12 January 2018


'Counting sheep and other amazing creatures’: preserving evidential, social and economic value of animal surveillance data

Arts Kim Counting Sheep - shortlisted for 2018/19

Photo: Phillip Capper

Project Description - This interdisciplinary project will explore ways to build capacity for transferable intelligent digital preservation to capitalise on the evidential, social and economic value of animal surveillance data, to improve preparedness for, prevent and manage, disease outbreaks, and improve animal/human health and welfare policy.

Disease surveillance networks are critical at regional, national and global levels. They underpin international trade regulations, public health security and protection of rural economies from the consequences of large-scale disease outbreaks. Rapid detection and response to disease incursions is only possible if there are effective and resilient disease surveillance systems with ongoing capacity to detect, assess, and disseminate disease intelligence. Collation of surveillance data is, however, often fragmented, e.g. that of antimicrobial resistance data is inconsistent, sparse and distributed between governments, the medical and veterinary sectors, and private industry groups.

As both the volume of data, and types of technologies employed change and grow rapidly, the sustainability of surveillance data quality over the long-term becomes unclear; data retention schedules and procedures for disease outbreak data and disease surveillance strategies are not completely transparent. Forward-looking policies regarding data preservation in emergencies as well as in “peacetime”, could improve parameterisation of models of disease spread/control that might mitigate economic consequences of exotic and, in some cases, endemic animal diseases.

Project Team  - The PhD researcher will work under the lead supervision of digital preservation researchers (Dr. Y Kim) at Information Studies, with direction from EPIC researchers (Dr. L Boden and Professor Louise Matthews) in Veterinary Medicine and Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine. The student will benefit from established relationships with policymakers working in exotic and endemic disease planning in the Scottish Government Animal Health and Welfare Division and with policymakers in Tanzania, a developing country in which we have well-established research experience. The researcher will also have the support of the University Research Data Management team, exploring newly emerging digital preservation software and storage. The student will also have opportunity to discuss and develop their research with Dr Andrew McHugh at the Urban Big Data Centre, who also has expertise with the DCC tools for curation and engage with courses in information management and preservation.

Person Specification - This studentship is open to candidates of any nationality – UK, EU or International.

Essential Criteria

Undergraduate degree First or 2:1 or Masters in an area relevant to Epidemiology, Veterinary Public Health, Information Management and/or Preservation, Ecology.

Clear evidence of potential: awards, prizes, publications in scholarly journals


  • Essential: demonstrable potential for research excellence in an area relevant to the project, for example, biological/agricultural science, digital preservation, veterinary medicine, veterinary bioscience, epidemiology, information/data management and/or analysis, biodiversity.
  • Desirable: involvement with developing policies and programmes in a relevant area.


Resilience & problem solving skills

Ability/willingness to learn new skills, for example, skills related to emerging technology.

Desirable: Evidence of public engagement

Application Process - In the first instance, applicants should contact Yunhyong Kim (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)  to discuss the project informally and to discuss eligibility.

Once eligibility is confirmed, the deadline for formal applications is: 12noon, Friday 12 January 2018

Formal applications should be submitted by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and state the name of the project in the subject of the email.


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