Thinking about doing a PhD?

PhD in safety, risk, resilience and/or high reliability

Are you looking do a PhD that has the potential to generate publications in high impact journals and make a difference to policy and practice?


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  • Opportunity: PhD at Cranfield School of Management
  • Topic: the management and organization of safety, risk, resilience and high reliability
  • Start Date: September
  • When to apply: now!
  • More information: here
  • Next steps: contact me for an informal discussion

Also feel free to contact me if you are interested in doing a PhD in leadership, change, networks or evidence-based management – or some combination of these.

Other PhD opportunities are available on the Cranfield School of Management website.

You will join an experienced supervisor and team who are working on various aspects of safety, risk, resilience and high reliability. You will receive extensive training in management and organization research methods. You will contribute to workshops and events for researchers and participating organizations. In addition you will have the opportunity to disseminate research findings by means of conferences and publications.

The Cranfield PhD programme was rated as ‘world leading’ in terms of scale, resourcing and quality assurance in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) undertaken by HEFCE.

Cranfield School of Management offers up to six bursaries each year. The funding to cover fees and a contribution to living costs (only available to full time students)


Full time 4 years – with potential for bursary funding

Part time 6 years – ideal for staff candidates, those wishing to make a transition into academia and reflective practitioners who wish to conduct an in-depth investigation.

Opportunities also exist for DBA research (4 years part time) and MSc by Research (2 years part time).

Possible research topics:

The PhD research will aim to develop our understanding about safety, risk, resilience and/or high reliability. Potential research topics might include but are not limited to the:

  • sequences of events or steps that unfold over time in the development of accidents and crises,
  • features and characteristics of high reliability organizations that are applicable in different settings
  • conditions and factors that contribute to the effective implementation of high reliability organizations
  • diffusion and embedding of promising risk management practices and safety routines,
  • development of safety culture,
  • challenge of learning from crises,
  • role of safety leaders and how safety leadership is enacted,
  • sensemaking of front line staff or how they innovate, improvise, adapt, and learn
  • role of social networks in achieving safety, resilience and/or high reliability.

Projects may take a range of forms but must focus on leadership, management and/or organizational aspects of the topic. They should take context seriously – in other words, studies must reach beyond surface description to develop some form of understanding of dynamic phenomena and situations. Studies may also examine how phenomena develop and change over time by tracing phenomena backwards in time (e.g. serious events) or by following them forward in real time (e.g. implementing high reliability). Research may focus on different levels of analysis and could draw on multiple sources of qualitative and/or quantitative data, as might be obtained from interviews and surveys, real time observations, documents and archival records.

There is plenty of scope here to develop your own ideas and adopt an approach that builds on your existing experience. To to be accepted for this programme the proposed research must have the potential to be empirically rich, methodologically rigorous, theoretically insightful and practically relevant.

Opportunities also exist for DBA research (4 years part time) and MSc by Research (2 years part time).

Related research projects

Current doctoral researchers are working on:

  • A social network analysis of risk-based knowledge sharing
  • The role of leadership in High Reliability Organizations
  • The challenge of embedding risk management practices
  • Risk communication in high hazard environments
  • Crisis decision-making

Current research projects:

  • Enacting safety leadership in low hazard environments (funded by the Institute of Safety and Health – IOSH)
  • Creating the High Reliability Ward – with Addenbrooke’s Hospital

Recently completely projects:

  • Managing Change after extreme events – funded by the Economic and Social Research Council
  • Managing Change after extreme events in Healthcare– funded by the National Institute for Health Service Research

Next steps

In the first instance contact me for an informal discussion about your interests and motivations for doing a PhD.

Further information can be found here


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Thinking about doing a PhD?

  1. Dear Sir/ Madam,
    I am highly motivated and interested in undertaking a PhD research in Risk and Safety Management. I am completing my MSc Safety Engineering at the KU Leuven by August 2015 and will be interested in pursuing my PhD. I have the relevant research capability to undertake this study.
    Looking forward to your kind and reputed guidance on how to secure a placement.

    Thank you

    Warm regards
    Effiong Mkpat