CAL UGRS projects: PTR

Here you can find out about the UG Research Scholarship projects that are being offered by academics in the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion in summer 2019.

Non-finalist UG students in CAL can apply to any project that is running. However, you can only apply for one project. So, please make sure you read the project summaries and ‘skills required’ sections carefully before applying.

Student applications open at the beginning of February, the deadline for applications is Friday 29 March 2019. We aim to inform all applicants whether their application is successful in early May.


Groundwork for Counterfactual Skepticism Project

Project Proposer/s: Dr Nikk Effingham

Project Summary

‘If I dropped this plate it would shatter’ is an apparently true counterfactual statement. Yet some dropped plates don’t shatter; if I dropped this one, it might be fine; thus, is it not false that, were the plate dropped, it would shatter? Rinse and repeat this thinking for all counterfactuals and it looks like mostly every such statement we use is false. 

This project is partially to do with linguistics and partially to do with metaphysics. I believe that the counterfactuals must (at least sometimes) be true; revising how we talk (and, e.g., avoiding counterfactuals), or how we understand counterfactuals, or what we take counterfactuals to mean, is wrong-headed. Better to take them to be straightforwardly true, building upon that to determine (i) what counterfactuals mean and (ii), in light of (i), what the (metaphysical) structure of the world must be in order to bear out their being true.

What the researcher will do

The project comprises four components.

  • Construct a comprehensive bibliography of philosophical sources (books, papers, articles etc.) which discuss counterfactual scepticism. In particular, the holder will root out older sources on counterfactuals and scour them for any discussion of counterfactual scepticism.
  • Attempt to construct a bibliography of articles from linguistics which might bear on the project.
  • Examine literature from: (i) physics; (ii) law; and (iii) epidemiology/public health to examine—as a representative sample—how the word ‘would’ is used in academia (with the intention being—I hope!—that this will show why it’s so difficult to implement a revisionary scheme). I do not envisage any specialist knowledge of any of these three subjects being required (or even useful!) for this part of the project. Nonetheless I have secured agreements from the FramePHYS project, as well as academics from the School of Law and Institute of Applied Health Research, to consult if needed. (Dr. Price of the IAHR has already agreed to help brief on how to construct the representative sample in line with good statistical methods.)
  • Create a twitter feed (or contribute to an existing UoB twitter feed, if more appropriate) delivering a bi-daily tweet on what research is being conducted.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Basic knowledge of philosophy is essential; the holder will have studied at least one year of Undergraduate level Philosophy.
  • Existing knowledge of counterfactuals, philosophy of language and/or metaphysics would be beneficial but not essential; applicants with such knowledge will be regarded more highly than otherwise.
  • The student must evince the ability to research numerous sources and quickly determine whether or not a given source is relevant or not.
  • Experience in studying linguistics or statistical methods would be beneficial but not essential; applicants with such experience will be regarded more highly than otherwise.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

  • The holder will become acquainted with a range of literature in metaphysics and philosophy of language. There will be some philosophical engagement with the material in the initial stages to ground the student’s understanding of what the problem of counterfactual scepticism actually is.
  • The holder will, under my instruction, develop their ability to research and source appropriate material in a short space of time.
  • The holder will get an insight into the process of inter-disciplinary research as they engage with the other, non-philosophical, areas.

Women, Faith and Humanitarian Interventions

Project Proposer/s: Dr Karen Wenell and Dr Andrew Davies

Project Summary 

This ongoing AHRC-funded project focuses on women and girls and the ways that practical and religious needs can be met in situations of humanitarian crisis. Without research into women’s experiences of displacement, their religious needs in refugee contexts, and the resources (texts, theologies, spokespersons, practices, etc.) that might promote empowerment, the distinctive role of faith – protected in human rights discourse – is in danger of being sidelined and given low priority. Groups of women and girls may be de facto excluded from the support they need. A new approach to humanitarian intervention which incorporates faith aspects rather than separating them out may benefit women by considering their needs from a more wholistic perspective. The project aims to produce a set of strategic initiatives for future action and recommendations for gender and faith responsive humanitarian programming. This is therefore an excellent opportunity for a student to participate in this international scholarly network. 

What the researcher will do

The researcher will support the final events of the project, which are a London launch event and finalisation of the project toolkit. The researcher will therefore assist in:

  • identifying and collating resources
  • developing the online project page and the toolkit resource which is being produced over the course of the project
  • helping with the planning and management of the London launch

The work will involve contact with other researchers working in the key areas of the project as well as research into other relevant sources not yet connected to the project. 

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

The researcher will need:

  • excellent IT skills and familiarity with Microsoft Office;
  • ability to collect and process/organise data;
  • ability to evaluate key resources and source materials;
  • good project management ability, if possible (though project management training will be provided) and strong personal and time management skills;
  • confidence in interaction with academic researchers, policy makers, INGO partners/stakeholders and the public.

The researcher would need to be flexible, self-reliant, show initiative in conducting searches and be proactive in making contacts with the direction of the project leads. Familiarity with some aspects of the role of religion and gender in humanitarian action and development work would be an advantage, but is not essential. Full training would be given at the start of the project. 

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The project will allow the scholarship holder to enhance their research skills and to gain insight into an important area of current global challenges working across academic disciplines. It will provide valuable experience of working with a team of academic researchers and NGO partners as well as networking beyond the project team for the launch event. Working on the toolkit resource in particular will allow the scholarship holder to see how academic research and networking can lead to the production of materials that can be influential in the public and policy realms.