A culture for success? How the culture of open source communities shapes eHealth solutions for developing countries

Project description

This is an interdisciplinary project supervised jointly by Owen Johnson, an expert in Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and health informatics and Dr Lena Jaspersen who works on qualitative research methods and innovation management at Leeds University Business School. It will also have input from Dr Hamish Fraser, Associate Professor of Medical Science at Brown University, USA - co-founder of the OpenMRS Open source EMR project.  

The doctoral study will investigate how open source software communities can best support the use of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) in developing countries. EMRs have the potential to transform healthcare provision but their development and adoption depends on an in-depth understanding of the contexts in which they are to be used. Open source communities enable ‘open’ innovation in eHealth but little is known about how these communities succeed or fail in practice. The study will addresses this gap in our understanding through an inter-disciplinary investigation of leading open source communities working on Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) software in the UK, USA and developing countries. One of the largest and most successful open source EMRs is OpenMRS used in many developing countries in Africa and Asia and the project will involve close collaboration with the global OpenMRS community and four other software enterprises working on EMRs: IMS MAXIMS and X-Lab (UK), SDRC (India) and IntelliSOFT (Kenya). The project will involve placements and field research abroad.

Using eHealth technologies such as EMRs to improve the effectiveness of medical care in developing countries is essential for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for Good Health and Wellbeing. Open source approaches encourage communities of software developers, implementers, and users to collaborate on low-cost, and often free, solutions that are tailored to meet the specific needs of medics and patients in challenging settings. The research will explore the success criteria for open source EMRs in developing countries. It will address a gap in the academic literature on the composition, governance and culture of open source communities between collaboration and competition. Who are involved in these communities? What dynamic behaviours are critical? How does culture fit context? Do more inclusive communities develop more successful solutions? Answers to these and related questions are of great importance to those seeking to improve healthcare in low-resource settings.

The research will draw on cutting-edge methods for online ethnography and mixed-method network research and will examine how the culture of these communities shapes processes of technology innovation, diffusion and adoption in low-resource settings. It will be supported by

a) an inter-disciplinary collaboration covering Computer Science, Business Studies and Health;

b) supervisors with a track record in researching EMRs and technology innovation for low-resource settings; 

c) an international collaboration involving partners in the UK, USA, India and Kenya;

d) an external expert advisor and mentor based at Brown University, USA (Dr Fraser).

The candidate will either be based at the Business School (Centre for Technology Innovation and Engagement) or at the School of Computing (eHealth records research group). Funding is available for a three-year PhD or a 1+3 programme (an integrated Masters programme preceding the three-year PhD which will deliver the core social sciences research methods training requirements).

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with a minimum UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent in a Social Science or Computing/ Informatics discipline.

Willingness to work away from Leeds for several months at a time (placements and field research).

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section of your application, the name of the PhD you wish to apply for is 'A culture for success? How the culture of open source communities shapes eHealth solutions for developing countries' as well as Lena Jaspersen or Owen Johnson as your proposed supervisor(s). In the funding section, please state 'ESRC WRDTP Collaborative Studentships' as your sponsor. 

Please note the residential conditions in regard to this funding.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office
e: phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000.