Two Postdoctoral Researchers for Social Studies of Controversies in Nanobiology (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

Updated: 2 months ago

  • Employment: 0.8 - 1.0 FTE
  • Gross monthly salary: € 2,836 - € 4,474
  • Faculty of Science
  • Required background: PhD
  • Application deadline: 15 November 2021

Are you a committed researcher interested by how error correction works in science and what obstacles it faces? And would you like to work at the forefront of science in a dynamic, international research team? We are looking for two postdocs that will investigate one of two projects concerning controversies about error correction in the field of nanobiology, and the activism surrounding this topic.

In contested research fields such as nanobiology, concerned scientists have expressed worries about systematic error, sloppy research, or even outright research fraud. Some of these scientists have become veritable activists, raising attention among scientists, sleuthing for evidence of fraud, or campaigning for institutional reforms. They call for enhanced peer review, better validation practices, improved methodological transparency or rigour, or more open communication in science. Some 'epistemic activists' have even quit their research jobs to devote all of their time to these campaigns. However, the backlash against these epistemic activists can be quite fierce, with potential career damage, slander challenges in court and even outright threats. As a result, some activists operate anonymously, which in turn provokes criticism. This first postdoctoral study describes the activists and their motivations, analyses how these activists and their 'scientific movement' are received by other scientists, what contributes to the success of their campaigns, and how they accommodate their activism with their scientific careers. The particular focus will be on epistemic activists in nanobiology.

The second project involves a qualitative social science study of scientific correction practices, in particularly in nanobiology. Studies show that correction of the scientific literature is relatively rare: most erroneous work is simply abandoned, ignored or superseded by other research. Nevertheless, there is also a strong movement in science arguing for more extensive correction in the literature, advocating systematic scans and cross-checks against databases, or more wide-spread use of replication studies or meta-analysis to verify facts and check errors. The project analyses the dynamics of error correction: the social and discursive strategies involved in error correction attempts, as well as in the responses they provoke (e.g. by the scientists or journals that get corrected). The project also encompasses a participative study of replication work undertaken in our own programme investigating crucial but highly debated claims in nanobiology. The objective of the project is to contribute to improved correction practices in research.

  • You have a PhD degree in social science, science and technology studies, philosophy of science, or a related field, preferably combined with some natural science background, or will obtain this degree shortly.
  • You have published and presented your research work in your academic community.
  • You have affinity with meta-questions about science, connecting the practical organisation of science with the epistemology and ethics of science.
  • You have excellent writing and communication skills in academic English.
  • You are well-organised, have an analytical mindset, and are committed to working at the forefront of science in a dynamic, international research team.

We are

As a postdoc researcher, you will be part of the Institute for Science in Society at Radboud University (Nijmegen, Netherlands). ISiS is an interdisciplinary research institute within the Faculty of Science, with the aim to encourage the societal and philosophical reflection on science through dialogue and collaboration between the various research institutes of the faculty. Its mission is to analyse, assess and improve the societal embedding of new developments in science and technology, through research, education and outreach; and to understand how society is shaping science and vice versa. You will also be part of the NanoBubbles team, with affiliated research groups in Paris, Grenoble, Toulouse, and Maastricht.

The projects are part of the ERC Synergy programme NanoBubbles, which studies how, when and why science fails to correct itself, concentrating on the field of nanobiology. Project members combine approaches from the natural sciences, computer science, and the social sciences and humanities (Science and Technology Studies) to understand how error correction in science works and what obstacles it faces. For this purpose, we aim to trace claims and corrections through various channels of scientific communication (journals, social media, advertisements, conference programmes, etc.) using both qualitative and digital methods. The programme also aims to intervene in the nanobiology debate, among other things, by  investigating its central assumptions through experimental replication.

Radboud University
We want to get the best out of science, others and ourselves. Why? Because this is what the world around us desperately needs. Leading research and education make an indispensable contribution to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This is what unites the more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University. And this requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!

We offer
  • Employment for 0.8 - 1.0 FTE.
  • The gross monthly salary amounts to a minimum of €2,836 and a maximum of €4,474 based on a 38-hour working week, depending on previous education and number of years of relevant work experience (salary scale 10 ).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • It concerns a temporary employment for two years.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services . Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment  and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 29 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.
Additional employment conditions
Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions . You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.
Would you like more information?

For questions about the position, please contact Willem Halffman, Associate Professor at +31 24 365 25 79 or .

Practical information and applications
You can apply until 15 November 2021, exclusively using the button below. Kindly address your application to Willem Halffman. Please fill in the application form and attach the following documents:
  • Letter of motivation.
  • CV including a description of previous research experience and the names and contact details of at least two references.
  • Your most relevant paper (published or draft).
The first round of interviews will take place on 30 November. Your candidacy will be assessed by a committee consisting of members of the ISiS department and ERC NanoBubbles project.
We can imagine you're curious about our application procedure . It offers a rough outline of what you can expect during the application process, how we handle your personal data and how we deal with internal and external candidates.

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