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Fully Funded PhD in What works for whom in which circumstances? Evaluating a participatory organisational intervention in US industrial canteens

Profile Description

The Institute of Work Psychology, based at Sheffield University Management School, is seeking applications for a fully funded PhD from exceptional UK/EU/International students with an outstanding academic record (distinction/high merit or equivalent), as well as a proven record in research training. This project is a collaboration with the Harvard Centre for Work, Health, and Wellbeing, a NIOSH-funded centre of excellence.

In Europe and the US, it is increasingly understood that the randomised controlled trial (RCT) offers insufficient information about what works for whom in which circumstances, and approaches have been developed to address the limitations of the RCT to understand the mechanisms by which interventions work and in which contexts such mechanisms may be triggered. In the UK, the dominating approach is realist evaluation, whereas in the US such understanding is explored in the dissemination and implementation research. The first step of the project will be to analyse these two approaches and develop an integrated framework. This framework will then be employed to evaluate a participatory organisational intervention project in industrial canteens in the US.

The project is novel in three respects:

1. the US has little tradition for participatory, organisational interventions
2. the focus is on industrial canteens – participatory interventions are notoriously difficult in blue collar settings where autonomy is typically low and in this project many workers will be immigrants.
3. The focus will be on using the existing organisational resources and will build on these so they are fit-for-purpose.

Key research questions include:
• Which tools can be developed to support the effective implementation of the intervention ensuring both employee participation and line management support?
• Does the intervention process lead to action plans that are perceived to fit the needs of the industrial canteens?
• Do action plans at the Individual, the Group, the Leader and the Organisational levels lead to the intended outcomes?
• In which organisational contexts will these mechanisms be triggered?
• What intermediate outcomes can be detected, i.e. improvements in working environment?
• What distal outcomes can be detected, i.e. improvements to the health, safety and well-being of workers?

The proposed supervisors are Professor Karina Nielsen and Dr Carolyn Axtell who are both experts in organisational interventions focusing on employee wellbeing.

Application Process

Applicants should submit a 1000 word research proposal which directly addresses the specific project to which they are applying. The proposal should contain a brief background to the topic, which demonstrates knowledge of existing work in the field, and potential contributions to knowledge. It should also explain the proposed research methods and include a plan of the research, and a timeline.

Closing date for applications is 17.00 (UK time) on Friday 13 July 2018. Interviews will be held week commencing 6 August 2018

For more information and to submit an application, visit

Funding Notes

This scholarship is offered on a full-time basis from September 2018 for three years subject to satisfactory progress. It will provide an annual tax free bursary of £14,777 and cover the University tuition fees for UK/EU/international students.

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