We are looking for 15 Postdocs in social sciences

The aim of the Social Science Group of Wageningen University and Research is to understand social processes with regard to today’s global challenges of disparities and poverty, of responsible production and consumption, of natural resource use and the environment, as well as of knowledge in society.

Do you want to use your passion for one of the Postdoc programmes Circular Food Systems, Health or Digitalisation in social sciences as a Postdoc? We are looking for 15 candidates for different postdoc positions in the three mentioned themes.

The Social Sciences Group wants to generate awareness in the scientific field as well as in the public debate about our expertise on these three themes.

We are hiring across a range of social scientific disciplines – see the sub-projects for more details.

1. Postdoc programme Circular Food Systems

It is now widely accepted that the contemporary global food system is not sustainable and in need of fundamental transformation. One important focus in this transformation is making food systems circular, where waste is eliminated, metabolism restored and food production and consumption functions in an overall socially and environmentally sustainable context.

Are you interested in becoming one of five postdocs contributing a renewed social understanding of circular food systems?

Project 1. The role of cities in circular food systems: really closing the loop

The role of cities in circular food systems is not well covered yet. In this project we aim to address three issues.

(i) System insights in regional food systems; e.g. where is the food produced, processed and where does the food-waste go? Who are the main players and what is the role of retailers compared to consumers in pushing to sustainability and circularity?

(ii) System transformation; small wins, technological change and the contribution of (reversed) logistics.

(iii) Spatial implications of a circular food system: at which level are urban-rural interactions most efficient?

  • PhD in Urban/Regional Economics, Economic Geography, Environmental Economics or Agricultural Economics
  • Position for 3 years

For more information, please contact Prof. Eveline van Leeuwen or Prof. Francisco Alpizar.

Project 2. Learning from the Global South: different perspectives on Circular Food systems

The transition towards a resilient and circular food system requires changes in our food consumption habits, supported by changes in the behavior of governments and companies.

This research project focuses on the interaction between consumers, firms and governments in shaping circular systems, and seeks to identify novel perspectives and lessons-learned in the Global South.

We compare (i) the role of consumers in shaping business practices. (ii) the relative power of consumers, producers and retailers in food systems, and (iii) the role of institutions, such as governmental bodies, but also (food safety) laws and regulations.

  • PhD in Development Economics, Environmental Economics, Agricultural Economics
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact Prof. Erwin Bulte or Prof. Francisco Alpizar.

Project 3. Mission oriented agricultural innovation systems for circular food systems

Current agricultural innovation systems (AIS) do not necessarily take into account the diversity of possible future food, fibre and bioenergy systems under a concept of circularity. It has not yet been studied in a comprehensive way how AIS adapt and transform as a results of the move towards circular food systems. 

This postdoc project will empirically look at how the Dutch AIS is transforming to accommodate this new reality, how it crosses boundaries with other sectoral innovation systems (e.g. energy, building, logistics) and how mission oriented innovation policy is shaped. 

  • PhD in Sociology, Science and Technology Studies or Policy/Innovation Studies
  • Position for 3 years

For more information contact: Prof. Laurens Klerkx.

Project 4. Tackling Crises in the Countryside: An Integrative Approach to Regenerative Agriculture, Circular Agri-Food Systems, and Convivial Conservation

Food, farming, and conservation face major, interrelated challenges in the countryside, yet are treated as largely independent in research and policy.

This postdoc will explore regenerative agriculture and convivial conservation as two paradigms that aim to address these challenges. The key questions are: (1) how can the two paradigms be integrated into a holistic approach, and (2) how can this integrative approach help sustain biodiversity, livelihoods, social equity?

Next to developing an integrated approach and assessing the impacts of its application at different integrative levels, the postdoc is expected to disseminate findings and develop an acquisition portfolio.

  • PhD in Sociology, Geography, Anthropology or Political Ecology
  • Position for 3 years

For more information contact: Dr. Dirk Roep, Rural Sociology Group or Dr. Mindi Schneider, Sociology of Development and Change Group.

Project 5. Governance and Practices of Circular Food Systems: A Comparative Perspective

Multi-level policy configurations, from local to international, shape experiences and practices of actors involved in local circular food system initiatives. The question is how?

This project takes a multi-level policy approach to understand the relationship between different policy configurations and the social practices of producers and consumers. An international comparative approach will be used to compare urban(ising) contexts around the world.

The results from this project will contribute to an understanding of divergent and shared governing contexts, challenges and experiences for accelerating transitions towards circular food systems.

  • PhD in Public Administration, Political Science, Environmental Policy or Sociology
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact Dr. Jeroen Candel or Dr. Mary Greene.

2. Postdoc programme Health

Good health contributes to quality of life, yet public health faces major challenges globally through the rise of chronic diseases as well as a continuous high burden of infectious diseases.

To promote health and prevent disease a thorough understanding is needed of the complex interplay of social, economic, behavioral and cultural factors enabling or hindering health.

This interdisciplinary programme seeks to gain insight into factors explaining health and to explore the potential for health policies and interventions to promote health and prevent disease.

Project 6. Achieving Global One Health: developing adaptive prevention systems for vector-borne diseases.

Following up on the WUR Global One Health priority, this study will focus on the transdisciplinary analysis and development of adaptive prevention systems for vector-borne diseases. Prevention requires intersectoral decision-making and action that will benefit from innovative information and decision tools.

From a sociological perspective the project aims consist of:

(1) drawing lessons from comparing prevention systems in countries with exposure to manifest diseases;
(2) analysing existing monitoring and surveillance systems and developing geo-based information systems enabling targeted actions; (3) analysing intersectoral governance and implementation, and
(4) designing the conditions for co-creative, responsive and adaptive VBD prevention governance systems.

  • PhD in (Human) Geography, Public Administration or Sociology with special interest in Health and Policy or Geographical Information Systems
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact Dr. Marleen Bekker.

Project 7. Developing healthy and sustainable eating habits

Enabling healthy and sustainable diets are an important target for personal, public and planetary health. Eating habits learned early in life are good predictors of eating patterns in adult life. However, how to stimulate young people (children, adolescents, students) best in engaging in more healthy eating patterns, is not yet well understood.

The proposed project investigates how interventions and settings (at schools, by parents or other actors/professionals) could enable or hinder self-regulation and learning of healthy behavior.

  • PhD in Pedagogy, (Developmental, Educational or Health) Psychology or Health Education and Promotion
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact, Prof. Emely de Vet or Prof. Perry den Brok.

Project 8. Understanding consumer food preferences and their consequences for the design of policies to reduce internalities (in health) and externalities (e.g. climate change or pesticides)

Tasking consumers with the responsibility of making choices that are good for their health and for the environment is a tall order. Still, insights from behavioral economics show that people care not just about themselves, but also about others around them. Consumers are creatures of habit, and changes in the choice infrastructure can have strong impacts.

We use survey-based methods and economic experiments to explore consumer preferences for food choices across different dimensions: health, environmental outcomes, location of damages.

A good understanding of consumer preferences is the first steps towards the design of policies that are both effective and acceptable to the public.

  • PhD in Behavioural Economics, Health Economics, Environmental Economics or Consumer Economics
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact Prof. Francisco Alpízar or Prof.  Eveline van Leeuwen.

Project 9. Health Surveillance: Reconciling Privacy, Progress and Paternalism

Personal data is increasingly used by policy makers to assess risks and shape policy. This project aims to create a research agenda on the use of personal data in shaping public health policy, and in publicly sharing data on prevalence of health factors on online maps. It brings together a range of legal, ethical and governance questions touching on this increasingly common practice.

We expect this research agenda to cover questions regarding data collection, stigmatisation, privacy and accountability regarding data use, but also questions of accountability and polycentric governance, where public and private actors are both cooperating and competing for data.

  • PhD in Public Administration or Law
  • Position for 3 years

For more information, please contact Dr. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen or Prof. Josephine van Zeben.

3. Postdoc programme Digitalisation

The future is digital for food systems, farming systems, health and the environment. These areas are increasingly driven by data and high tech innovations using new technologies, sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence.

The Social Science Group at Wageningen University aims to understand how digitalisation transforms economic, political, social, communicative and business dynamics in society, and how it may be better steered to address complex societal challenges.

Project 10. Digitalisation of agriculture in support of farm business decision making under risk

Farm businesses deal with various kinds of uncertainties such as changing weather conditions, yields, and policies, which cause wide swings in farm income. Increased digitalisation and advancements in data science, make it possible to collect and process various types of farming data, and thus support the decision making process in risk management. 

This postdoc position focusses on leveraging the digitalisation of agriculture in supporting farm business decision problems under uncertainty.

A multidisciplinary approach will be addressed from both an information technology and business economics perspective. Concrete farm business problems will be tackled including animal health, risk, and farm management decisions.

  • PhD in Quantitative (Business) Economics, Data Science or Business Analytics
  • Position for 2 years

For more information please contact, Dr. Mariska van der Voort or Prof. Bedir Tekinerdogan.

Project 11. Developing and exploiting (big) data science potential for business sciences

Business Sciences is rich of (potential) data sources, but relatively poor in efficient and effective exploitation thereof. Data are often collected from individual studies without too much consideration about their leverage for higher order learning. Advanced data integration and data analytics provide potential to learn at this “higher level”.

We are looking for a postdoc in data sciences or related fields who can pioneer this emerging area in the context of existing data sources on consumer behavior for sustainable packaging. Linking to existing collaborations (e.g. with CERN), scientific publications are foreseen within the domain of data sciences and the applied domain of sustainable packaging.

  • PhD in Data Science/Big Data Analytics with an interest in marketing applications
  • Position for 2 years

For more information please contact, Prof. Hans van Trijp or Prof. Bedir Tekinerdogan.

Project 12. Optimising last mile logistics for end customer and societal satisfaction

Increasingly distribution is moving towards optimal delivery to consumers’ front doors. A crucial question is how to organise this ‘last mile logistics’ to ensure that optimal end-customer service delivery (and satisfaction) is achieved with minimum environment impact, and without incurring unnecessary complexity and costs.

This project aims to develop an understanding of concepts and methodologies of how patterns in consumer preferences for delivery options in online retail, actual delivery performance and consumer satisfaction may evolve, unfold, and can be modelled using transaction data in order to balance service quality delivery against logical costs and environmental impact.

  • PhD in operations research/management science, (quantitative) marketing, or computer sciences, preferably with experience in data analytics
  • Position for 2 years

For more information please contact, Prof. Sander de Leeuw or Dr. Erica van Herpen.

Project 13. (Ir)Responsible communication in the digital public sphere

Online media enable anybody to publish content about life science issues. The resulting online discourses often do not support the scientific consensus and frequently contribute to polarization.

In relation to this several questions arise: What is the moral obligation of societal actors to responsibly communicate scientific perspectives in online discussions? What constitutes responsible and effective science communication through online media, and how can this be assessed? What contexts and conditions influence whether online communicative interaction evolves in a responsible manner?

This postdoc project aims to answer these questions by examining topical life science debates related to environment, agriculture and health.

  • PhD in the area of communication sciences or ethics of communication in the digital sphere
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact, Prof. Marcel Verweij.

Project 14. Blockchain technology and the digital transformation of food governance

This research project investigates how blockchain:

(1) enables alternative schemes for governing sustainable and safe food supply chains and
(2) challenges and transforms EU food governance.

From a sociological perspective, we examine the automation and privatisation of governance practices implied in alternative schemes, many of which are in the development pipeline.

From a legal perspective, we analyse where blockchain could be used to implement EU food law or by private actors to make food-related sustainability claims and what other legal requirements apply (e.g. data protection, competition law).

From a transdisciplinary angle, we evaluate how the use of blockchain reconfigures accountability and relations of trust, takes away enforcement responsibility from Member States and enables fully autonomous private regulatory regimes.

  • PhD in a social science discipline that is relevant to the topic
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact, Prof. Josephine van Zeben or Prof. Simon Bush.

Project 15. IT in AgriFood: Business IT Platforms and their governance

Use of IT in AgriFood offers great opportunities for businesses and in addressing global challenges. Data that IT technologies generate will need to be used in new management information system (MIS) to support decision-making by farmers.

Technologies that have developed independently, however, need to be seamlessly combined at the farm, and also in the value chain between different players.

A shared platform is needed to address the related technological and business-governance challenges. What are the technical and governance requirements that a platform must meet for farmers to profitably integrate the use of the different IT systems?

  • PhD Data Science/Machine Learning with an interest in business governance, management, economics or related social science
  • Position for 3 years

For more information please contact, Prof. Wilfred Dolfsma or Prof. Bedir Tekinerdogan.