Fully funded PhD opportunity in Behaviour Change at UCL (closing date 10th Nov)

PhD Studentship – ‘Developing systems for representing theories of behaviour change and investigating the role of context in behaviour change intervention effectiveness’

The studentship will aim to enhance understanding of how the effectiveness of behaviour change interventions is moderated by mechanisms of action, context and/or delivery. The project draws on the work of the Human Behaviour Change Project (HBCP) ( The PhD supervisors will be Prof Susan Michie and Dr Fabiana Lorencatto, with additional support from Dr Alison Wright.

Systematic reviews of the behaviour change literature often reveal significant heterogeneity in effect sizes, with unexplained variance remaining even after accounting for moderators such as behaviour change techniques (BCTs) employed and risk of bias. Theoretical accounts of behaviour change are often partial and under-specified.

The HBCP is building a knowledge base of behaviour change interventions, structured in terms of a Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology (BCIOv1). In other words, the project is creating a database of behaviour change intervention reports, containing structured information about the interventions, their modes of delivery, settings, target populations, mechanisms of action, reach and engagement, and their effects, starting with the “use case” of smoking.


There will be two themes that the student can consider:

1. The representation of theory.
The student will (1) review the current state of the BCIO and relevant literature to establish how best to represent theories, including dynamic theories of behaviour change, in computer readable formats; (2) work with computer scientists to create a database of theories, including the 83 identified in a review; (3) develop an ontology of mechanisms of action and identify canonical theories of behaviour change.

2. The influence of context.
The student will (1) review relevant literature to establish the mechanisms by which interactions between intervention features and specific types of population and setting characteristics might occur and generate hypotheses for testing; (2) Annotate published behaviour change intervention reports for relevant BCIO entities, helping to populate the HBCP knowledge base; (3) use the HBCP knowledge base to test the hypotheses, leading to a more nuanced understanding of the influence of context and other features on behaviour change intervention success.

If you are interested in applying for the studentship, please click here for the person specification and how to apply.

Last modified: Tue, 24 Oct 2017 16:01:44 BST