Postdoc: Just Editing, Applying a Responsible Innovation Framework to Animal Genome Editing

Gepubliceerd op
23 mei 2018
Locatie Wageningen
Expertisegebied Behavior and Society
Einddatum zo 24 juni 2018
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We are looking for

We are looking for an enthusiastic and highly motivated postdoctoral researcher to work on a multidisciplinary project, funded by the NWO-MVI responsible innovation programme, examining the ethical, societal and governance implications of applying gene editing techniques to animals and animal breeding. Recent gene editing techniques – such as CRISPR/Cas9, TALENS and “zinc fingers” – are showing signs of being cheaper, faster, more accurate, and more widely applicable than older rDNA techniques because of their ability to cut and alter the DNA of any species at almost any genomic site with ease and precision.
Applications of animal gene editing techniques are many, varied and rapidly evolving, ranging from applications that promise benefits in welfare, to benefits in disease resistance and to feed efficiency. While the technology of gene editing promises significant benefits, this promise will not be realised unless the technology is firmly and fully embedded in society. New genetic technologies have an uneven past in this regard with previous innovations – particularly those involving the genetic modification (GM) of plants for commercial application – being all too often deeply mired in controversy, misunderstanding and polemic. Unless we learn how to embed gene editing technology in society, and to understand why a number of previous innovations in the new genetics have failed to do so, we risk the possibility that new genetics-based innovations in the animal sciences (and beyond) may continue to evade policy resolution, and generate further controversy, misunderstanding and polemic.
­Through the project we aim to become the leading centre for interdisciplinary research on the social, ethical and governance dimensions of animal gene editing technologies, shaping the debate on how the technology can be embedded in society, and on how reflexive corporate and scientific cultures can be best developed and propagated. We develop a responsible innovation approach to animal gene editing that will guide the responsible development of the technology and support responsible decision-making at the level of academic research, breeding companies and governments.
You will be one of two postdocs (the other is an ethicist working out of the Ethics Institute at Utrecht University) working with beta (natural) scientists, social scientists and ethicists aiming to understand, anticipate, reflect and respond to ethical and societal concerns. To take up this position you must have a passion for working on the societal and ethical challenges posed by new and emerging technologies. Your tasks will include an analysis of the benefits, challenges, risks and uncertainties of genome editing and its application to animals (workpackage 1), undertaking a public dialogue on animals and genome editing (workpackage 2), and exploring ways to integrate social and ethical dimensions into scientific and corporate research practices (workpackage 3).

We ask

We are searching for a highly motivated and enthusiastic postdoc who should have:

  • a PhD or equivalent in the social sciences;
  • a record of scholarly work in one of more fields of: science and technology studies (STS), sociology, development studies, anthropology, innovation studies, human geography, political science, interdisciplinary studies or equivalent;
  • qualitative research skills (interviews, focus groups, ethnography);
  • interest in the governance and wider dimensions of science and innovation (including, if possible, on debates in the science, governance and ethics of genomics and/or animal breeding)
  • affinity with working in a multi-disciplinary team, and of working across disciplines relevant to the wider dimensions of science and innovation;
  • excellent writing and communication skills (English), including the ability to communicate complex concepts in a way that is easily understood by stakeholders and the wider public;
  • proven management and organisational skills, including the ability to work effectively with project partners and stakeholders and engage in active research with them.

We offer

We offer you an employment contract for 0.8 FTE (30.4 hours a week) for 24 months. You will be employed at Wageningen University and Research. You will start with a one year contract. After a positive evaluation the contract will be extended with the remainder period. The maximum gross salary is € 4,084.00 per month (based on fulltime employment), (maximum scale 11.5 Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities based on relevant work experience). (Starting in scale 10 can be applicable for candidates in the last stage of obtaining their PhD degree). In addition, we offer a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-the-year bonus of 8.3% of your annual salary.

More information

Practical information:
The starting date of this position is 1 September 2018. Interviews are scheduled for Tuesday 03 July.
Before submitting an application you may wish to discuss the post further by contacting Phil Macnaghten on  for academic inquiries, or by contacting Vera Mentzel on 0317 483537 for administrative inquiries.
The deadline for applications is 25 June 2018 at midnight (CET). Please do not email your application, but use the website to upload your application.

How to apply:

Candidates are asked to provide the following information in their application:

  1. A letter of application detailing why you are applying for the job and how the project will benefit from your participation.
  2. A full cv.
  3. Contact information of two referees.


We are

The project is a collaboration between chair groups at Wageningen University and the Ethics Institute at Utrecht University. At Wageningen, the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation (KTI) chair group studies processes of socio-technical innovation and transformation, specialising in interdisciplinary research and design; the Animal Breeding & Genomics group is a centre of excellence for animal breeding and genomics activities. At Utrecht University, the Ethics Institute focuses particularly on ethical questions relating to animal welfare and human health, devoted to the study of practical, moral issues in their societal, social and political context. The project is also linked to the Centre for Sustainable Animal Stewardship, a collaborative venture between Utrecht and Wageningen universities.
The project has industry partners in the Agri & Food top sector. Coordinated by the Breed4Food, a private-public partnership consortium established by Wageningen University & Research Centre, the project has four international animal breeding company partners.
The research team is coordinated by Professor Phil Macnaghten (KTI) who has expertise in the governance of science and technology, in upstream dialogue methodologies and in the development of frameworks of responsible innovation. Leading the ethics activities is Dr Franck Meijboom, Associate Professor in the Ethics Institute at Utrecht University, who has expertise in ethics of animal use, veterinary ethics, agricultural and food ethics, and the role of public trust and debate in these domains. The Wageningen team further includes Dr Han Mulder, Associate Professor at the Animal Breeding and Genomics group, who specialises on animal genetics and who has strong relationships with the breeding companies involved with this project, and Dr Hans Bouwmeester, an expert in nanotoxicology and in vitro models, who is leading our sister Building Blocks of Life (BBoL) project “MICROGUT”, aimed at unravelling the functional dynamics between the human gut microbiome and intestinal inflammatory responses.