Applications are invited from highly motivated PhD candidates to undertake a three-month internship to gather and assess evidence as part of a Productivity Insights Network research project on systems approaches to productivity in Northern Ireland. The successful intern will work closely with members of the Productivity Insights Network (PIN), which is an initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The intern will also work closely with principals at the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy. The key aims of this project are to develop a path-breaking process for understanding the productivity puzzle in the context of the Northern Ireland Economy 2030 Industrial Strategy and a working model of a mapping process that can be used in other contexts.

As policy makers grapple with the productivity puzzle, the underlying challenge remains that issue-led approaches continue to prevail in relation to what is a systems-based issue. For political and practical reasons, the most common approach to productivity involves making assumptions, advancing simplified models, and breaking this complex policy problem into what are perceived as its constituent parts. This project argues that the productivity puzzle stems from the failure of this siloed policy model to represent and accommodate interdependencies (see Vorley and Nelles 2019).

Methodologically, the project consists of three phases to which to internship will contribute. First, a literature review of the state of the art of complex adaptive systems mapping in policy analysis will provide a background document for our partners and stakeholders to anchor discussions in the third phase. The second phase involves a discourse analysis of the Economy 2030 Industrial Strategy and its source documents (to be obtained with the cooperation of the Department for Economy) to highlight latent interdependencies between thematic areas. The third phase will explore the implications of the results of the discourse analysis through a series of focus groups and workshops with government partners and stakeholders.

Through this project the intern will have exposure to the development and application of innovative methods and the opportunity to interact with and influence public policy directions of project partners in the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. The successful candidate will also have the opportunity to participate in relevant PIN events for the duration of the internship.

Person specification
The intern will need to have:

  • Experience with conducting high-quality literature reviews;
  • Familiarity with computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (such as NVivo);
  • A background in economics, public policy analysis, political science, or related discipline and an interest in productivity, economic development, and/or regional policy.

It is also desirable that the candidate have:

    • An understanding of complex adaptive systems approaches and complexity theory;
    • Familiarity with a range of mixed methods analysis;
    • The ability to synthesize research findings into outputs for non-academic audiences, e.g. using infographics
    • Excellent communication skills and the ability to work in a client-focused role.

Dates of internship
Aimed start date – early August 2019

The PhD intern will be expected to work remotely from their home institution and will liaise primarily with a principal investigator based in New York City. The intern may be asked to attend meetings in London (and Sheffield) on an ad hoc basis.

How to apply
Please send a letter outlining your interest in the project and position as a PhD intern with the Productivity Insights Network, and details of how your skills and experience make you well suited to undertake the internship. Applications should be sent to by noon on Monday 29th July, 2019.

Please ensure that the university at which you are registered agrees to support your application

Further information
For any queries about the roles and the application process, please contact Professor Tim Vorley (

About the Productivity Insights Network
The Productivity Insights Network was established in January 2018 and is funded by the  Economic and Social Research Council. As a multi-disciplinary network of social science researchers engaged with public, private, and third sector partners, our aim is to change the tone of the productivity debate in theory and practice. It is led by the University of Sheffield, with co-investigators at the Cambridge EconometricsCardiff UniversityDurham UniversityUniversity of SunderlandSQWUniversity of CambridgeUniversity of EssexUniversity of GlasgowUniversity of Leeds and the University of Stirling. For more information on our team click here.