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PhD Complex Systems and Computational Social Sciences

PhD Complex Systems and Computational Social Sciences

Duration: 4 Years Full Time; 6 Years Part-Time
Entry to the programme is in September and January. 

** From September 2022 this programme will be replaced by the PhD Quantitative and Computational Social Science programme ** 

Programme Overview

A core challenge for 21st century science is to develop fundamental new insights for understanding and managing the complexity of social systems such as dynamic systems of technological innovation, dynamic networks of electronic communication, diffusion processes which explain the spread of diseases, hidden networks of crime and terrorism, social networks of peer pressure and discrimination and many other such phenomena.

Many recent advances in computer science and computational social science help us understand these systems, ranging from agent-based simulations, to artificial intelligence, to machine learning and data science, to statistical network analysis. Through advanced computational methods, we can obtain insights into complex, nonlinear dynamics, interactions, and patterns in large data sets, that were previously impossible to study, due to limited availability of computing power.

This thematic PhD in Complex Systems and Computational Social Science (CSCS) equips students to work in this new, fast-growing and innovative field which is characterised by the application of computer simulation and other computer-based methods to the analysis of complex, digital data of social systems and their complexity. This requires advanced skills at the cross-section of computer science and social science.

This PhD programme provides a strongly interdisciplinary doctoral training and co-supervision involving faculty from the UCD College of Social Sciences & Law and the College of Science. Training will focus on the computational side for social science graduates and on the social science side for engineering and computer science graduates, to ensure a broad interdisciplinary understanding for all graduates of the PhD programme.

Computational social science is a strongly emergent area of scientific innovation with numerous applications in both the public and commercial sectors in Ireland and elsewhere across the world.

General Information for Incoming Students

A Welcome Note from the Dean of Graduate Studies, with information on registration, fees, support services and orientation, can be found here

The CSCS PhD Programme is a thematic, structured programme. CSCS PhD students may register as full-time (4 years) or part-time students (6 years). Some general information on UCD Structured PhDs is available here.

All UCD Doctoral Studies comprise two stages of training:

Stage 1 comprises the first 12-18 months (for full-time students) within which the PhD student defines the research plan, develops specific research skills through a programme of recommended modules and specialized training and initiates original research work for the doctorate degree.

Stage 2 comprising the remaining months, is primarily dedicated to continuing the original doctoral research but may also include some advanced education and training.

The PhD Lifecycle on the Graduate Studies website provides more information on the process.

The CSCS PhD Programme incorporates a range of recommended taught modules, typically completed in Stage I, followed by a programme of original research leading to the award of Doctoral degree by research at the end of Stage II. CSCS students may also participate in short, external internships during the four year programme.

Module structure

All students take one of the following two modules:

All students are required to take:

In addition, all students take at least 3 modules, totalling to at least 15 credits, from a list of relevant modules. Students with a technical background (computer science, engineering, statistics) take these modules from relevant offerings in the social sciences, while students with a social science background (incl business and law) take these modules from relevant offerings in computer science, mathematics, and/or statistics.

The choice of modules needs to be approved by the principal supervisor and the program director.

Transfer from Stage I to Stage II in the CSCS Programme

In order to progress from Stage I to Stage II of the CSCS PhD Programme, a formal assessment of the student’s progress takes place at the end of Stage I. The formal assessment is conducted by the CSCS Transfer Assessment Panel, which usually comprises members of the CSCS Board of Studies. The Principal Supervisor, and any co-supervisors, are not normally members of the panel.

The CSCS Transfer Assessment Panel base their judgement on the following materials:

  • A written statement of progress from the Principal Supervisor
  • A written statement of progress and future research by the student, including an updated research proposal outlining the overall structure of the thesis
  • One completed chapter or research paper
  • An overview of grades obtained on the program to date
  • An oral presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session, given by the student to the CSCS Transfer Assessment Panel
Description of CSCS Stage II

A PhD student is required to complete a thesis based on original research, which will form the basis of the final Viva Voce examination. The thesis concludes a programme of research under which the student may produce working papers, co-authored papers with their supervisors, attend conferences, etc. The research component of the degree programme includes regular meetings with the supervisor, meetings with the research supervisory panel (RSP) every half year and a student Research and Professional Development Plan (RPDP) which is regularly reviewed.

When can I apply?

Students may be admitted to the CSCS PhD Programme in either September or January of the academic year. The deadline for applications is two months before the start of the programme. Applicants from non-EU countries need to apply to us earlier as the visa application process may take time.

Entry Requirements

Entry normally requires a taught graduate degree in suitable disciplines from the social sciences, mathematical and/or computer sciences or related areas. The program structure is adjusted depending on the background to ensure sufficient expertise in both the social sciences and computational methods by the end of the degree.

Prior to entry all students ideally have acquired an undergraduate, intermediate level competence in calculus or equivalent.

Application Procedure

All applications should include the following documentation:

  • Application Form (fillable word document)
  • Cover letter stating the reasons for your interest in the CSCS programme
  • Thesis proposal (approximately 5 pages), including
    • Thesis title and abstract
    • Theoretical argument
    • Brief outline of relevance given the current academic literature (including references)
    • Proposed methodological approach
  • Curriculum Vitae or Resumé
  • Copies of all academic transcripts (undergraduate and postgraduate)
  • Two academic references should be sent directly by the referee, on headed institutional paper. If sent by email, they should be from an institutional email address. We reserve the right to verify all references. 
  • Evidence of english language competence, where non-native english speaking applicants have not obtained a previous university degree from a university in an english-speaking country. For students affected by testing centre closures due to COVID-19, UCD has approved  the use of the Duolingo English Test (DET) as a temporary measure. The overall result should be at least 110 with a minimum score of 100 in subjections. Click on the link below for further details
    English Language Requirements
  • If you have had contact with a potential supervisor prior to application, please indicate this clearly in the email correspondence, including detail on the extent of engagement

Please email your documentation and have your references sent to (opens in a new window)dara.gannon@ucd.ie

Please indicate in your cover letter and email when you wish to undertake your PhD i.e. September or January.

EU Fees

EU Graduate Research Fees for the Academic Year 2022-23

Non-EU Fees

Non-EU Graduate Research Fees for the Academic Year 2022-23

Further information relating to fees     

Fees published are inclusive of a Student Centre Levy (€254) which must be paid by all students.

Helpful Links

It is crucially important at the start of the PhD to ensure that a plan is in place for the funding of your studies in the PhD program. Most students find their own funding source, while some are self-funded. You will need approximately 1,200 euro per month in living costs plus fees.

If you are planning to apply and would be interested in applying for external funding, please contact us and we can see if we have academic staff who are interested in developing a competitive research proposal for funding together with you.

In considering options for grants, there are few sources you can consider:

SPIRe Scholarships

CSCS students who have a September start date and a supervisor based in the School of Politics and International Relations are eligible to apply for the following:

The deadline for the current Honohan application round is 31st January 2022.

*Note that the above scholarship is available only to students with a September 2022 start date and a SPIRe supervisor*

Other Scholarships

  • The (opens in a new window)Irish Research Council has funding schemes available that cover EU fees plus a stipend (non-EU scholars need to cover the fee differential). This scheme tends to have deadlines early in the academic year, for funding starting the following academic year, and the application process is highly competitive. Collaboration with a local supervisor in developing the application is therefore essential to increase your chances of success. 
  • Universities of Ireland offers a (opens in a new window)North/South Postgraduate Scholarship to encourage graduate study across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • All students on the CSCS program are assigned to the school (department) of the respective Supervisor. Some schools will have funding schemes where full or partial fee waivers, sometimes with small stipends, are available in exchange for a contribution to undergraduate tutorial teaching. Furthermore, paid tutoring or research assistantship can provide some financial support for your studies.
  • Some faculty members have funds available through externally funded research grants that include funding for PhD students. These are typically separately advertised, but you can ask about possibilities by contacting us.

Please do not hesitate to apply and indicate in the application that it is contingent on finding sufficient funding, so that we can, upon acceptance of the application, collaborate in identifying potential sources of funding.

Associated Faculty

Many academic staff involved in the CSCS PhD Thematic Programme are core researchers in various Schools and active research groups across UCD including the Dynamics Lab for Computational Social Science at the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy(opens in a new window)UCD Insight Centre for Data Analytics, the UCD Earth Institute, the UCD Connected_Politics Lab and others. Faculty are engaged in a range of different types of research, some focus on core theoretical development in the field, while others' approach has clear empirical applications, often based on large scale, funded research projects.

School of Politics & International Relations

School of Sociology

School of Mathematical Sciences

School of Computer Science

UCD Earth Institute

External Faculty

Current Students

  • Gillian Golden: Developing Agent Based Modelling and Micro Simulation Techniques for Public Policy Analysis in Ireland
  • Roland Adorjani: Dynamics of social media conversations in political campaigns: a social computational approach
  • Amelie Aidenberger: Under the Influence: Social Contexts & Norm-Violating Behaviours
  • Chenlong Wang: Mechanisms that lead to online community-based production and access of information
Past Students:
  • Dr Travis Tatum: Don’t weight for me: obesity clustering among adolescents in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden
  • Dr Mathew Agripinus Senga: Social Networks and Collaboration in Management of Natural Resource and Protection of Livelihoods: Reflections from Rural Communities in East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania
  • Dr Conrad Lee: Community detection: effective evaluation on large social networks
  • Dr Paul Wagner: Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (COMPON): An Irish Study
  • Dr Benjamin Schrempf: General Purpose Technologies from a Knowledge Perspective – A Computational Social Science Approach to Innovation Networks in Nanotechnology
  • Dr Hang Xiong: Peer Effects in the Diffusion of High-Value Crops on Social Networks: A Social Simulation Approach
Visiting Fellows affiliated to the CSCS PhD Programme:
  • Zejing Qu (2010-2011) Research Focus: Regional Innovation- Research on Jiangsu innovation pathway against global value chains division” funded by Ministry of Education in Jiangsu province
  • Yueji Zhu (2012-2013) Complex Socio-economic Systems
  • Thijs Velema (2012-2014) The effect of status and market strategy on performance in professional Dutch football, 2003-2010
  • Lvcheng Li (2016) Agent-based simulation of University –Industry networks
  • Aliakbar Akbaritabar (2018) A quantitative sociology of academic work in an era of hyper-competition and rankings

UCD School of Politics and International Relations (SPIRe)

School Office: G301, Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.