Two AHRC-funded PhD studentships are available from 1 October 2013 for collaborative research between the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds, and the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB).

Both studentships are connected with the project “Food Security in the Biotech Age: The National Institute of Agricultural Botany Since 1970.”  Founded in 1919 and based in Cambridge, NIAB has been at the forefront of seed testing and the development of crop-plant varieties in Britain for nearly a century.  (Its role in the development of a new variety of “superwheat” received major media coverage only last week; see, for the BBC’s story, )

A previous AHRC award funded PhD research, now nearing completion, on the history of NIAB from 1919 to 1969.

One of the new sub-projects aims to take the historical story of NIAB forward into the biotech age, from 1970 to the present.  The other sub-project aims to examine NIAB now as a complex scientific-technological institution, using methods from recent anthropology, sociology, and philosophy of science.  In both, the project students will have significant scope for developing the projects in directions suited to their interests.

In more detail:

(1) Biotech Meets Agricultural Botany: NIAB Since 1970

This project will draw on a mixture of archival sources held at NIAB and interviews with participants to reconstruct the intellectual and institutional development of NIAB in the biotech age – a crucial period in the Institute’s history as well as in the wider history of the biological sciences.  It aims to recover a novel perspective on the rise of biotech and the debate over GM crops in Britain, and more generally on the changing relations between science, commerce, and the British state after 1970.

(2) Science as Social Epistemology: NIAB as a Site of Knowledge Production

This project will draw on perspectives from recent philosophy, sociology and anthropology of science in order to map out the many groups involved in research at NIAB, and the complex dynamics within and among them, through a combination of “embedded” participant-observation in the working life of NIAB and through interviews with staff members. The project student will use this new mapping to test a range of recent theses about the nature of twenty-first-century scientific knowledge.

The supervisors for both projects will be Prof. Gregory Radick (Leeds HPS) and Dr Tina Barsby (CEO, NIAB).  The students will be expected to create virtual exhibits of project-related materials and also to contribute to local, national and international meetings.

In developing their research and the associated activities, they will be able to draw on the support not only of the Leeds HPS Centre and NIAB, but also of the White Rose Science and Technology Studies Network, which regularly brings together students and staff at the Universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield who share interests in contemporary bioscience (see

Enquiries may be directed to [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>

Scholarship Funding

For both sub-projects, applicants must be either UK residents (full studentship) or EU nationals (fees only).  They should normally have, or expect soon to be awarded, a Masters degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. history and philosophy of science; science and technology studies; history, philosophy, anthropology, or sociology with an appropriate focus; etc.), though exceptions can be made for applicants with strong undergraduate records and relevant experience.  The studentships support three years’ full-time work, but can be taken up on either a full-time or a part-time basis.  Standard tuition fees and maintenance grants will be paid by the AHRC to the nominated student.  In the 2012/2013 academic year full-time awards provided a maintenance grant payment of £13,590.00.  In addition to these amounts, the AHRC will make an additional, one-off maintenance payment of £550 in May to cover the special costs of working at two sites. Students may also be eligible for UK study visits and one overseas study visit as well as one overseas conference for the duration of the award.  From the non-academic partner, NIAB, the student will also receive a contribution to maintenance and may also be eligible for travel and related workplace expenses.  (Part-time awards provide a maintenance grant up to a maximum of 60% of a full-time award and half the full-time rate of tuition fees.) Renewal of the studentship each year is subject to satisfactory academic progress.


Application forms and further details are available from the Postgraduate Administration Office, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, email: [email protected]<mailto:hu[email protected]>, tel: 0113 343 3644 or 0113 343 3623

The closing date for applications for both studentships is Friday 14 June 2013.  Interviews for both studentships will take place the following week.

Please specify whether you are applying for sub-project (1), sub-project (2), or for both.

For more on the University of Leeds Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, see

For more on the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, see