Human Factors and the Darknet - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Human Factors and the Darknet

Applications can be submitted to the Graduate Research School until 4pm 30th September 2020.

The dark net is a layer of the Internet in which various marketplaces exist to facilitate the trade of both legitimate and illicit products and services. This PhD project focuses on the use of Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) to understand and disrupt the trade of illicit products and services in darknet marketplaces.

Dark net markets represent a significant challenge for law enforcement agencies. Many marketplaces of different sizes exist, owners, vendors and sellers remain anonymous, and marketplaces are agile and constantly evolving. Novel forms of intervention are required along with research exploring different mechanisms for disrupting marketplace trading.

Systems Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) methods provide the capacity to describe and model systems in terms of their components and how they interact with one another. Recent research has explored the extent to which systems HFE can be used to inform the development of strategies to diminish the functioning of systems that have been created to achieve illicit ends (Lane et al., 2019; Salmon et al., 2018; 2019). For example, Salmon et al. (2018) used Work Domain Analysis (WDA; Naikar, 2013) and a breaking nodes process to identify interventions that could be used to disrupt the activities of Islamic State style terrorist cells. Lane et al. (2019) used the Event Analysis of Systemic Teamwork (EAST; Stanton et al., 2013) to analyse the processes involved when buying and selling identity credentials on DreamMarket (a dark net marketplace that has since been closed). Lane et al (2019) subsequently applied the EAST-Broken Links approach (EAST-BL; Stanton & Harvey, 2017) to identify strategies for disrupting trading. Building on this work, this scholarship provides an opportunity for a PhD project focused on the use of systems HFE and/or computational modelling methods such as Agent-Based Modelling to understand and disrupt trading in Darknet marketplaces.

For further information on the research project contact:

Professor Paul Salmon

Director Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems

  • Be accepted into a Higher Degree by Research program at the University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Not have an equivalent qualification to the one for which you are currently applying
  • Have a First-Class Bachelor Honours Degree, or show equivalent level of achievement with other academic qualifications or professional research experience
Applications can only be accepted from Domestic students
Selection criteria
  • Undergraduate degree
  • Research training degree (First Class Honours or equivalent)
  • Research publications
  • Professional research experience
  • Experience or interest in Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE), HFE methods, Psychology, Systems Thinking, Computational Modeling, cyber security and the Darknet is desirable
Eligible programs
Number available

Annual Stipend: $28,092 in 2020. Research Training Program equivalent.

To apply:
  • If you are not a current USC HDR student, complete an application for program admission following the directions on the HDR Applicants page
  • Next, apply for the scholarship: