Funded PhD Opportunity

Chatbots for decision support and reporting in healthcare

Subject: Computer Science and Informatics


Summary

Chatbots are conversational interfaces where the user interacts with an intelligent agent using natural text. Chatbots have become a friendly pervasive technology since there are no cumbersome graphical user interfaces and they utilize natural human-human interactions. Chatbots can also be text based conversations or voice based conversations using Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa devices.

This project aims to explore how a chatbot can be designed and evaluated in order to support conversations for people with mental health and wellbeing concerns. Conversational data will be analysed in order to determine key conversational interaction metrics for example, turn taking in conversations, number of words spoken, complexity of sentence structure etc. Machine learning models will be developed based on this conversational training data and metrics.

This project has a series of funded projects that can support the research, including MENHIR (H2020 funding, a Mental Health Chatbot), Clinical Decision Support and Patient Safety (INTERREG funding), ChatPal (EU NPA funding, a Mental Health Chatbot for rural areas), Verbal Arts (Chatbot for Bibliotherapy, KTP) and Inspire (ESRC funded KTP, Chatbot for mental health support in workplaces).

Related research publications:

Cameron, Gillian, David Cameron, Gavin Megaw, Raymond Bond, Maurice Mulvenna, Siobhan O’Neill, Cherie Armour, and Michael McTear. 2019. “Assessing the Usability of a Chatbot for Mental Health Care.” In Internet Science, edited by Svetlana S Bodrunova, Olessia Koltsova, Asbjørn Følstad, Harry Halpin, Polina Kolozaridi, Leonid Yuldashev, Anna Smoliarova, & Heiko Niedermayer, 121–32.

Cham: Springer International Publishing, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-17705-8_11.

Cameron, G., Cameron, D., Megaw, G., Bond, R. R., Mulvenna, M., O'Neill, S., ... McTear, M. (2018). Best practices for designing chatbots in mental healthcare – A case study on iHelpr.

In: Bond, R., Mulvenna, M.D., Wallace, J.G., Black, M., (eds.) (2018) Proceedings of the 32nd International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI-2018), BCS Learning & Development Ltd. Swindon, UK, 1509 pp., http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/ewic/HCI2018.129.

Cameron, G., Cameron, D., Megaw, G., Bond, R. R., Mulvenna, M., O'Neill, S., Armour, C., McTear, M. (2018). Back to the Future: Lessons from Knowledge Engineering Methodologies for Chatbot Design and Development,

In: Bond, R., Mulvenna, M.D., Wallace, J.G., Black, M., (eds.) (2018) Proceedings of the 32nd International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI-2018), BCS Learning & Development Ltd. Swindon, UK, 1509 pp., http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/ewic/HCI2018.153.

Cameron, G., Cameron, D., Megaw, G., Bond, R., Mulvenna, M., O'Neill, S., Armour, C. and McTear, M., 2017, July. Towards a chatbot for digital counselling. In Proceedings of the 31st British Computer Society Human Computer Interaction Conference (p. 24). BCS Learning & Development Ltd.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

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.

  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Applicants will be shortlisted if they have an average of 75% or greater in a first (honours) degree (or a GPA of 8.75/10). For applicants with a first degree average in the range of 70% to 74% (GPA 3.3): If they are undertaking an Masters, then the average of their first degree marks and their Masters marks will be used for shortlisting.

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    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 fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

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As Senior Engineering Manager of Analytics at Seagate Technology I utilise the learning from my PhD ever day

Adrian Johnston - PhD in Informatics

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
Late March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Dr Raymond Bond


Other supervisors

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