Skip to main content
School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

WeCollab: mapping the dynamics of collaborative creativity through a novel measure

Research environment

The School of Biological and Biological Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 150 PhD students working on projects in the biological and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.

For this project, the PhD student will work within the Department of Biological and Experimental Psychology. This is a vibrant department of Psychology with outstanding academics in several Psychology fields, behavioural Psychology, health and well-being and cognitive neuroscience. Dr Luft's lab has a cognitive neuroscience group focused on investigating creativity in multiple contexts including multi-person collaboration.The student will also be engaged with Professor Latora's research group in Complex Systems and Networks in the School of Mathematical Sciences. This research environment is a perfect opportunity to develop a truly interdisciplinar career.

Training and development

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

The PhD student will be actively engaged in both groups (Dr Luft and Prof Latora's) and will have great opportunities to develop scientific expertise in network analysis of multi-person interaction. The student will be expected to develop independent but will have appropriate support from both supervisors on developing the skills necessary to complete the project.

Project description

Real-world innovation relies on groups of individuals working together. One important component of innovation is creativity: the ability to come up with new and valuable ideas. Whilst there has been scientific progress in understanding innovation (in business) and the creative process (in individuals), we still know very little about the creative process underpinning innovation in groups. The key barrier to understanding the creative process in groups is that most measures of creativity focus on individuals rather than on collaboration. Studies investigating creativity in groups mostly used adapted versions of individual tasks (e.g. generating unusual uses for common objects) in brainstorming experiments, most of which demonstrated that groups were less creative than individuals working alone. However, a recent study demonstrated that groups are more efficient at solving more complex tasks1. This could be the reason why we have failed to understand group creativity: the measures adopted in most studies were not sufficiently complex. This project will develop and validate an innovative measure of group creativity. This measure will employ advanced network analysis to quantify the dynamics of group interactions during the collaborative creative process. A series of studies will be conducted to: 1) adapt and validate a recent problem solving paradigm1 into a creativity task by asking groups of people to come up with new problems. The group’s interactions will be monitored as they unfold, allowing us to quantify the network dynamics; 2) investigate the effect of group characteristics (size and diversity) on group dynamics and creative output; 3) investigate how individual differences in ability (creativity and intelligence) affect group dynamics and creative outputs. This novel measure will facilitate a new generation of group creativity studies, allowing researchers to understand and improve innovation in the real-world.


This studentship is open to students applying for China Scholarship Council funding. Queen Mary University of London has partnered with the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to offer a joint scholarship programme to enable Chinese students to study for a PhD programme at Queen Mary. Under the scheme, Queen Mary will provide scholarships to cover all tuition fees, whilst the CSC will provide living expenses for 4 years and one return flight ticket to successful applicants.

Eligibility and applying

Applicants must:

  • Be Chinese students with a strong academic background.
  • Students must hold a PR Chinese passport.
  • Applicants can either be resident in China at the time of application or studying overseas. 
  • Students with prior experience of studying overseas (including in the UK) are eligible to apply. Chinese QMUL graduates/Masters’ students are therefore eligible for the scheme.

Please refer to the CSC website for full details on eligibility and conditions on the scholarship.

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project including Psychology, Neuroscience, and Mathematics (not limited to those areas). A masters degree is desirable, but not essential.It is important that the applicant is proficient in at least one programming language (preferably Matlab and Python) and has the motivation to improve computational skills.

Applicants are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details.

The deadline for applications to Queen Mary is 30th January 2022. Applicants will need to complete an online application form by this date to be considered, including a CV, personal statement and qualifications. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for a formal interview by the project supervisor. Those who are successful in their application for our PhD programme will be issued with an offer letter which is conditional on securing a CSC scholarship (as well as any academic conditions still required to meet our entry requirements).

Once applicants have obtained their offer letter from Queen Mary they should then apply to CSC for the scholarship by the advertised deadline with the support of the project supervisor. For September 2022 entry, applicants must complete the CSC application on the CSC website between 10th March - 31st March 2022.

Only applicants who are successful in their application to CSC can be issued an unconditional offer and enrol on our PhD programme.

Apply Online


  • Almaatouq, A., Alsobay, M., Yin, M., & Watts, D. J. (2021). Task complexity moderates group synergy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(36).
  • Alvarez-Rodriguez, U., Battiston, F., de Arruda, G. F., Moreno, Y., Perc, M., & Latora, V. (2021). Evolutionary dynamics of higher-order interactions in social networks. Nature Human Behaviour, 5(5), 586-595.
Back to top