As the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) and armed forces become more reliant on systems that incorporate AI and Data Science techniques, it is increasingly important that ethical considerations concerning their design and use are taken into account.  

A PhD project, based at the University of Southampton, will draw on both computational sciences and social sciences in order to understand AI and its application as a socio-technical system, exploring the conditions necessary for data and AI to be consistent with social values.  The research will generate new knowledge at the cutting edge of AI and Ethics, increase public understanding and identify potential changes in work practice and policy.

 Project proposals may address, but are not limited to, the following themes:  

- What kind of human control is necessary for AI applications within national security and defence?

- How does AI impact strategies and capabilities for offensive cyber, and what are the regulatory gaps that emerge?

- Should AI applications for national security and defence be audited for ethical purposes to ensure that they align with values of our societies and of the MOD?

- What is the relationship between AI and Data Science technology and societal values, and how can we keep track of the changes, with a particular focus on defence values?

 You will be part of a cohort of students investigating the impact of AI on society, and will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of academic and Dstl staff. Your research will be supported by relevant training, such as MSc modules, activities hosted by the Alan Turing Institute and industry experience. 

The Web Science Institute (WSI) is an entrepreneurial non-profit research institute which supports interdisciplinary doctoral training in AI for the Future of Society.   

 The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom whose purpose is to maximise the impact of science and technology for the defence and security of the UK.

 The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.


This studentship is open to applicants eligible for Home (UK/EU) fees.

 Start Date: March 2021

 Entry Requirements

A good undergraduate honours degree (at least a UK 2.1) in a computational subject or relevant discipline from the social sciences, plus evidence of multidisciplinary research.  Advanced AI experience is not needed but, for candidates from non-computational backgrounds, some programming experience would be desirable.  The position will be based within the School of Electronics and Computer Science.

 Closing date: 31 December 2020

 Funding: A 3.5 year studentship covering Home (UK/EU) tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of £15,285 (UKRI rates 2020/21).  

 How To Apply

Applications should be made online.  Please select “PhD Web Science” as the programme and “AI for the Future of Society” under Topic or Field of Research.

Guidance about preparing a research proposal can be found here

 Applications should include: 

Research Proposal

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

 For further information please contact: