Privacy and trust in distributed ledger technology

This funded project-led studentship award investigates the trust and privacy issues in Distributed Ledger Technology, the infrastructure behind blockchain-based platforms and cryptocurrencies, from management and organisation perspective. 

Start date
1 October 2021
Three years
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey, Project-led Studentship Award
Funding information

A fully funded scholarship provided, linked to the project described. The funding package for this studentship award is as follows: 

  • Full tuition fee covered (UK, EU and International)
  • Stipend at £15,609 p.a (2020/21) 
  • Research Training Support Grant of £1,000 p.a.
  • Personal Computer (provided by the department). 


Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) has evolved as a new form of organising with the potential to revolutionise established business practices across various industries. This project attempts to address the trust and privacy tensions in DLT. 

Proposed Research Question

  1. What trust and privacy paradoxes exist within DLT? 
  2. How those paradoxes affect DLT adoption by users, and how can they be overcome? 

Theoretical Background  

The specific consensus mechanism and algorithm that can be linked in systems to create smart contracts, provides an infrastructure that enables participants to engage in exchanges without a central authority regulating and verifying transactions. Decentralised governance aims to mitigate some of the drawbacks inherent in centralised platforms. However, alongside the benefits, various inefficiencies and tensions exist at the very core of the technology, which have not received sufficient critical attention.  

Trust - DLT provides an architecture that can provide the so-called trustless system. However, it is not clear whether the trust is able to be replaced by an algorithm and codes or if there is a user need for institutions to supplement them.  

Privacy - DLT is privacy-preserving as long as individual identity is not linked to a wallet address; should such a link be made, all their transactions become visible. Individuals are pseudonymous at best, and always vulnerable to the hacking threat.  

Proposed Method 

Whilst research approach and context will be guided by the individual student, we envisage a mixed-method research. At the qualitative stage, the student will conduct interviews with DLT developers as a multiple case study analysis. Based on the insights derived from the interviews, a questionnaire will be designed, analysing the privacy and trust paradoxes from the users’ perspective, followed with secondary data analysis; the quantitative stage. The project concludes by suggesting possible remedies to overcome trust and privacy paradoxes, from organisational perspective.  

Related papers

Catalini, C., 2017. How blockchain applications will move beyond finance. Harvard Business Rev, 2. 

Catalini, C. and Gans, J.S., 2016. Some simple economics of the blockchain (No. w22952). National Bureau of Economic Research. 

Constantinides, P., Henfridsson, O. and Parker, G.G., 2018. Introduction-Platforms and Infrastructures in the Digital Age. Information Systems Research, 29(2), pp.381-400. 

Halaburda, H., 2018. Blockchain revolution without the blockchain?. Communications of the ACM, 61(7), pp.27-29. 

Iansiti, M. and Lakhani, K., 2017. R.(2017). The truth about blockchain. Harvard Business Review, 9. 

Pereira, J., Tavalaei, M.M. and Ozalp, H., 2019. Blockchain-based platforms: Decentralized infrastructures and its boundary conditions. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 146, pp.94-102. 

Risius, M. and Spohrer, K., 2017. A blockchain research framework. Business & Information Systems Engineering, 59(6), pp.385-409.  

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must have a Merit in Masters and a minimum of 2:1 in Bachelors, or equivalent, in Business, Management, or Economics (applicants with Science or Engineering background with sufficient knowledge of management studies are also considered). 

Competence and experience in quantitative and econometric analysis and related software (preferably Stata) is essential. Knowledge about qualitative research methods is a plus. 

The applicants ideally should be familiar and/or interested in the topics of digitalization and digital platforms. 

Only for UK, EU or international applicants.

IELTS requirements: If English is not your first language, you will be required to have an IELTS Academic of 6.5 or above (or equivalent), with no sub-test score below 6. 

The programme will be the Management and Business PhD and the successful applicant will be based at the Surrey Business School.

How to apply

Applications can be made through the Management and Business PhD programme page at the University of Surrey. Please state the project title and supervisor clearly on all applications. 

Please provide two written academic references, who can be contacted.

Interview dates will be in August (subject to slight changes).

They must provide colour copies of their Bachelors and Masters official transcripts and degree certificates (official English translations if the originals are not in English), an up to date CV, and two references.  

We also request a written statement of purpose (explaining why you want to undertake this project, why you have the requisite skill, and how you would approach this project). The statement of purpose should be uploaded in the 'research proposal' area of the application portal. 

 A further piece of research/assignment work, dissertation section, or publication is also recommended to be submitted. Applicants can contact the supervisory team (Dr Mahdi Tavalaei or Professor Glenn Parry) first to discuss their applications.

The applicants will have needed to apply through the Doctoral College Admissions System (DCAS). Application will then be reviewed in DCAS and an academic offer made before a funding offer can be confirmed. 

Information about doctoral college

Information about Management and Business PhD

Applicant must be resident in the UK during the period and study, they may need to travel to collect data during their studies. 

Application deadline

Contact details

M.Mahdi Tavalaei
26 MS 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684312
Glenn Parry
59 MS 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684307

Dr Tavalaei and Professor Parry are fellows at Centre of Digital Economy (CoDE). Professor Parry is a fellow at and Professor Collomosse is the director of EPSRC Centre for the Decentralised Digital Economy (DECaDE). Professor Schneider is the director of Surrey Centre for Cyber Security


Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.