ESRC Collaborative Studentship - Smart City Standards in Local Practice

The University of Glasgow, in collaboration with the British Standards Institution (BSI), is inviting applications from suitable candidates for a full-time PhD Studentship on smart cities. Funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the collaborative doctoral project will analyse the use of national standards for smart cities within local contexts across the UK.

This PhD Studentship will be based in the Urban Studies section in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. It will involve an active collaboration with the Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities Committee SDS/2 of the British Standards Institution (BSI; London).

Urban Studies at Glasgow is home to three major research centres supported through national research grant funding: the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods; the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence; and the ESRC Urban Big Data Centre. This PhD project will be associated with the latter and, as such, contribute new knowledge about the governance of big data and related ‘smart city’ developments.

The successful applicant will be part of a vibrant community of over 20 doctoral researchers working on diverse aspects of urban theory, policy and practice. (S)he will be able to participate in regular seminars, workshops and other research activities hosted by Urban Studies. Furthermore, (s)he will benefit from formal research methods training and researcher development courses offered through the Graduate School of the College of Social Sciences.

The successful candidate will spend supervised periods of time at the BSI in London, conducting research in co-operation with the Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities SDS/2 Committee.

Project details

Over the last decade, the ‘smart city’ has become a dominant paradigm of urban policy, espousing (digital) technological innovation to meet various urbanisation challenges. Responding to the need for definitional and practice guidance, the British Standards Institution (BSI) was among the first national agencies to issue a smart city standard in 2014, and has since published six in total. Similar developments have taken place across other countries, and at the International Standardization Organization. Hence, in a short time span, consensus standards have emerged as a novel type of policy tool, expected to guide and accelerate smart city innovation on the ground. However, little is known about how these standards actually intervene in local planning and development processes and, therefore, what their wider significance is.

This project will deliver a systematic evaluation of the implementation of the BSI smart city standards across a range of UK cities. Thus, it will contribute original knowledge since no detailed analysis of local practice use of smart city standards has been undertaken to date. Particularly, the study will address, using mixed methods (survey research, in-depth case study analysis etc.), to which extent the BSI smart city standards currently experience an implementation gap, a known phenomenon in the policy analysis literature. The research will thus probe into the possible misalignment of the standards’ function as envisaged by BSI and municipal practice realities where standards may not easily fit into established planning and development processes.

The collaboration with the BSI is an essential component of this PhD. The involvement will bring access to key stakeholders, and the research will be used as input into a collaborative stakeholder engagement to consider possible improvements to standard design and/or practice guidelines. The collaboration thus also provides an important route to dissemination and impact. The mixed supervisory team (Prof. Simon Joss and Prof. Annette Hastings at the University of Glasgow, and Dr. John Devaney at the BSI) will ensure effective coordination, and support integrated training throughout.

For further information, please contact Simon Joss (  

Application deadline: Friday 15 March 2019.

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 5 April 2019. Interview dates are to be confirmed.

Find out more, including full details on how to apply, on the University of Glasgow website.