Our doctoral students are as diverse as the ECI itself, and conduct their research across the world. We have students carrying out primary data collection on the functioning of forest ecosystems in pristine rainforests in remote Amazonia; developing frameworks for climate change adaptation costings in farming communities in Kenya; alongside projects in the UK, Europe, Asia as well as those undertaking theoretical desk-based studies here in Oxford.


Doctoral topics for 2020

The following projects are proposed DPhil opportunities within the ECI. Please contact individual supervisors for more information and to check whether the projects are still available. Funding opportunities for each DPhil are specific to the project and will be outlined in the descriptions below.

Enquiries about these projects should be directed to the named supervisor below.

National infrastructure systems (energy, transport, digital communications, water, waste management) provide essential services for people and the economy. They are increasingly interdependent, so performance of one system relies on others. Infrastructure is widely regarded as an essential pillar for economic competitiveness (World Economic Forum, 2018) and as a contributor to sustainability (Thacker et al. 2019).

The Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium has over the last eight years developed a unique modelling capability, called NISMOD (Hall et al., 2016), for simulating Britain's infrastructure systems. NISMOD contains modules to simulate Britain's energy, transport, digital and water supply systems. It uses scenarios of population and the economy to estimate future demand for infrastructure services and explore the performance of infrastructure policies and investments to meet those needs. The various simulation models are integrated with a model coupling framework called smif (Usher and Russell, 2019), which orchestrates model coupling, scenario analysis and optimisation.

Now that NISMOD is fully operational there are exciting opportunities for generating new scientific insights and results to guide decision making about national infrastructure systems in Britain. The types of questions that could be explored include:

  • Examination of the implications for infrastructure service provision of different scenarios for population and economic growth;
  • Evaluation of alternative strategies to achieve net zero carbon emissions from infrastructure;
  • Quantification of the most efficient strategies for providing essential services given constraints on infrastructure investments;
  • Examination of the implications of interdependencies between infrastructure sectors, for example due to the electrification of transport;
  • Strategic planning of infrastructure at a sub-national scale e.g. the Northern Powerhouse or Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

The research will particularly focus on the application of multi-objective optimisation methodologies to problems of infrastructure planning. We will explore the use of robust control methods and real options analysis to test and compare adaptive strategies for national infrastructure provision.

The project will therefore involve using and adapting existing simulation models of infrastructure systems and development of methods for optimisation and adaptive planning. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, mathematics, economics and the physical sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University's EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References

  • Otto, A., Hall, J.W., Hickford, A.J., Nicholls, R.J. A quantified systems-of-systems modeling framework for robust national infrastructure planning. IEEE Systems Journal, 10(2) (2016): 385-396. DOI: 10.1109/JSYST.2014.2361157
  • Hall, J.W., Tran, M., Hickford, A.J. and Nicholls, R.J. (eds.) The Future of National Infrastructure: A System of Systems Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Hall, J.W. Using system-of-systems modelling and simulation to inform sustainable infrastructure choices, IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine, DOI:10.1109/MSMC.2019.2913565.
  • Hall, J.W., Thacker, S., Ives, M.C., Cao, Y., Chaudry, M., Blainey, S.P. and Oughton, E.J., Strategic analysis of the future of national infrastructure, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Civil Engineering, 170(1) (2017): 39-47. DOI: 10.1680/jcien.16.00018
  • Usher, W. and Russell, T., 2019. A Software Framework for the Integration of Infrastructure Simulation Models. Journal of Open Research Software, 7(1), p.16. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/jors.265
  • World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2018

Thanks to a successful collaboration with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) we have developed methodology for sustainable infrastructure planning in developing countries. Our approach examines the current state of infrastructure service provision; assesses further needs for infrastructure services, guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and explores future strategies that combine investments with policy reforms. The approach has successfully been applied in the Caribbean islands of Curacao (Adshead et al., Oxford, 2018) and St Lucia, where it has resulted in national infrastructure plans and identification of quick wins for infrastructure service provision. The next significant step will be to adapt, apply and test the methodology in a large rapidly urbanising country, where the challenges of infrastructure provision are most urgent. This will bring several significant new research challenges:

  1. Infrastructure provision in large urban areas: Our research has focussed on national infrastructure networks. Urban infrastructure provision in rapidly expanding megacities and secondary cities provides a new set of challenges for our methodologies in system-of-systems modelling. Yet we do not believe cities should be dealt with in isolation from the hinterlands and catchments upon which they depend for resources. This therefore demands a multi-scale approach and a tractable methodology for dealing with the spatial complexity of cities.
  2. Navigating trade-offs between multiple policy objectives: Large countries have complex governance infrastructure arrangements. A focus of the research will therefore be upon the exploration of multiple objectives within multi-actor problems. Those multiple objectives may be framed in terms of the global agendas of the SDGs, but will doubtless entail other political goals. We propose to explore the trade-offs and feasibility of future provision and prosperity through infrastructure simulation modelling.
  3. Adaptive planning to deal with future uncertainties: Countries face large uncertainties about the trajectory of development, technological innovation and climate change, amongst other factors. Infrastructure planning decisions often involve making decisions with very long legacies, which may lock in patterns of development for years to come. Infrastructure planning therefore needs to rigorously account for future uncertainties, for example using the methodologies of adaptive management (Hall et al. 2019). This can be combined with simulation modelling, which estimates infrastructure system performance and service delivery for a given future state of the world.

These topics (or some selection thereof) will be explored in the context of a large rapidly urbanising country, chosen in collaboration with our partners in the UN Office for Project Services. The precise focus of the project will be driven by specific country needs.

The project will involve using a variety of decision analysis methodologies, along with qualitative methods for analysis of infrastructure objectives and governance contexts. It will therefore require a student with an interdisciplinary outlook and a wide range of capabilities. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and an ability to address critically with major policy challenges.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University's EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Additional funding may be available from the UN Office for Project Services. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Adshead, D., Fuldauer, L.I., Thacker, S., Hickford, A., Rouhet, G., Muller, W.S., Hall, J.W. and Nicholls, R.J. Evidence-Based Infrastructure: Curacao.: National infrastructure systems modelling to support sustainable and resilient infrastructure development. University of Oxford and UNOPS. May 2018, 60pp.
  • Adshead, D., Thacker, S., Fuldauer, L.I. and Hall, J.W. Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals through long-term infrastructure planning, Global Environmental Change, in press.
  • Hall, J.W., Harvey, H. and Manning, L.J. Adapting London's flood protection to multi-centennial sea level rise, Climate Risk Management, 24(2019): 42-58. DOI:10.1016/j.crm.2019.04.001.
  • Thacker, S., Adshead, D., Morgan, G., Crosskey, S., Bajpai, A., Ceppi, P., Hall, J.W. and O'Regan, N. Infrastructure: Underpinning Sustainable Development. UNOPS, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Planning national infrastructure, in all parts of the world, involves difficult choices about where infrastructure is located in order to efficiently provide services whilst minimising negative impacts on people and the environment. Versions of this spatial allocation problem exist in many situations. New spatial datasets from satellites, sensors and crowd sourcing are providing information that can enable better navigation of the trade-offs associated with spatial allocation.

We are currently working on two versions of this spatial allocation problem in the context of developing countries:

  1. Optimisation of drinking water supplies in coastal Bangladesh: There is extensive experience of providing drinking water infrastructure (tube well, pond sand filters) for communities in the coastal zone in Bangladesh (Flanagan et al., 2012). There is also growing interest in whether more centralised piped systems might help to improve water quality, helping to address severe problems with arsenic and saline contamination. One of the lessons that has been learnt is that different systems perform well in different circumstances.
    Thanks to the work of the REACH project, we have growing understanding of the spatial heterogeneity in Polder 29 in Bangladesh, including GIS of population of 59,000 people, a household survey and audit of water supply infrastructure. That provides evidence to develop methodology for prioritising water supply interventions in a way which is tuned to local conditions. Using a combination of GIS and optimisation (in terms of cost-effectiveness with respect to multiple criteria) it is possible to explore options for prioritising drinking water infrastructure interventions to achieve the water supply targets in SDG6. We will then seek to generalise the method to a scalable methodology that can be applied extensively in Bangladesh.
  2. Electrification of transport is widely regarded as an opportunity for developing countries to 'leapfrog' fossil-fuel dependent transport and associated infrastructure networks, by co-developing renewable energy supplies and vehicle charging points. There are however many different versions of how such systems might develop (e.g. with centralised electricity grids, or with micro-grids). What system is viable depends, in part, on local context (population density, building density, wealth, existing infrastructure), but is also subject to other big uncertainties, such as the relative price of technologies and the business models that are adopted for service provision.
    We have developed unique datasets of road infrastructure globally (Koks et al., 2019) and methodology for simulating electricity transmission and distribution networks all over the world. This is coupled with population datasets for analysing energy and transport demand and global datasets of potential for renewable energy supply. We propose to combine these datasets with different scenarios of the costs and business models of renewable energy and electric vehicles to generate efficient scenarios for roll-out of these technologies.

These are just two examples of the sorts of problems that could be addressed with methodologies for spatial allocation and optimisation (Faiz and Krichen, 2012). We expect that other opportunities will materialise during the course of the research, so the thesis will combine methodological development with a series of case studies. Overall, we would like to develop a broad framework to characterise different infrastructures and their relationship with the space and people around them. We wish to incorporate multiple sustainability indicators which can help to inform decisions about infrastructure provision to achieve the SDGs. We aim to demonstrate how market forces in infrastructure service provision (for example the proliferation of private tube wells in rural Bangladesh) can be combined with targeted development assistance and public investment to provide networks that leave no one behind.

The project will involve statistical analysis of survey data and application of methods for spatial optimisation. The derived solutions need to take account of local economic, societal and governance conditions, so the student should also study these important contextual issues. Thus the student should have a strong quantified background (e.g. engineering, economics, physics, geostatistics) but should also have a good appreciation of the wider societal context of infrastructure service provision.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University's EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Faiz, S. and Krichen, S., 2012. Geographical information systems and spatial optimization. CRC Press.
  • Flanagan, S. V., Johnston, R. B. and Zheng, Y. (2012). Arsenic in tube well water in Bangladesh: health and economic impacts and implications for arsenic mitigation. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 90, 839-846.
  • Koks, E.E., Rozenberg, J., Zorn, C., Tariverdi, M., Vousdoukas, M., Fraser, S.A., Hall, J.W., Hallegatte, S. A global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets. Nature Communications, 10(1) (2019): 2677. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10442-3.

The relationship between infrastructure provision and spatial patterns of economic activity is only partially understood. Infrastructure serves multiple purposes, as a factor of production, providing access to markets and enabling agglomeration and innovation. Because of the complexity of these processes, the empirical evidence of the effects is often inconclusive. Theoretically, the relationship has been addressed through the frameworks of New Economic Geography, input-output modelling and spatial computable general equilibrium models. Each of these approaches has their limitations as well as their strengths.

Vast investments in infrastructure, in particular in Asia, mean that there are large-scale changes in the spatial structure of global networks and the economies that they serve. This means that there are new empirical data to characterise these phenomena and parameterise models.

The proposed research will take a combination of a model-based and empirical approach to understanding the relationship between infrastructure and economic development at broad scales. The model-based analysis will start with stylised models, possibly reproducing the insights from NEG models, but introducing other functions of infrastructure (e.g. energy and water as factors as production; roads as factors of access to economic activities). Meanwhile, we will seek datasets that can be used to characterise spatial changes. The analysis will be used to understand future demands for infrastructure services and how patterns of economic development may evolve in future. The work will be applied to a large geographical region, such as a national-scale or multi-national scale to see how infrastructure developments can create positive and negative effects for different regions.

The project will involve computer model development, along with parameterization and validation using empirical data. Candidates must therefore be ready to take on a highly interdisciplinary analysis and modelling task. It will require a candidate with advanced computational and mathematical skills, coming from an engineering, economics or physical sciences background. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

Candidates for this project from an engineering of physical sciences background would be eligible to apply for funding from Oxford University's EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Venables, A., Laird, J. and Overman, H. Transport investment and economic performance: Implications for project appraisal. (Department for Transport, 2014).
  • Bird, J. H. and Venables, A.J. Growing a Developing City: A Computable Spatial General Equilibrium Model Applied to Dhaka. The World Bank, 2019.
  • Lall, S. V. and Mathilde S. M. L. "Who Wins, Who Loses? Understanding the Spatially Differentiated Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative." 2019.
  • Hall, J.W., Tran, M., Hickford, A.J. and Nicholls, R.J. The Future of National Infrastructure: A System of Systems Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Critical infrastructure systems form the backbone of modern society, facilitating the distribution of goods and services across broad spatial extents, transcending the boarders of regions and countries. The increasingly global nature of these networks and complex interdependencies that have emerged between them have created a number of systemic vulnerabilities, creating a situation where local failures can result in cascades of disruption, resulting in far reaching and large-scale losses.

There is a rapidly growing number of global infrastructure datasets. For example, we have developed a global dataset of transport networks and quantified their vulnerability to natural hazards, including flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes (Koks et al., 2019). However, this analysis is simply an analysis of infrastructure exposure and vulnerability. A full risk analysis would involve understanding the spatial structure of natural hazards i.e. what area do they cover and what is the likelihood of other hazards striking elsewhere in the world at the same time. The possibility of different types of hazard happening at the same time further complicates matters.

The aim of this research is to develop new methodology for generating large 'event sets' of spatial hazards for use in risk analysis of global infrastructure networks. The research will start by focussing upon one hazard (flooding) but could be extended to multiple hazards.

There's a range of methods that could be adopted to analyse this problem, which could combine statistical modelling of the dependence structure of multivariate spatial statistics (e.g. Gaupp et al., 2017) with large ensembles of climate model and reanalysis outputs (Guillod et al., 2018). The aim will be to develop and test a practical methodology for generating global hazard scenarios for stress testing infrastructure networks. That capability can then be combined with global infrastructure network models to simulate the possible impacts of large-scale failures and how they propagate through infrastructure networks.

The research will require making use of a range of hazard datasets, including model outputs, satellite observations of extreme events and other measurements. For example, it may be possible to combine large numbers of flood observations, which are coming available from new satellite platforms, with statistical analysis to synthesise realistic spatial combinations of flood which have not been observed in the past. The duration of extreme events is also very important for modelling the impacts of infrastructure failure, so we will seek to explore how long coincident catastrophic extreme events can be expected to last in different parts of the world.

The outcomes will be at the cutting edge of international global risk and resilience research and will also be of interest to businesses and government including insurers and investors interested in risks to global infrastructure.

It will suit students from any quantified background, including statistics, mathematics, engineering, physics or another quantitative science subject. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance. Experience of high level programming (e.g. Python), GIS and geospatial databases is desirable.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University's Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Gaupp, F., Pflug, G., Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Dadson, S.J. and Hall, J.W. Dependency of crop production between global breadbaskets: A copula approach for the assessment of global and inter-regional risk pools, Risk Analysis, 37(11) (2017): 2212-2228. DOI: 10.1111/risa.12761.
  • Guillod, B.P., Jones, R.G., Dadson, S., Coxon, G., Bussi, G., Freer, J., Kay, A.L., Massey, N.R., Otto, F.E., Sparrow, S.N., Wallom, D.C.H., Allen, M.R. and Hall, J.W. A large hydro-meteorological dataset of potential past, present and future time series over the UK, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22(1) (2018): 611-634. DOI: 10.5194/hess-22-611-2018
  • Koks, E.E., Rozenberg, J., Zorn, C., Tariverdi, M., Vousdoukas, M., Fraser, S.A., Hall, J.W., Hallegatte, S. A global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets. Nature Communications, 10(1) (2019): 2677. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10442-3.
  • Thacker, S., Kelly, S., Pant, R. and Hall, J.W. Evaluating the benefits of adaptation of critical infrastructures to hydrometeorological risks. Risk Analysis, DOI: 10.1111/risa.12839.
  • Pant, R., Thacker, S., Hall, J.W., Alderson, D. and Barr, S. Critical infrastructure impact assessment due to flood exposure, Journal of Flood Risk Management, DOI: 10.1111/jfr3.12288.
  • Thacker, S., Barr, S., Pant, R., Hall, J.W. and Alderson, D. Geographic hotspots of critical national infrastructure. Risk Analysis, (2017) DOI: 10.1111/risa.12840.

Environmental pressures emanating from climate change and resource scarcity in the 21st century threaten the well-being of millions of people, exacerbating political instability in regions of entrenched conflict. For example, environmental stress, climate change and the mismanagement of natural resources are claimed to have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Syria leading to regional destabilisation. The prevailing approach to meeting the water and energy needs of the MENA region focuses on sector-based supply-side solutions aligned with narratives of national self-sufficiency. This approach ignores both the cross-border nature of many resources in the region and their strong interdependence (the water-energy-food nexus): energy is critical for water production, water is needed in power generation, and both resources are essential for food production. Climate change affects the availability and predictability of water out of fossil fuels. Shared natural resources (e.g. river basins, aquifers and fossil fuel reserves) are also closely linked to regional politics and can potentially inflame conflicts. Conversely, cross-border water cooperation is more common than water conflict, e.g. the Jordan-Israel Water Agreement. We posit that simultaneously addressing questions of energy and water, will accelerate the opportunities for synergistic technical solutions (in particular in the context of renewable energy technologies and desalination), and provide opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.

This project will address these challenges through development of an Integrated Assessment Framework (IAF) to provide an analytical process for conceptualising and understanding the roles and relationships between organisational, political, economic, scientific and environmental parameters in shaping resource security [66]. Quantified systems analysis will establish a baseline understanding of the availability, use, variability and uncertainty in water and energy resources in the region, and will provide tools for the exploration of possible futures. The IAF will integrate analysis of natural resources with a simulation of built infrastructure systems, institutional arrangements, political interests and the governance systems to manage these resources. This will provide a tool for modelling various development and management pathways, including scenario-building of regional climate, water and energy systems, using the Oxford System-of-Systems approach. The System-of-Systems is a powerful computer-based modelling framework for the analysis of alternative, long-term strategies for infrastructure development and management, within a spectrum of uncertainties about future demands. Participatory scenario modelling will account for and build buy-in from different stakeholder views and preferences [50] in which stakeholders provide input into the modelling through an iterative process.

The project will involve a combination of water resource systems modelling, energy systems modelling, hydrology of climate change and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, economics, physical and environmental sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance. The project will involve interaction with stakeholders in the region (Israel, Palestine, Jordan) so applicants should be eligible and willing to travel to these countries. A mature attitude to engagement in complex region is required. The project forms part of the Oxford Martin Programme on Transboundary Resource Management.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University's Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Kurian, M. The water-energy-food nexus: Trade-offs, thresholds and transdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development. Environmental Science & Policy, 2017. 68: pp. 97-106.
  • Tamee, R.A., Arica, C. and Christopher, A.S. The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: A systematic review of methods for nexus assessment. Environmental Research Letters, 2018. 13(4): p. 043002.
  • Wheeler, K.G., Hall, J.W., Abdo, G., Dadson, S.J., Kasprzyk, J.R., Smith, R. and Zagona, E.A. Exploring cooperative transboundary river management strategies for the Eastern Nile Basin, Water Resources Research, (2018) DOI:10.1029/2017WR022149.
  • Wolf, A.T. Shared Waters: Conflict and Cooperation. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2007. 32(1): pp. 241-269.
  • World Bank, Beyond scarcity: water security in the Middle East and North Africa. 2017, World Bank: Washington DC.

In collaboration with partners in the UK (the National Infrastructure Commission) and internationally (UNOPS, the World Bank) we have developed and tested methodology for long-term infrastructure planning (Hall et al., 2016, Thacker et al., 2017). Our approach examines the state of infrastructure service provision i.e. energy, transport, digital, water and waste; identifies future infrastructure needs; and establishes adaptive strategies for future infrastructure policies and investments. The effectiveness of this approach depends crucially on the enabling environment: the institutional structures (e.g. the responsibilities and powers of government); legal arrangements and enforcement; human capacity; data availability; institutions for project delivery and maintenance. We therefore wish to undertake systematic research to map the elements that constitute the enabling environment.

Through a combination of case studies, possibly including several different countries, we wish to obtain empirical evidence of the importance of different elements of the enabling environment and their relevance to the provision of effective, sustainable and resilient infrastructure services. This will involve looking back at the history of infrastructure provision in different countries and the extent to which this explains the physical infrastructures and policy arrangements that have been established. We will have a particular focus on the role of national infrastructure units – cross-governmental entities with a responsibility for planning and coordinating long-term infrastructure provision. To what extent have these units been successful in contributing to sustainable infrastructure provision?

The research will be conducted in collaboration with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) with whom we have successfully collaborated in developing national infrastructure plans in Curacao and St Lucia. This DPhil project will be carried out in collaboration with UNOPS, working with a wider group of partner countries and institutions.

The project will involve using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies for studying institutional arrangements and their relationship with sustainable infrastructure outcomes. It will therefore require a student with an interdisciplinary outlook and a wide range of capabilities. Students should be able to demonstrate an ability to address critically with major policy challenges.

Candidates for this project would be eligible to apply for funding from the Grand Union ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful UK applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Additional funding may be available from UNOPS. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Hall, J.W., Tran, M., Hickford, A.J. and Nicholls, R.J. (eds.) The Future of National Infrastructure: A System of Systems Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Thacker, S., Hall, J.W., Pant, R., Russell, T., Leung, J. and Koks, E. System-of-systems infrastructure modelling to support sustainable development outcomes. International Symposium for Next Generation Infrastructure (ISNGI), Institution of Civil Engineers, London, September 11-13 2017

There is growing concern about the resilience of water supplies in Britain in the context of climate change and increasing population in some parts of the country. These risks have been studied in Water UK's National Water Resources Long-Term Planning Framework study and in the National Infrastructure Commission's study on water scarcity. The water group in the Environmental Change Institute made significant contributions to both of these studies. In the first of these studies a unique national water resource systems model was developed, which has since been extended and improved. The model represents all of the main water users in England and Wales. It is driven by a unique event set of simulated droughts (Guillod et al., 2018). The simulation model is combined with multi-objective optimisation, to enable searching and selection of investments and policies to improve the resilience of water supplies in the face of future uncertainties (Borgomeo et al., 2016). This model now provides a powerful platform for exploring a range of questions about the resilience of Britain's water supplies in the face of uncertain future conditions, and for assessing the potential effectiveness and trade-offs associated with alternative policies and investments, such as water storage, water transfers and water reuse. These possible decisions will be explored using methods for decision and robustness analysis (Borgomeo et al. 2018). The research is likely to result in new insights into the conditions in which severe water shortages might occur in Britain and the associated scientific uncertainties. It will go on to evaluate possible responses to enhance the resilience of water supplies for a range of different users, including public water supplies, farmers and industrial users of water. The project will in particular examine the benefits and impacts of water transfers between river basins in the UK.

The project will involve a combination of water resource systems modelling, hydrology of climate change and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, economics, physical and environmental sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University's Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Borgomeo, E., Mortazavi-Naeini, M., O'Sullivan, M.J., Hall, J.W. and Watson, T. Trading-off tolerable risk with climate change adaptation costs in water supply systems. Water Resources Research, 52(2) (2016). DOI: 10.1002/2015WR018164.
  • Borgomeo, E., Mortazavi‐Naeini, M., Hall, J. W. and Guillod, B. P. Risk, Robustness and Water Resources Planning Under Uncertainty. Earth's Future, 6(2018): 468–487. DOI:10.1002/2017EF000730
  • Guillod, B.P., Jones, R.G., Dadson, S., Coxon, G., Bussi, G., Freer, J., Kay, A.L., Massey, N.R., Otto, F.E., Sparrow, S.N., Wallom, D.C.H., Allen, M.R. and Hall, J.W. A large hydro-meteorological dataset of potential past, present and future time series over the UK, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22(1) (2018): 611-634. DOI: 10.5194/hess-22-611-2018
  • Ives, M.C., Simpson, J.M., Hall, J.W. Navigating the water trilemma: a strategic assessment of long-term national water resource management options for Great Britain, Water and Environment Journal, DOI: 10.1111/wej.12352.

Managing water resources inevitably involves trade-offs between human and environmental needs for water. In recent years significant steps have been taken to limit unsustainable water withdrawals in England that are potentially harming the natural environment. This has been based upon assessments of environmental water requirements. In practice the sensitivity of the aquatic environment to altered flow regimes is not fully understood. We know that water bodies in a healthy condition are more able to recover from occasional shocks like droughts. However, knowledge of the resilience of aquatic ecosystems is limited. There have been many studies of restoration projects, but the evidence base is difficult to generalize. Evidence of ecosystem response to droughts is bound to take a long time to acquire because these are rare events. In the meantime, decisions have to be made about the management of water resources. There may be more opportunities for enhancing ecosystems, for example through constructed wetlands, which may also contribute to the resilience of water supplies for human consumption. Given our ignorance about the potential effectiveness of these schemes, the approach needs to be one of 'adaptive management' – of piloting schemes and embedding learning from monitoring programmes in future cycles of decision making.

We have done extensive research on the risk and resilience of water resource systems. We now wish to extend that analysis to incorporate ecosystem resilience. The approach will be to develop and test by simulating an adaptive management approach. The research will involve identifying a range of possible ecosystem restoration interventions and assembling evidence on their hydrological performance and ecosystem response. In the context of a case study catchment (possibly a lowland groundwater dominated chalk stream) we will propose a sequence of possible ecosystems interventions and explore their potential effect on the resilience of water supplies for human and ecological purposes. We will simulate how learning from system response could be incorporated in future cycles of decision making. This will help to make the case for catchment restoration schemes and the monitoring programmes with which they will need to be accompanied.

The project will involve a combination of catchment modelling and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including engineering, economics, physical and environmental sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University's Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References
  • Borgomeo, E. Mortazavi-Naeini, M., O'Sullivan, M.J., Hall, J.W. and Watson, T. Trading-off tolerable risk with climate change adaptation costs in water supply systems. Water Resources Research, 52(2) (2016). DOI: 10.1002/2015WR018164.
  • Borgomeo, E., Pflug, G., Hall, J.W. and Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Assessing water resource system vulnerability to unprecedented hydrological drought using copulas to characterize drought duration and deficit, Water Resources Research, 51 (2015), 8927–8948. doi:10.1002/2015WR017324.
  • Borgomeo, E., Hall, J.W., Fung, F., Watts, G., Colquhoun, K. and Lambert, C. Risk based water resources planning, incorporating probabilistic non-stationary climate uncertainties. Water Resources Research, 50 (2014): 6850–6873.
  • Lake, P.S. 2003. Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters. Freshwater Biology, 48(7), pp.1161-1172.
  • Poff, N.L. et al. Sustainable water management under future uncertainty with eco-engineering decision scaling. Nature Clim. Change 6, 25-34, doi:10.1038/nclimate2765 (2016).

There is growing and urgent interest in the future use of the land in Britain and many other countries worldwide. The synergies and trade-offs between use of the land for food, climate mitigation (forestry, biofuels etc.), nature and housing are becoming increasingly. At the same time, the process of the UK preparing to leave the European Union has opened up debate in areas of agriculture policy and environmental regulation that were previously handled by the EU. A range of radical options are under consideration, including 'rewilding', large areas of afforestation, and new nature recovery networks. Changes in agricultural subsidies and import/export tariffs could result in a shock to the viability of many farms.

Working out what will be the result of any given scenario is extremely complex and place-specific. Complex models of agriculture such as MAgPIE and EPIC are often difficult to interpret. Their representation of agricultural markets, government regulation and land use change is not sufficient to represent the range of policy scenarios that the UK now faces. We therefore propose to develop an approach that is simpler, more flexible and more place-specific. The approach will involve using high resolution gridded land cover data for Britain, with attributes including land use type, agricultural land grade, protected areas and nature recovery networks, mapping of ecosystem services. A merit order for different land uses will be developed for each grid cell, subject to various different objectives for the land, and including the relationship with neighbouring cells. A simple aggregate model of national and global agricultural markets (including crop prices and land prices) will be developed, which will enable testing the effects of different levels of agricultural subsidy and tariffs on exports/imports. The model will be used to test different policy options e.g. for agricultural subsidies and regulation, and to identify policies that achieve goals including climate mitigation, nature conservation and food security.

The project will involve working with geospatial datasets and programming models of markets and for scenario and decision analysis. It will suit students from any quantified background, including environmental sciences, economics, engineering and physical sciences. Students should be able to demonstrate aptitude for computer modelling and enthusiasm to address real-world problems of great policy significance.

The project will form part of and contribute to the FABLE consortium, in which the University of Oxford and CEH Wallingford are the UK partners.

This project is advertised as part of Oxford University's Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research, so UK and EU applicants will be eligible for full or part funding. Overseas applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

References

With the growth of investment in distributed electricity generation, the number of potential sellers of electricity to final consumers has hugely increased. This is potentially destabilising for electricity markets. In most jurisdictions, the majority of the electricity that is generated is sold in wholesale markets to 'suppliers' or 'retailers', who then sell the electricity to final users. 'Self-supply' of electricity generated on site is widely allowed, but there are generally regulatory barriers to selling electricity on a small scale, either to neighbouring properties or, via the grid, to a wider market. These relate in part to the structures of the market, designed for large scale generation, but also to the need to protect electricity users, especially vulnerable customers. However, there is now widespread demand for, and increasingly examples of, 'peer to peer' electricity sales.

The research will address questions related to the changes to electricity markets implied by more widespread 'peer to peer' sales. It will involve reviewing existing and planned business models; and interrogation of the market design and regulatory measures that encourage or discourage this practice. It is likely that this will involve research in more than one country. It is expected that there will be an emphasis on the policies required to allow commercial innovation whilst retaining acceptable levels of consumer protection, and therefore that the research has potential to inform energy policy.

The research is highly interdisciplinary, so will require a student with aptitude for and commitment to interdisciplinary research. The student should be numerate and be willing to learn and apply new skills in fields as disparate as technology assessment, regulatory economics and electrical engineering. It is expected that (s)he will undertake primary research with industry and policy makers in more than one country. The Environmental Change Institute is engaged in a number of related research programmes. These include the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) and the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy (Integrate). It is envisaged that the student will be affiliated to these programmes and will have access to the range of broader research, e.g. on innovation, storage technology and demand response, being undertaken within them.

Applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Explore possible funding opportunities. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

If the world is to address climate change effectively, energy systems will need to be transformed in the first half of this century. It is now widely accepted that this will require massive adoption of renewable electricity sources, such as wind and solar power. Analyses also show that major improvements in the efficiency of energy use will be required. Usually, the two are considered separately, as 'supply side' and 'demand side' changes. However, such an approach is not satisfactory, as the type of fuels used affect energy efficiency significantly. The most obvious examples are in the electrification of heat and transport. These are usually thought of as 'supply decarbonisation', in that they enable low-carbon electricity to substitute for direct use of fossil fuels. However, they imply the use of technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles, which also enable large improvements in energy efficiency. There is greater complexity in end uses where electrification is problematic, such as industrial processes, freight transport and non-electric heating. In these cases, new energy vectors such as hydrogen are possible, and the implications for energy efficiency depend on the details of the energy conversion processes over the supply chain.

The research will address questions related to the change in energy efficiency driven by the decarbonisation of supply chains for different end uses of energy. It could involve reviewing the existing literature on decarbonisation scenarios and low-carbon energy technology options; the development of simple models of decarbonised energy systems and more qualitative assessment of technology costs and social acceptability on various timescales. The research could use cases studies of one or more country.

The research topic is interdisciplinary, so will require a student with aptitude for and commitment to interdisciplinary research. The student should be highly numerate and be willing to learn and apply new skills in fields as disparate as technology assessment, energy modelling and theories of energy transitions. It is expected that (s)he will work closely with analysts in industry and policy makers. The Environmental Change Institute is engaged in a number of related research programmes. These include the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) and the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy (Integrate). It is envisaged that the student will be affiliated to these programmes and will have access to the range of broader research, e.g. on innovation, storage technology and demand response, being undertaken within them.

Applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Explore possible funding opportunities. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment.

With the move towards 'smart' energy systems, little attention is paid to how intelligible they are to the people who live with them as citizens, consumers, operators and designers. This research will develop the concept of intelligible energy in relation to the distribution of knowledge, practical skills and know-how in the built environment, organisations and/or transport systems. Which human and non-human actors are needed to make a 'smart' energy service function effectively, and how do they interact? What skills, old and new, are required? How are problems conceptualised and resolved? The aim will be to contribute to a theoretical understanding of intelligibility as a property of energy systems, informed by empirical work on how intelligibility can influence energy outcomes and system development.

The research will require a student with aptitude for and commitment to interdisciplinary work – for example, willing to learn from and interact with other researchers in fields as disparate as technology assessment, design, sociology, learning theory and power engineering. (S)he may undertake primary research with industry and policy makers in more than one country. The Environmental Change Institute is engaged in a number of related research programmes. These include the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy. The student will be affiliated to this programme and have access to a range of research through it, e.g. on innovation, storage technology and demand response.

Applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment: Full details on the applications process are available at www.geog.ox.ac.uk/graduate/apply/.

Electricity supply and demand have to be managed at substation level as well as on the high-voltage transmission grid. Increases in distributed generation, along with changing patterns of demand, create new challenges for distribution network operators, for example when there are 'clusters' of solar PV arrays, heat pumps or electric vehicles. Research into the potential for demand response and storage to address such challenges tends to concentrate on specific sectors – residential, commercial, industrial or non-profit/governmental. But demand relates to particular activities and functions, some of which are more flexible than others, and there may well be a mix of activities from different sectors or subsectors in a locality that can be exploited or developed to assist with network management.

The research will require a student with aptitude for and commitment to interdisciplinary work – for example, willing to learn from and interact with other researchers in fields as disparate as technology assessment, design, sociology, learning theory and power engineering. (S)he may undertake primary research with industry and policy makers in more than one country. The Environmental Change Institute is engaged in a number of related research programmes. These include the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy. The student will be affiliated to this programme and have access to a range of research through it, e.g. on innovation, storage technology and demand response.

Applicants in need of financial support are encouraged to apply for one of Oxford's several doctoral scholarship schemes for UK or overseas students. Explore possible funding opportunities. Closing dates apply on these schemes and students are encouraged to apply early. Applications are made through the School of Geography and the Environment: Full details on the applications process are available at www.geog.ox.ac.uk/graduate/apply/.

Examples of current research

Scott Thacker

Reducing the risks associated with infrastructure system failures due to extreme climatic events.

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Abrar Chaudhury

Resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems to climate change.

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Chase Sova

A systematic framework for integrated climate change adaptation.

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Funding

Our students receive an impressive rate of funding through scholarships and bursaries from wide sources, including research councils, consulates and increasingly from industry. This rise in industry finance is a reflection of the applied nature and relevance of the subjects selected for supervision.

In 2013 we were selected to form part of the new NERC and ESRC Doctoral Training Programmes, offering new students the opportunity to pursue a comprehensive and fully funded doctoral training experience.

For details of the NERC Scholarships please see the Oxford Doctoral Training Partnership.

For details of the ESRC Scholarships please see the Oxford Doctoral Training Centre.

ECI doctoral students may also be eligible for funding from the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership award to Oxford

Further information is available on the Research Councils UK website.

You can explore Oxford University's fees, funding and scholarship search for more information.


Finding a supervisor

DPhil students are required to identify primary and secondary supervisors. If you wish to work with an ECI researcher you should contact them directly to discuss your proposed topic. The following ECI staff are available as primary DPhil supervisors:

Many members of the School of Geography and the Environment's academic staff have environmental interests and may co-supervise with staff of ECI if they are interested in the project and are not already oversubscribed in terms of supervision.

A modest number of doctoral research positions and fellowships are associated with ECI research projects and in a few cases these may be accommodated within ECI research space.