PhD studentship- Development of Data Collection Tools With Non-Literate Participants

University College London - Department of Geography and the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS)

Funding: The scholarship covers UCL student fees at the Home/EU rate and provides a stipend of £16,553 per annum tax free. Travel expenses and research equipment will also be provided to the successful candidate.

Funding Body: European Research Council (ERC) and UCL.

Start Date: Late 2017/early 2018, at a time that is suitable to the candidate and the group. A successful candidate will be asked to work with the Extreme Citizen Science group for two weeks (expenses covered) before registering to the PhD programme.

Eligibility: Applications are invited from UK and EU citizenship holders.

Project Description

UCL Department of Geography and the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) group invite applications for a PhD studentship from European Research Council (ERC) funded project: ECSAnVis (Extreme Citizen Science: Analysis & Visualisation) aimed at a developer.

Citizen Science is the participation of the public in a scientific project. The challenge of Extreme Citizen Science is to enable any community, regardless of literacy or education, to initiate, run, and use the result of a local citizen science activity, so they can address and solve issues that concern them. The ExCiteS research group has demonstrated that non-literate and those with limited technical literacy can participate in formulating research questions and collecting the data. This project will take the next ambitious step of developing geographical analysis and visualisation tools that can be used, successfully, by people with limited literacy, in a culturally appropriate way.

More information on ExCiteS and ECSAnVis, can be found here and here.

Studentship Description

ExCiteS has been developing Sapelli since 2012; a platform that facilitates data collection across language or literacy barriers through highly configurable icon-driven user interfaces. The successful candidate will join the interdisciplinary team to extend this research work, which will mainly include aspects of data collection such as data validation, user authentication and designing user interfaces for non-literate participants. We will specifically focus on engagement of non-literate people and we need to understand how the process, from data collection to analysis, can be made meaningful and useful. The project will include working with communities in central Africa. For more information, see papers by Stevens et al. 2014 ( and Vitos et al. 2017 (

Person Specification

The applicants should possess a good honours degree (1st Class or 2:1 minimum) in a relevant discipline such as Computer Science, Electronic Engineering or Human-Computer Interaction and an MSc in Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, Human Factors, or Geographical Information Science and must have proven experience and skills in Software Engineering or Human Computer Interaction.

The ideal candidate should have excellent verbal and written communication skills and should be able to work as part of a team to design, develop and deploy software prototypes. The candidate should have experience in programming in Java and Android and have a good understanding of code management systems such as GitHub. Desirable skills include use of Python, willingness to travel in remote forest locations and French language skills.

Application Procedure

Applicants should apply with e-mail sent to Judy Barrett ( and Michalis Vitos ( which includes:

  1. Cover letter with personal statement explaining interest in the project.
  2. Examples of academic writing and outputs from past work.
  3. Academic transcripts
  4. CV
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