Beyond Law’s Boundaries? Reimagining Persons and Medical Devices

Level of study
Doctoral research
Subject area
Type of Award
Deadline for applying
Closed 19/04/2021 (Note: competition closed for this year)

Award Description

We are seeking a talented and enthusiastic PhD researcher to join our interdisciplinary team based in Birmingham Law School. We are offering a fully funded, three-year PhD studentship which is available to start in September 2021. You will become an integral part of a friendly and supportive research team. Your research will be part of a broader interdisciplinary project being run by Professor Muireann Quigley. This project - Everyday Cyborgs 2.0: Law’s Boundary-work and Alternative Legal Futures – is focused on examining the practical, conceptual, and normative problems which arise when persons are joined with (increasingly smart) medical devices.

Everyday cyborgs (also called ‘integrated persons’) are persons with attached and implanted medical devices; e.g., joint replacements, pacemakers, insulin pumps, and limb prostheses. Increasingly, these devices are smart devices. They run software and have Wi-Fi capabilities. They collect, analyse, and transmit data. Because the law takes a bounded approach to persons and objects (considering something to be either a person or a thing, but not both), the integration of medical devices with persons creates unexpected practical, conceptual, and normative problems. The main Everyday Cyborgs project aims to tackle these by challenging law’s boundary-work and radically (re)imagining its approach to the assemblage of integrated persons and integrated goods.

We welcome PhD proposals within the remit of this project which focus on examining the conceptual and practical issues of regulating integrated persons and their increasingly complex medical devices. Proposals should outline how the research could contribute to the wider project. We particularly welcome proposals which can approach the research in the context of examining why and how boundaries and binaries regarding person and objects are constructed within law. Proposals should also outline how the PhD research could evaluate the pitfalls and opportunities of moving from a less object-focused to a more subject-focused legal approach to integrated persons.

As part of this, the successful applicant will be expected to (1) explore actual and possible constructions of persons, bodies, and selves within law, (2) look at everyday cyborg technologies in the context of these, and (3) examine how different visions of persons, bodies, and selves could impact on law, governance, and regulation with regards to attached and implanted medical devices. In addition to the broader landscape of common law rights, responsibilities, and liabilities, relevant avenues for investigation may include (but are not necessarily limited to) the regulation and governance of software, medical devices, intellectual property, and data.

The successful applicant will take an interdisciplinary approach to their research and analysis could be informed by insights from, for example, law, science and technology studies, philosophy and (bio)ethics, political science, and the social sciences. Other perspectives which broadly fit within the purview of the humanities and social sciences are also welcome.

Further information can be found on the Everyday Cyborgs website

Value of Award

This award will cover:

  • Home tuition fees
  • A stipend (year 1: £19,919, year 2: £21,542, year 3: £23,298)
  • Up to £5,000 contribution to costs for meeting/conferences

Eligibility Criteria

Applications are open to full-time, campus-based Home students. The studentship is available to students who commence their study at the start of the 2021 academic year. It is not available to current Doctoral students.

Applicants require a good (normally a high 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a subject related to the proposed area of research. Typically, applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification, or its international equivalent, at Merit level or above in a subject related to the proposed area of research. Since this is an interdisciplinary project, applicants might hold their primary degree in any number of relevant disciplines: e.g. law, political science, philosophy, science and technology studies, or regulatory and governance studies.

While a first degree in Law is not an absolute requirement, the successful candidate must demonstrate an ability to work effectively with legal materials.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have will also be taken into account.

Applicants must have:

  • A strong interest in research and a high level of motivation to develop research ideas
  • Excellent interpersonal and organisational skills
  • English language proficiency
  • Ability to work independently when required, but to seek supervision appropriately

How to Apply

Applications should include the following documents and be sent to by Monday 19th April 2021:

  • A cover letter (this should set out your reasons for applying for the scholarship and why you are suited to the research proposed)
  • A CV (include the names and contact details of two referees at the end of the CV)
  • Research proposal as outlined above
  • Transcript of grades

Your application should be accompanied by a project proposal which outlines a plan for your PhD research within the remit outlined above. Proposals should make clear how your research will make an original contribution to knowledge. Please read our guidance on how to write a PhD research proposal.

Following shortlisting, interviews will be held. At this stage we will ask for reference from the referees nominated by shortlisted candidates.
Before applying prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Everyday Cyborgs 2.0 project’s Principal Investigator Professor Muireann Quigley to find out more about the project and to discuss potential proposals.