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Understanding water resilience under global change using secondary data

Project Topic Overview

Water security is a cornerstone of sustainable development. It refers to sustainable access to sufficient quantity and satisfactory quality of water for livelihood and human well-being, which is coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks. However, nearly 80% of the global population is exposed to high levels of water security challenges of some type. In addition, climate change intensifies the water cycle, alters rainfall patterns, and consequently brings more frequent and amplified hazards to human societies in many regions. In order to build resilience to climate change and mitigate its adverse effects, it is critically important but still challenging to understand the patterns, dynamics, drivers, and impact of water security.

This challenge of understanding water security and resilience under climate change can be supported by the existing environmental and social data resources accumulated in the past decades. A vast volume of water-related data has been created and made available by projects, organisations, and platforms, such as United Nations, World Bank, World Resources Institute, Demographic and Health Surveys, Household Water Insecurity Experiences Network, UKRI, and open data repositories. They enable us to address the challenge by conducting comparative studies across water dimensions (e.g., water experiences, resources, and risks), years, and regions of the world. However, there is still a significant gap in finding effective ways to synthesise these data across various sources and create added value in secondary data for understanding and managing water security.

We invite PhD project proposals to improve our understanding of water security and resilience under climate change by unleashing the potential of secondary data. The proposal may include but is not limited to the following objectives. (1) Develop methods to assess longitudinal water security across scales based on the synthesis of secondary data. (2) Assess water security in multiple regions that represent different water security challenges, bio-physical attributes, cultural and institutional contexts. (3) Reveal and compare the patterns and dynamics of water security in the study areas. (4) Investigate the drivers and impact of water security by examining its interactions with other social and environmental factors. (5) Analyse water security in different climate change scenarios. These objectives will be achieved by applying and combining different quantitative methods, including panel data analysis, spatial data analysis, multilevel modelling, and machine learning. Applicants are expected to propose study areas in the proposal, but they will be decided with the support from the supervisory team during the project.

Applicant Profile

Standard requirement for all projects: A good first degree (2:1 above or equivalent), a postgraduate degree/ or equivalent professional or research experience.

The scholarship is offered to applicants with outstanding academic profiles and research proposals. It normally includes UK fees and stipends.

Applicants are required to develop their own research proposals under this thematic topic. Please get in touch with the supervision team before submitting an application.

Essential criteria

  • A BSc or MSc (or equivalent experience) in geography, environmental science, sustainability science, (social) data science, or other relevant fields
  • A strong interest in interdisciplinary research
  • Good level of quantitative methods skills

Desirable criteria

  • Experience in environmental and/or household surveys
  • Experience in using social science methodologies
  • GIS skills
  • Statistics, modelling, or machine learning skills

Supervisory Team

Dr Feng Mao, Institute for Global Sustainable Development

Dr Feng Mao is Associate Professor of Global Sustainable Development. His research interests lie in the intersection of water, ecosystems, society, and technologies, focusing on three main themes: (i) water security and resilience, (ii) aquatic ecosystems under change, and (iii) data and digital technologies for sustainability.

Prof Ulf Liebe, Sociology

Prof Ulf Liebe, Professor of Sociology and Quantitative Methods at the Department of Sociology and Director of the Warwick Q-Step Centre. His research interests include social data science, survey methodology and experiments, environmental behaviour, and discrimination.