Digital Social Science

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) is a world-leading, multidisciplinary research and teaching department dedicated to the social science of the Internet. Digital connections are now embedded in almost every aspect of our daily lives, and we have unprecedented access to a huge volume of rich social data. Research on individual and collective behaviour online is crucial to understanding our social, economic, and political world. Our multidisciplinary faculty and graduate students operate at the cutting edge in developing new theories, concepts and methods to study the societal implications of internet technologies and AI.

Research at the OII focuses on areas critical to the public interest and has had a significant impact on policy debate, formulation and implementation around the globe. OII faculty were among the first to draw the world’s attention to “fake news” and defined the concept of “big data”. They have undertaken ground-breaking research into technology and wellbeing using real-time industry data and persuaded major global firms to adopt new methods and practices. OII researchers developed the first global ratings system for firms operating in the gig economy and have had a significant role in influencing the online harms debate in the UK.

OII researchers have been funded by dozens of organisations including the major UK research councils (ESRC, EPSRC, AHRC), Wellcome Trust and British Academy, as well as international bodies including OECD and UNESCO and foundations such as Ford, Huo, Dieter Schwarz and GIZ. The department also has strong relations and long-running collaborations with academic partners in the Alan Turing Institute, TUM-Heilbronn, University of Sheffield, University of Reading and WZB (Berlin Social Science Centre), as well as many collaborators in industry including Google, Meta and Microsoft.

Our teaching directly benefits from all these research collaborations, which give our students access to cutting edge research and researchers involved in data science and a digitally connected world. Students play an active role in generating the OII’s vibrant research culture, through involvement with research projects and participation in weekly internal research seminars and an impressive programme of lectures and seminars.

At the OII students have the opportunity to learn from and build their networks through collaborations with visiting PhD students hosted at the OII through the Recognised Students Programme and the Summer Doctoral Programme. The Institute also has a large network of collaborations formalised through its Visiting Research Fellow and Visiting Policy Fellow schemes, which have brought over 100 international collaborations from academia, government and industry to OII.

Studentships are available in both the 1+3.5 and +3.5 formats. Students without a Masters degree meeting the ESRC 2022 Training Guidelines will start with one of the OII’s field-leading MSc degrees:

Students then can apply to progress to study at doctoral level. Students with an appropriate Masters degree that meets the ESRC’s 2022 Training Guidelines can enter directly onto one of the DPhil programmes (+3.5):


OII students are actively involved in knowledge exchange via industry funding for doctoral scholarships, by collaboration with non-academic partners on dissertation topics, and via internships or exchange programmes.

ESRC-funded students have carried out internships with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, and alsohave worked with NHS England, whilst others have workedand have done research in collaboration with companies such as Google. The OII encourages students to undertake research that is closely linked to policy and practice, in keeping with the OII’s research portfolio. A co-funded knowledge exchange ESRC studentship with artist-rights organization DACS gives one of our current students access to thousands of working artists in the UK. Another ESRC doctoral student has an official role in the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper programme.

Students who have completed the DPhil degree have gone on to academic positions at leading universities (Oxford, Leeds, Hong Kong, Ottawa, Edinburgh, Dalhousie, Michigan State, and others) as well as non-academic positions at a variety of firms (Google, Facebook, McKinsey, World Bank, and others).

Pathway leader: Dr Adam Mahdi


University of Oxford

Oxford Internet Institute (OII)
Structure of provision: 1+3.5, +3.5