PhD Studentship in Digital Publishing and Reading – deadline 2 May 2016

Bath Spa University’s Graduate College and the British Library invite applications for a fully funded AHRC PhD studentship on the topic of ‘Digital Publishing and The Reader: Interactions between Readers and Writers of Creative Texts in Digital Environments’.

Closing date for applications is 23:59 (GMT) Monday 2 May, 2016.

Interview date is Tuesday 17 May, 2016.

Interviews will be held at Bath Spa University’s Graduate College at Corsham Court.

The studentship will begin on 1 October 2016.

About the Collaborative Doctoral Award

This studentship is for three years full-time study at doctoral level, with the option of an additional six months training or placements. The student will have all fees paid, will receive a bursary for living expenses, and will also be supported in necessary travel and conference costs. The student will be jointly supervised by Stella Wisdom, Digital Curator and Ian Cooke, Head of Contemporary British Published Collections, of the British Library, and Kate Pullinger, Professor of Creative Writing and Digital Media, and Dr Laura Little at Bath Spa. At the British Library, the studentship will be located in the Digital Scholarship and Contemporary British Publications teams. The student’s investigation will operate within Bath Spa University’s regulatory framework for research degrees.

The purpose of this collaborative research project is to investigate the changing nature of publishing in digital environments, with particular emphasis on examples which encourage interaction between readers, texts and authors. The research focus of the project is located in library and information science and publishing. Through focused case studies, it will provide policy-relevant research for the British Library on issues related to collection-building and representation of cultural activity in Britain. This project fits within the AHRC ‘Digital Transformations’ research theme, in particular examining emerging media and ‘communication and creativity in a digital age’. Its focus is on examining the interaction between readers and authors, and the role of new technologies in shaping these interactions. The changing nature of UK publishing is central to this research, and it fits firmly within the RCUK’s ‘Digital Economy’ theme, including topics such as: the reproduction and dissemination of knowledge; new forms of expression; changes in publishing; and notions of authorship. The project would address three specific questions:

1. Technology change in digital publishing, including new technologies and reuse of existing technologies to support interaction between readers, texts and authors;

2. The impact of technology change on behaviours of readers and authors and their interaction with texts;

3. The significance of these changes for memory institutions, in particular questions on collection building and other activities to represent these changes in reading and authorship behaviours and technologies.

Digital technologies are transforming reading, writing and publishing, creating multiple opportunities for writers and readers interested in experimentation and innovation. Within a few years, all emerging writers will be expected to be engaged with new forms and/or platforms as well as new ways of connecting with audiences. But what does it mean to write text for a screen? What happens to literature once it moves off the page and into a web-browser, onto tablets, mobiles and other devices? As the digital and physical merge, what territories will literature explore? As interaction between readers, writers, and texts becomes more fluid and pervasive, existing across multiple platforms and modes, how will the life of a text be captured and represented by memory institutions like the British Library? Currently, reader-writer interaction is seldom captured and archived alongside the text, though engagement with writers and their texts online is a hugely popular activity with large and vibrant communities and networks already existing.

Any research project that addresses questions around technological change in reading and publishing must also address the impact of these changes on authors and texts. Situating this collaborative doctorate within Bath Spa’s creative writing department – a department that is unusual in its in-depth engagement with digital technologies – will give this researcher unprecedented access to researchers and practitioners in this field. For instance, within the time period of the doctorate the student will be able to run in-depth on-going case studies looking at the writing process, pre-publication, publication, and post-publication reader engagement of books by award-winning literary writers like Prof Tessa Hadley, Prof Philip Hensher, Prof David Almond, Prof Maggie Gee, and Prof Fay Weldon. Case studies could examine the role of technology plays in all these key stages, from writing to reader engagement across book festivals, social media, social reading and whole ecosphere of publishing currently. As well as literary texts, case studies could be built around the work that Prof Kate Pullinger and Prof Naomi Alderman do in the field of digital fiction, games, participatory writing projects, and collaborative texts.

Benefits and training opportunities for the student:

Locating this research at the British Library provides a means of framing it within a national cultural and collecting context. From the point of view of research-informing-policy, it will enable the researcher to tackle questions that could not be practically addressed elsewhere. The British Library is both a major publisher of digital works, through large-scale digitisation projects and the creation of online learning platforms (such as Discovering Literature), and has been involved in collection management of digital objects at large scale. In addition, recent work on data, digital scholarship and the creation of BL labs has created an environment of innovation in new digital publishing, well-suited to the themes of this project. The student would be located in the Contemporary British Publications team and work with colleagues in Digital Scholarship and Web Archiving. The student would draw on staff expertise and experience in developing and delivering an online learning course, crowd-sourced projects, and managing born-digital collections.

The UK Web Archive, which the British Library manages, could be used as a source of longitudinal information on recent change in online publishing. There would be scope to develop a themed collection within the Web Archive to reflect digital publishing technologies in a context relevant to the PhD research project. The project would also be a close compliment to the ‘Academic Book of the Future’ programme, in which the British Library is a partner. There are strong thematic links between this project and the CDP on issues such as: author engagement with new technology platforms; how changing social and technological environments impact on research and publishing; and the opportunities and challenges raised by new collaborative practices in research. The duration of the studentship provides a time period within which to identify change in digital publishing, and to see specific publishing projects develop. More generally, the student would be encouraged to contribute to the cultural engagement activities of the Library through development of an interactive and collaborative text project. At Bath Spa, the student will have access to research training via the Researcher Development programme, which consists of a suite of courses, workshops, activities and online materials informed by the work of Vitae and their Researcher Development Framework.They can attend staff development sessions organised by the Academic Staff Development Centre. The School also sponsors a range of events and activities, including visits from publishing industry professionals and writers.

Supervision, management and procedure

Supervision will be carried out by Pullinger and Wisdom, with monthly joint supervisory meetings at either the British Library or Corsham Court, where Bath Spa’s Graduate College is located. Additional involvement from Cooke and Little will take place at regular intervals throughout the academic year. The PhD will be hosted by Bath Spa University and will conform to Bath Spa’s doctoral regulations, including the award of the final degree.

The research timetable of the PhD student will be confirmed at the approval of the student’s Research Plan, which must be submitted within three months of the start date.

Funding details

The duration of the PhD studentship is three years, full time, subject to satisfactory progress, with an additional funded six months for industry placements or research training. The stipend will be paid at the standard research councils’ rate. For 2016/17 the annual stipend is £14,296, plus an extra £550 that is added to the stipend for AHRC CDP students to help towards additional costs incurred by the need to work across two institutions. The British Library will provide financial support for research-related costs of up to £1,000 a year. If the PhD is not submitted for viva within 3.5 years, the student will become liable from that date onwards for Bath Spa’s pro-rata fees and/or continuation fees.

Person specification


Undergraduate degree in related discipline.
Masters level qualification in related discipline or professional equivalent.
Proven ability to work independently


Experience of working with digital publishing or archiving
Demonstrable knowledge of the current landscape of digital reading
Experience of working collaboratively with individuals and organisations

How to apply

Full details of how to apply may be found here:

Prospective candidates wishing to informally discuss an application should contact Prof Kate Pullinger at or Stella Wisdom at the British Library

Enquiries about the application process may be directed to