Edinburgh Futures Institute Baillie Gifford PhD studentships

The Edinburgh Futures Institute is delighted to announce the launch of five PhD studentships

The Edinburgh Futures Institute is delighted to announce the launch of the five PhD studentships for entry in A.Y. 2020/2021, to support research into the ethical challenges posed by the growing use of data and artificial intelligence. The scholarships, funded by global investment firm Baillie Gifford, offer a stipend, tuition fees and an annual research budget.

While the selected student will be supervised within the School, they will also take part in collaborative cohort activities as one of five PhD students in the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s Baillie Gifford programme in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence. Headed by Shannon Vallor, the first Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence (EFI), the aim of this programme is to cultivate multi-disciplinary skills and knowledge in the application of ethical values to data-driven technologies. More broadly, the goal is to develop the shared vocabulary and methodologies needed to support new models of education and research into the complex challenges and opportunities that data and AI present.

The Edinburgh Futures Institute PhD studentships funded by global investment firm Baillie Gifford.

Sex Robots Among Us: Ethical and Feminist issues

  • Elinor Mason (School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Science)
  • Sarah Parry (School of Social and Political Science)

There are growing public and policy debates about sex robots and their futures, however there remains little scholarly examination of their design and innovation, human-technology interactions and regulatory futures. This PhD will build on scholarship from philosophy and science and technology studies (STS) to explore the intersections of technologies, sex, race, class and gender. Key questions for the PhD include: How are ‘public’ issues such as the effects and symbolism of humanoid sex robots on women, on consumers, and on society in general being considered in the development of sex robots? What social and ethical relations are materially inscribed into sex robots? Would sex with female formed humanoid robots symbolize and perpetuate subordination and objectification of women? How should sex robots be legally regulated and limited? What are the implications for data? Would sex robots collect data?


  • These scholarships are funded by global investment firm Baillie Gifford
  • The award provides full-time tuition fees (UK/EU or overseas level)
  • 4 years stipend at UKRI rates (estimated to be in the region of £15,245 for 2020/21) (pro rata for part-time students)
  • Annual research support budget of £2,000


  • A good first degree (at least 2:1), and a Masters or equivalent experience in a subject area cognate to the project
  • Prior study or experience related to normative ethics and/or Science and Technology Studies, especially as applied to the project domain, is desirable, as is prior study or experience in data science, digital methods, and/or innovative methods, including qualitative data collection and analysis
  • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of contemporary higher education contexts, data privacy and ethics, and relevant data policies
  • Demonstrate a strong interest in multidisciplinary research, teaching, and collaboration with partners within and beyond academia
  • Demonstrate an ability to work with people in different roles and organisations
  • Demonstrate an ability to manage self and workload within competing deadlines
  • Ability to communicate effectively orally, in writing and through social media for various audiences (e.g. academic publications, practitioners and policy-makers, users of services)
  • Applicants are responsible for ensuring that they can meet the English Language requirements of the University of Edinburgh: English Language Requirements


Deadline: Friday 15th May 2020, 12.00pm (UK time)

Required documentation:

  • Personal statement
  • CV
  • 2 references (at least 1 academic reference)
  • Degree transcripts (translations should be provided if the originals are not in English)
  • Evidence of English Language Proficiency (if relevant)

Required documentation should be submitted as a combined PDF document via email to:

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview in early June (date to be confirmed).


If you have any queries about the project please feel free to contact the supervisors via email.

If you have questions about the application process please contact the School Postgraduate Office:

If you have questions about the Baillie Gifford PhD studentships please contact: