PhD Seminar@CMIST Tuesday 3rd March 12pm HBS 2.07

You are invited to the PhD Seminar@CMIST on Tuesday 3rd March at 12pm in HBS 2.07.  For this seminar we have three speakers: Alexandra Albert  and Ben Williams, first year PhD students in CMIST, and Enrique Ortega-Rivera, Visiting PhD student from Centre d’Estudis Demografics (CED) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Full abstracts below.

Please pass this information on to anyone interested.  All welcome; light refreshments will be available.

Best wishes,

Dharmi and Patty


Abstracts 3rd March 

Fieldworkers of our own lives? Developing approaches to Citizen Social Science and Public Anthropology

Alexandra Albert

The resurgence of citizen science and participatory science, where non-professional scientists voluntarily participate in scientific activities, has drawn attention to the way in which scientific research is undertaken, as well as to who is a scientist, who can collect data and what such data can be used for. In addition, many people are increasingly creating digital data in their own daily activities and use of social media. The reality and scale of the so-called big data revolution is that data is now something that we are embedded in.

My PhD project seeks to explore the implications of mobilizing citizens to be observers for social science research. The research will develop approaches for Citizen Social Science and public anthropology by exploring the potential for new types of data collection where citizens collaborate in social science, recording data as they go about their daily lives. Citizens are generators of, but also generated in and by, the data environment. As such, many citizens are already the fieldworkers of their own lives.

The idea of citizen social science links back to certain aspects of the Mass Observation project in the early 20th Century where volunteers submitted reports of their daily activities or events that they had seen. Such data poses many issues around robustness, generalizability, access, privacy, and consent.

Methodologically the citizen observer approach to be explored in this PhD has links to the disciplines of anthropology. The PhD will explore if there is an opportunity for a new theory of social science and data use which could bring about a renewed idea of social justice-driven social science, tackling previously intractable social issues.


Causal modelling of the effect of education on cognitive trajectories in later life.

Ben Williams

Researching the effect of education on cognitive ageing is complicated by a variety of methodological difficulties. There are substantial difficulties with measuring cognitive change over time. In studies of cognitive change over time in ostensibly cognitively healthy individuals, there will be some participants with pre-clinical dementia. Whilst in studies of dementia incidence there is the problem that neuropsychiatric tests have lower diagnostic sensitivity in individuals with higher pre-morbid cognitive function.  Conventional random, fixed effects or event history analyses are unable to account for these particular problems. This has probably contributed to ongoing debate and mixed results regarding whether cognitive reserve is active in preventing cognitive decline or simply a passive buffer against the effect. However, growth mixture modelling (GMM) can potentially tackle both problems simultaneously by determining classes of cognitive change over time. Surprisingly, GMM has seen very little application in the field to date.

There are also difficulties with respect to establishing the direct effect of education itself on cognitive function. In the first stage of my PhD I will focus on the effect of early life education on later life cognitive functioning not mediated by adult occupational social class. As education is likely influence other variables which may confound the association between social class and cognition (post-exposure confounding) the conventional structural equation modelling approach of path analysis will produce biased estimates of the effect of education. The estimation techniques of g-estimation, g-computation and inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW) have recently been applied to these problems of causal inference in studies of early life exposures on late life events.

Such causal estimation techniques have yet to be applied to understanding cognitive ageing and have not previously been combined with growth mixture models. The aim of the first portion of my PhD is to combine GMM and causal estimation in order to overcome these methodological problems and contribute to a substantive understanding of education as a source of active or passive cognitive reserve.


Spanish emigration to the UK in times of Crisis and Austerity: Between the ‘International mobility’ and the ‘Labour exile’

Enrique Ortega-Rivera

The economic crisis has had severe social and economic consequences for Spain. The impact has been particularly hard in the case of immigrant workers and young nationals, affecting migration trends and patterns. In line with this conjuncture, there has been a sharp decline in the inflows of foreigners followed by a progressive increase in return and re-migration. The deteriorating labour market situation, austerity measures and the lack of economic opportunities resulted in an increase in the outflows of Spanish nationals to other European countries, particularly the UK. For example, NINo registrations from Spain increased from around 14,000 in 2009 to almost 52,000 in 2013. Following a brief review of the Spain’s recent economic performance and the main changes in the political context, we analyse how migration flows from Spain to the UK have evolved over the last few years, focusing particularly on their demographic characteristics. Finally, we present the methodological aspects of the PhD thesis, especially in relation to qualitative research, and some experiences conducting the fieldwork.


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