PhD studentship: DEFRA Marine Pioneer: co-designing an evaluation framework

University of Surrey - Department of Sociology

Supervisors: Professor Nigel Gilbert, Dr Alexandra Penn

Funding status: Directly Funded Project (European/UK Students only)

Application deadline: 01/01/2017   

Project title: DEFRA Marine Pioneer: co-designing an evaluation framework

Project description:

This is a PhD studentship working with DEFRA and linked to the UK’s Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN), a new multi-disciplinary research centre funded by the ESRC and NERC in collaboration with DEFRA, BEIS, the Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency.

CECAN aims to enable more effective policy-making through enhancing the development and application of policy evaluation approaches that can address complexity across the Energy, Environment, Food nexus; and the capacity of policy-makers, evaluation practitioners and researchers to understand and use these methods.

DEFRA is developing a long term vision for the natural environment. As part of this, locally designed and led ‘Pioneer’ projects will help to test and demonstrate new and innovative ways of enhancing the environment, including making an improved understanding of natural capital central to decision making.

As one of four projects, the ‘Marine Pioneer’ is under development as a dual-sited project which will take very local action to help achieve the vision underlying the Government’s desired outcomes for the marine sector: clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The underlying approach is to use planning and management to integrate economic, social and environmental considerations.  

The key aims for this CECAN PhD project are to work alongside DEFRA to:

  • Co-design an evaluation framework that demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of local management of larger-scale problems in a complex environments such as marine.
  • Apply the framework to:
  1. Assess how local interests (environmental, social, business, government) play their part in managing, monitoring and communicating the benefits of a location’s managed marine areas
  2. Consider the balance of interests from users of a managed marine areas and the use of natural capital valuations/assessments in negotiations
  3. Demonstrate the importance of working at a very local level


The project is based at the University of Surrey, Guildford, in the Centre for Research in Social Simulation (CRESS,  Applicants will be expected to spend some time at the pioneer sites (locations to be announced) and will have opportunities to work within the central Government Department in Westminster. 

Entry requirements & funding information

Applicants should have a good first degree in a social science and an interest in policy making in an environmental context.

This is a directly funded project open only to European and UK students fulfilling ESRC residential eligibility criteria (

The studentship starts from January 2017, and includes fees (£4,121 p.a.) and subsistence at ESRC rates (£14,296 p.a.).

For enquiries please contact:

Professor Nigel Gilbert

To apply, go to

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