Funded PhD Opportunity Co-production methods and practice for visualisation of pain: Consensus and individuality in the communication of pain within a universal health phenomenon

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory


This research will be led by a creative practitioner (artist, maker, photographer, designer) and will use art co-production methodologies to bring together professional and community production, understanding and utilisation of visual representations of pain.

*How can coproduction using art, photography or digital visualisation expand pain dialogue?

*How do individuals negotiate a shared visualisation of the subjective experience of pain?

*What is the impact, if any, of a negotiated co-produced visualisation of pain?

Many people with chronic pain feel they are not understood and sometimes not believed because pain is invisible. Evidence suggests sex differences in pain (Bartley & Fillingim, 2013). Text, numerical and visual scales for the communication of pain are widely used. They are most often tested for efficacy in communicating an individual’s pain at a moment in a medical intervention (a consultation, diagnostic or trauma scenario) or along a continuum such progressive or rehabilitative pain monitoring and sometimes for comparison between individuals. An individual’s visualisation of pain can be a CBT technique (Powell 2017). It may enhance understanding around circumstances of pain and some claim it effects perceptions of pain or aids pain relief (Koenig, Sevinc et al 2015). The best such tools have transformed understanding of pain including in users with difficulty communicating.

This research will expand on existing theory and practice to investigate how co-production may enhance pain dialogue. Research will include investigation of aspects of shared experience that are often omitted from individual uses of the traditional measures. The researcher will propose methods that are appropriate to their creative practice and chosen focus. Using visual art methods (which might include painting, drawing, making, photography, digital representation) they will develop parameters to research co-produced visualisation of pain. This might include:

*Identify a condition, community or focus clinical communication of pain is evident (eg migraine, diabetes, or an age-related pain focus).

*Consider relevant time lines –for example the duration of diagnosis, treatment, intervention or rehabilitation over time; contemporaneous or remembered.

*Consider the parameters of relevant co-production community (people with /without the condition, carers, medical professionals, public). Reflect and reference how co-production is located within literature through art therapy, aesthetics, professional art practice/expertise and community dialogue.

*Rigorously investigate the visual language and materials employed and negotiated in co-production of visualisation.

*Consider and investigate how the abstract thinking required for conventional pain scales (Tsui, Chen et al 2010) is disrupted by dialogue about the pain visualisation and how it varies in different protocols for co-production (face 2 face, online, occasional, regular, durational, technology enables or analogue, iterative or responsive v. simultaneous and so on).

*The researcher will navigate ethical and consent issues.

*The researcher will user test the resulting visualisations using appropriate methods to harvest and analyse the effectiveness of this new pain visual language. Within this Practice-Based research, the researcher will create an image or visualisation archive and document the role of dialogue in co-production and potential applications for these visualisations.

*This research is not proposed to extend to a clinical trial of healing through visualization.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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The PhD training programme and regular supervision contacts have provided the direction and support necessary to ensure that I deliver a quality thesis in a timely manner.I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working at Ulster University and feel it has put me in a better position to sustain a full time career as an artist and academic in the years to come.

Jacqueline Wylie

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
12- to 16 March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Professor Karen Fleming

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #238217 when applying for this PhD opportunity