Research fellow for Product Returns Modelling and Forecasting

Job details
Posting date: 29 October 2020
Salary: £30,942 to £38,017 per year
Hours: Full time
Closing date: 28 November 2020
Location: Southampton, Hampshire
Company: University of Southampton
Job type: Contract
Job reference: 1304920TR

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Decision Analytics & Risk

Location: Highfield Campus
Salary: £30,942 to £38,017 per annum
Full Time Fixed Term (16 months)
Closing Date: Saturday 28 November 2020
Interview Date: To be confirmed
Reference: 1304920TR

For a ESRC funded research project, we are looking to recruit an experienced and enthusiastic Postdoctoral Research Fellow for 16 months, starting in January 2021. Note that this role could be split in two part-time positions if desired.

The research project is entitled "Forecasting and influencing product returns and fraud rates in a Covid-19 world".


Covid-19 has significantly aggravated the problem of high product returns rates, which have been increasing over the last few years. This is a significant challenge for retailers and society, causing economic, social and ecological harm. Returns lead to added complex processing, transportation and wasted resources, as many products cannot be resold and risk going to landfill.

Online shopping thrived during the lockdown, and many retailers extended their returns periods. A surge of product returns arrived when non-essential retailers reopened. Problems that are costly in normal periods (e.g. wardrobing, fraudulent refunds, serial returners) have become worse in this pandemic period. With recent research showing that many customers will retain their new online shopping habits, the problems will stay, too.

We will conduct a consumer survey, interview 25 retailers and work closely with 5 retailers to improve our understanding of consumer behaviours in a pandemic. We will then model this at micro and macro levels using explainable artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to forecast returns and fraud rates in a world dominated by Covid-19 conditions. To mitigate this, we will develop a set of strategies for retailers, indicating the expected effectiveness and environmental impact.

This role is full time, fixed term for 16 months, however part time will be considered. For applicants interested in a Part Time role, please note: This role is unlikely to support a Certificate of Sponsorship with a part time salary amount (a Certificate of Sponsorship is required to obtain a Tier 2 visa to work in the UK).

To discuss this role, you may contact the PI, Dr Regina Frei:

Application Procedure

You should submit your completed online application form at The application deadline will be midnight on the closing date stated above. If you need any assistance, please call Kate Pounds (Recruitment Team) on +44 (0) 23 8059 5456 or email Please quote reference 1304920TR on all correspondence.

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