ESRC Artificial Intelligence (AI) PhD studentship

Applications and Implications of Machine Learning: Understanding and predicting healthcare resource usage and patient risk for improved population engagement

South East Network for Social Sciences

Informatics Research Centre; Business Informatics Systems & Accounting; Henley Business School; University of Reading

Project Overview

The gap between supply and demand in healthcare resources driven by an aging population has become an evolving challenge in the UK and global economy. This PhD studentship will investigate how AI methods can provide insight into health resource usage patterns, predict patient behaviour and facilitate hospital operational management.

This project aims to leverage the strength of machine learning methods to gain insights into resource usage and patient behaviour patterns from healthcare and social economics data. This involves the process of ’insights-prediction-engagement’ where AI will be used as a catalyst to discover knowledge from data, predict behaviour and resources usage and engage patients in a more effective and accurate way. Existing AI methods applied in Electronic Health Record (EHR) will be investigated and specific AI based approaches for hospital operational management and patient social behavior will be developed.

The studentship is built on partnership between the University of Reading and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, sponsored by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and coordinated by South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS). This is an exciting project combining academic and industrial challenges and enhancing the student’s ability to tackle complex intellectual and practical aspects of healthcare data and contribute to the application in real predictive health social and economic problem. This is an excellent opportunity to develop key skills and knowledge in preparation for a high-impact, high-technology career in research or industry.

Institution background:

The Informatics Research Centre (IRC) based in the Department of Business Informatics, Systems and Accounting (BISA), Henley Business School, excels in interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and knowledge transfer in Informatics. The Centre defines informatics as the study of the creation, management and utilisation of information in scientific and economic activities. Digital health is one of the key themes and the most significant achievement in improving healthcare quality and making real impact through informatics research. Our informatics research in healthcare began in 2002 and has been continuously attracting research funding and awards (EPSRC, ESRC, Innovate UK, EU, KTP, other research contracts) and has collaborated with NHS hospitals, GPs, social care and local government organisations, companies and hospitals in the UK and China. Research outcomes from applying AI to healthcare include strong impact on Chinese hospitals and the current project’s focus is on big data and AI to improve hospital operation efficiency and service quality in the UK. Furthermore, a new pathway “Digital Health and Data Analytics” in MSc Information Management and Digital Business will start in Autumn 2019 to meet the increasing demand for knowledge and skills to leverage information technology, data analytics and artificial intelligence in improving healthcare.


We are seeking talented candidates with:

  • a Master’s degree with distinction (or a 2:1 Bachelor Degree) in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, data science, information management or health informatics
  • experience in healthcare industry would be an advantage
  • a track record of academic journal publication is desirable, or the ability to prepare high quality publications
  • fluent English speaking (e.g. IELTS 7 or TOEFL 100 above)
  • strong academic writing skills
  • candidates should also have an autonomous and proactive working style, good communication skills and the ability to work well in a team

Funding Details

  • Latest starting time October 2019
  • For funding reasons the studentship is open to UK and EU students; however international students may be considered
  • 3 to 3.5 year award (length of award is dependent on the applicant’s past research methods training)
  • Tuition fees, stipend (currently £14,777 p.a.) and access to additional funding for training
  • Available full-time or part-time

How to apply:

  1. You will need to apply a place of admission at the University of Reading before the application deadline. Please submit an application for a PhD in Informatics and System Science via Please quote the reference ‘GS18 — -173’ in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your online application.
  2. We would also like to see a sample of your written work. This might be a published conference or journal paper, or a chapter of your final year dissertation. You will also be asked to develop a research proposal on this topic. Please discuss with Dr Weizi Vicky Li ( ) on the proposal and upload this sample to your application form.

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Contact Us

If you have any questions, please contact Weizi (Vicky) Li by email at Weizi (Vicky) Li .

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