularly be welcome from candidates with a psychological background (e.g. environmental, cognitive, social). Also welcome are candidates from an acoustics background or natural and built environment background (e.g. geographers, planners), who have previously taken a social perspective in their work.

The candidate will need to have good social skills and the ability to consider a topic from a number of different perspectives due to the multidisciplinary nature of soundscape research. They will be open to utilising different methodological approaches to explore and assess soundscapes. Prior industrial experience of working with people engaged in this topic will be advantageous due to the potential applied nature of the research.  

Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Equivalent and related expertise from industry will be considered.

The funding will cover tuition fees only and applicants will need to fund their living expenses.

How to Apply
Please complete our online application form. Select PhD programme ‘Urban Studies’ within the online application and quote the full project title and reference number.   
Please provide a supporting statement which reflects on this project proposal and outlines your areas of interest and how you would develop the proposal.
You will also need to provide a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts, proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English) and an academic reference.

Timetable
The closing date for applications is 30th April 2018. Applicants must be available to start the course of study on or before the 1st October 2018.