There are many complex socio-economic phenomena that emerge as a result of individual behavioural choices made by large numbers of people. For example, whether a flu outbreak is quickly suppressed or spreads to become a full-scale epidemic depends on individual decisions about vaccination, hand-washing, social contact, and so on. These kinds of behavioural choices are very difficult to study in the real world (we cannot infect a city with flu to study how the inhabitants respond!) Our research involves studying human behaviour using a range of computational techniques such as mathematical modelling, agent based simulation, and virtual experiments using computer games and virtual environments such as Second Life. This is a multi-disciplinary research area and involves collaboration with researchers in Mathematics, Economics, and Psychology. Specific PhD topics can be designed that are tailored towards the student's interests and expertise. Examples of possible topics are:
Using computer simulation to compare models of human decision-making
This project would use agent-based simulation to compare a number of different models, taken from Economics and Psychology, of how people make decisions.
Virtual experiments for investigating human responses to epidemics
This project would involve using existing virtual world or computer game technology to design, create and conduct experiments on human behavioural responses to a simulated epidemic of an infectious disease.
Agent-based modelling of land management and human decision-making in response to incentives to promote environmental conservation
This project will build upon an existing collaboration with an environmental economist who studies land management and farmers' reponses to a proposed incentive scheme (the Agglomeration Bonus) designed to promote the creation of extensive areas of natural habitat for species. Previous work using computer simulations on abstract, artificial landscapes will be extended to more realistic simulations incorporating experimental and geographical data from the real world.