Politics & International Relations - Complex Systems & Computational Social Science - Research

Programme Overview
A core challenge for 21st century science is to develop fundamental new insights for understanding and managing the complexity of social systems such as dynamic systems of technological innovation, dynamic networks of electronic communication, diffusion processes which explain the spread of diseases, hidden networks of crime and terrorism, social networks of peer pressure and discrimination and many other such phenomena.

Many recent advances in computer science and computational social science help us understand these systems, ranging from agent-based simulations, to artificial intelligence, to machine learning and data science, to statistical network analysis. Through advanced computational methods, we can obtain insights into complex, nonlinear dynamics, interactions, and patterns in large data sets, that were previously impossible to study, due to limited availability of computing power.

This thematic PhD in Complex Systems and Computational Social Science (CSCS) equips students to work in this new, fast-growing and innovative field which is characterised by the application of computer simulation and other computer-based methods to the analysis of complex, digital data of social systems and their complexity. This requires advanced skills at the cross-section of computer science and social science.

This PhD programme provides a strongly interdisciplinary doctoral training and co-supervision involving faculty from the UCD College of Social Sciences & Law and the College of Science. Training will focus on the computational side for social science graduates and on the social science side for engineering and computer science graduates, to ensure a broad interdisciplinary understanding for all graduates of the PhD programme.

Computational social science is a strongly emergent area of scientific innovation with numerous applications in both the public and commercial sectors in Ireland and elsewhere across the world.

Programme Structure
The CSCS PhD Programme is a thematic, structured programme. CSCS PhD students may register as full-time (4 years) or part-time students (6 years).

All UCD Doctoral Studies comprise two stages of training:
Stage 1 comprises the first 12-18 months (for full-time students) within which the PhD student defines the research plan, develops specific research skills through a programme of recommended modules and specialized training and initiates original research work for the doctorate degree.

Stage 2 comprising the remaining months, is primarily dedicated to continuing the original doctoral research but may also include some advanced education and training.

The PhD Lifecycle on the Graduate Studies website provides more information on the process.

The CSCS PhD Programme incorporates a range of recommended taught modules, typically completed in Stage I, followed by a programme of original research leading to the award of Doctoral degree by research at the end of Stage II. CSCS students may also participate in short, external internships during the four year programme.

Module structure
All students take one of the following three modules:
SOC40640 Social Simulation: Methods and Models
SOC40760 Dynamic Social Networks
POL42050 Quantitative Text Analysis
All students are required to take:

CSSL50020 Social Science Methodology
In addition, all students take at least 3 modules, totalling to at least 15 credits, from a list of relevant modules. Students with a technical background (computer science, engineering, statistics) take these modules from relevant offerings in the social sciences, while students with a social science background (incl business and law) take these modules from relevant offerings in computer science, mathematics, and/or statistics.

The choice of modules needs to be approved by the principal supervisor and the program director.

Transfer from Stage I to Stage II in the CSCS Programme
In order to progress from Stage I to Stage II of the CSCS PhD Programme, a formal assessment of the student's progress takes place at the end of Stage I. The formal assessment is conducted by the CSCS Transfer Assessment Panel, which usually comprises members of the CSCS Board of Studies. The Principal Supervisor, and any co-supervisors, are not normally members of the panel.

The CSCS Transfer Assessment Panel base their judgement on the following materials:
- A written statement of progress from the Principal Supervisor

- A written statement of progress and future research by the student, including an updated research proposal outlining the overall structure of the thesis

- One completed chapter or research paper

- An overview of grades obtained on the program to date

- An oral presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session, given by the student to the CSCS Transfer Assessment Panel

Description of CSCS Stage II
A PhD student is required to complete a thesis based on original research, which will form the basis of the final Viva Voce examination. The thesis concludes a programme of research under which the student may produce working papers, co-authored papers with their supervisors, attend conferences, etc. The research component of the degree programme includes regular meetings with the supervisor, meetings with the research supervisory panel (RSP) every half year and a student Research and Professional Development Plan (RPDP) which is regularly reviewed.

Entry requirements

Entry normally requires a taught graduate degree in suitable disciplines from the social sciences, mathematical and/or computer sciences or related areas. The program structure is adjusted depending on the background to ensure sufficient expertise in both the social sciences and computational methods by the end of the degree.

Prior to entry all students ideally have acquired an undergraduate, intermediate level competence in calculus or equivalent.

Application dates

When can I apply?
Students may be admitted to the CSCS PhD Programme in either September or January of the academic year. The deadline for applications is two months before the start of the programme. Applicants from non-EU countries need to apply to us earlier as the visa application process may take time.

Application Procedure
All applications should include the following documentation:

Application Form (fillable word document)

Cover letter stating the reasons for your interest in the CSCS programme

Thesis proposal (approximately 5 pages), including

Thesis title and abstract

Theoretical argument

Brief outline of relevance given the current academic literature (including references)

Proposed methodological approach

Curriculum Vitae or Resumé

Copies of all academic transcripts (undergraduate and postgraduate)
Two academic references should be sent directly by the referee, on headed institutional paper. If sent by email, they should be from an institutional email address. We reserve the right to verify all references.

Evidence of english language competence, where non-native english speaking applicants have not obtained a previous university degree from a university in an english-speaking country. For students affected by testing centre closures due to COVID-19, UCD has approved the use of the Duolingo English Test (DET) as a temporary measure.
The overall result should be at least 110 with a minimum score of 100 in subjections. Click on the link below for further details
English Language Requirements

If you have had contact with a potential supervisor prior to application, please indicate this clearly in the email correspondence, including detail on the extent of engagement

Please email your documentation and have your references sent to dara.gannon@ucd.ie

Please indicate in your cover letter and email when you wish to undertake your PhD i.e. September or January.


4 years full-time, 6 years part-time.

Enrolment dates

Students may be admitted to the CSCS PhD Programme in either September or January of the academic year.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Doctoral (Level 10 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Part time,Daytime

  • Apply to

    Course provider