15 January 2018 15:32

A new Lancaster doctoral training centre will foster forward-thinking, interdisciplinary researchers that can combine social science, humanities and design with materials science.

The Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Programme in ‘Material Social Futures’ will equip 21 PhD researchers with the skills to understand how innovations in materials science, in social sciences and in the humanities and design can be marshalled together to create more socially and ecological desirable futures. Through case studies that combine social and technical perspectives on innovations in such topics as energy sources, in nanotechnology and in computing, PhDs in the centre will learn how to address real-world problems in cross-disciplinary teams, and how to effectively leverage these research innovations for broader social values.

As well as being trained to use new tools and techniques for imagining new socio-material possibilities, the training of Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholars will include a strong focus on developing the abilities of researchers to assess where, and how, distinct disciplinary skills and techniques can be brought alongside other skill sets when dealing with complex, large scale, social and material problems. They will learn how the outputs of state of the art research can be communicated in to the public at large and to key decision makers in government and industry. Taken as a whole, those trained in the new centre will be more effective in delivering their knowledge and skills to real world problems.

The Programme has been funded with more than £1 million from the Leverhulme Trust.

The Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Programme in ‘Material Social Futures’ benefits from the first major strategic collaborative partnership between two of Lancaster university’s recently formed research Institutes – the Institute for Social Futures and the Material Science Institute.

Professor Richard Harper, Co-Director of Lancaster University’s Institute of Social Futures and lead on the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Programme in ‘Material Social Futures’, said: “This is a terrific opportunity to develop a cadre of researchers who will be able to work collaboratively on real, complex problems and can communicate the value and need of the research to the world at large. In the longer term, this project will help ensure that Lancaster PhDs come to be regarded as the most effectively trained anywhere – good at understanding complex problems, good at solving them, able to bring social and scientific concerns together to make the world a better place for all.”

Professor Robert Short, Director of Lancaster’s Material Science Institute, said: “What I find really exciting about Material Social Futures is that it will provide our science and engineering students with the necessary tools to make informed, sustainable, ethical and environmental decisions in their research. I am not aware of this anywhere else.”

The first cohort of Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholars will start their studies in autumn 2018. The programme will run for an initial seven years.