PhD Scholarships at IDS available for undernutrition reduction research in India and Kenya

27 April 2012


IDS is seeking outstanding scholars to apply for three PhD positions in the field of undernutrition reduction in India and Kenya. Successful applicants will benefit from a £5000 per year contribution to their fees for the three years of the PhD, and will become an integral part of a multinational research team working on nutrition issues in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Transform Nutrition - a UK DFID funded Research Programme Consortium

IDS is a partner in Transform Nutrition - a UK DFID funded Research Programme Consortium which aims to strengthen the content and use of nutrition-relevant evidence to accelerate undernutrition reduction through this next decade in the two highest burden regions of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The work is centred on the 1000 day period from pre-pregnancy to 25 months of age, where nutrition interventions are most effective at reducing undernutrition and its long term consequences. Transform's research is structured around three core 'pillars' focusing on scaling up direct interventions and increasing the nutrition sensitivity of indirect interventions, and how both might be supported by creating a political and economic 'enabling environment' for nutrition. IDS is leading research on the Enabling Environment, which is analysing:

  • the political drivers, institutions, incentives and constraints behind undernutrition reduction;
  • the ways in which nutrition can be prioritised and made more visible in terms of financial and political commitment – including by supporting nutrition leadership;
  • new ways to hold policy makers and practitioners accountable for undernutrition reduction from national policy to frontline delivery – including by strengthening the voices of local communities.

The successful candidates will form part of the project research team at IDS led by Professor Lawrence Haddad and Dr Nicholas Nisbett. They will draw on supervision from Professor Haddad, Dr Nisbett and other VPR team members including Professor Allister McGregor and Dr Richard Longhurst.

The proposed programme will be agreed with the PhD supervisors, will need to fit well with the wider Transform Nutrition research programme, but will allow flexibility for candidates to develop strong skills in their respective areas. The programme will be split into three areas:

1. Local drivers and understandings of undernutrition reduction in a nutrition 'bright-spot'

A qualitative/mixed methods assessment of performance and underperformance of nutrition intervention in India. Following the team's quantitative assessment highlighting local / regional 'bright spots' in undernutrition reduction, you will undertake multi-sited qualitative fieldwork to critically assess the drivers and constraints of success on the ground. Fieldwork may be based in a community hosting an ICDS centre or you may decide to follow a number of individual workers including Anganwadi workers or Accredited Social Health Activists. You will pay particular attention to the connects and disconnects between state level policy; service delivery and village or household level micro-politics; and the ways in which state actors engage with issues of exclusion and inequality in service delivery.

The successful candidate will be have strong qualitative and ethnographic skills (for example with disciplinary backgrounds in Anthropology, Geography, Sociology, Politics or Development Studies).

2. Undernutrition reduction in India

A real time assessment of policy and practice. This study would track one of the new state-level initiatives (or nutrition missions) designed to rapidly tackle the prevalence of undernutrition in India. As with the above project, you will be expected to make innovative use of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork to shed light on the political, bureaucratic and personal drivers and constraints of success from state to village level. This might include a combination of ethnographic fieldwork in a regional village or town; elite-based interviews; media content analysis and other analyses of policy-processes. This project will capture a snap-shot of the ways in which policy and practice are formulated, delivered and adapted to local social and political realities.

Similarily, the successful candidate will be have strong qualitative and ethnographic skills (for example with disciplinary backgrounds in Anthropology, Geography, Sociology, Politics or Development Studies).

3. Real-time nutrition monitoring and surveillance in Kenya or India

We are looking to identify, develop and test new monitoring possibilities afforded by mobile technologies and evaluate the difference they make to (a) the quality and timeliness of nutrition information, (b) the likelihood of the use and value added of such data for programming and policy response and (c) the ability of civil society to better understand their situation and hold governments and other stakeholders to account.

The successful candidate will have strong quantitative and field skills to work on this project.

How to apply

All candidates will need to demonstrate strong academic backgrounds and a willingness to engage with development policy. Candidates will be based at IDS for the duration of the PhD – and the two qualitative candidates should be prepared to spend up to a year undertaking fieldwork. Candidates will be supported to publish and co-publish their work as a stepping stone to a future academic career.

Prospective candidates are invited to send a CV and a two page expression of interest to Leah Plati by 5pm (BST) 9th May 2012. The expression of interest should outline evidence of academic performance and skills in quantitative or qualitative methodologies, your interest in undernutrition reduction and any relevant experience or knowledge of South Asia or Kenya.

Candidates with no prior knowledge of nutrition issues or regional expertise are encouraged to apply providing they are able to demonstrate sufficient enthusiasm and potential in the subject area. For the qualitative candidates, knowledge of a South Asian language will be an advantage but is not a pre-requisite.

Shortlisted candidates will be awarded the fee waiver on successful completion of the IDS and University of Sussex application process.