Post-doctoral Position EPIBEL Epidemics and Inequalities in Belgium from the Plague to COVID-19: what can we learn about societal resilience?

Updated: 4 months ago

Department: Department of History
Regime Part-time

We are looking for a post-doc researcher and a PhD-researcher for 4 years. Your research is part of the BELSPO BRAIN-BE 2.0 project EPIBEL (2020-2025) (www.epibel.be )

Post-doctoral Position (4-year – 80%) EPIBEL Epidemics and Inequalities in Belgium from the Plague to COVID-19: what can we learn about societal resilience?

This project elaborates a historical perspective on two of the most pressing challenges of today: epidemics and inequality. The more we learn about the way the lives and livelihoods of people are being devastated by COVID-19, the more we see that the impact is socially biased: some people are more likely to suffer in their health and their material wellbeing than others. However, as the pandemic is still unfolding, our understanding of these inequalities is still limited. COVID-19 is not the first epidemic outbreak which hit the world. On the contrary, the struggle against recurrent epidemic diseases has been a vital concern for households and governments for centuries, before gradually fading away in public discourse in the course of the 20th century. EPIBEL hence mobilizes the wealth of information on differential vulnerability and resilience to epidemics in the history of Belgium/the Southern Low Countries in order to improve our understanding of societal resilience today:

  • First of all, EPIBEL aims to understand the role of socio-demographic and -economic inequalities in COVID-19 mortality. Who died as a result of the pandemic? (WP1)
  • Secondly, EPIBEL investigates whether inequalities in COVID-19 mortality differed from previous epidemic outbreaks, from late medieval plague waves over dysentery in the 17th century and the 1866 cholera pandemic to the ‘Spanish’ Flu of 1918/19 (WP2)
  • Thirdly, EPIBEL investigates how inequalities in the economic impact of epidemics interacted with health-inequalities and affected societal resilience (WP3)
  • Fourthly, EPIBEL investigates how the scale and organisation of social care and welfare systems mitigated the effects of an epidemic outbreak on poverty (WP4)
  • Fifthly, EPIBEL informs policy-makers on the importance of inequalities when promoting societal resilience. How have ‘epidemic policies’ in the past affected differential mortality and societal resilience? (WP5)

EPIBEL is a collaboration between four research teams: AIPRIL – the Antwerp Interdisciplinary Platform for Research into Inequality (Tim Soens), the UGent Quetelet Centre for Quantitative Historical Research (Isabelle Devos), the UCL Center for Demographic Research and the UAntwerp Centre for Urban History (Hilde Greefs). At full strength, the EPIBEL team wil consist of a post-doctoral researcher (Vacancy 1); a PhD-researcher (Vacancy 2); a scientific collaborator (at UGhent working on WP2) and a post-doctoral researcher (at UCL, working on WP1).

Job description

  • Working partly at the University of Antwerp and partly at Ghent University, you are responsible for day-by-day management of EPIBEL, working in close contact with the main coordinator, the supervisors, the researchers and the follow-up-committee.
  • You will be responsible for WP5 of EPIBEL, focusing on ‘epidemic policies’ in the past, and how they impacted on differential mortality and societal resilience
  • You are also closely involved in WP2 of EPIBEL, analysing socio-economic inequalities in past epidemic mortalities
  • Together with the partners and the researchers, you help to communicate the results of EPIBEL both via national and international scientific publications, presentations at conferences, and through writing policy briefs with recommendations
  • You have an active role in the valorisation program of EPIBEL, translating the results to different target audiences – from health professionals, over secondary schools to family historians.
  • You participate actively in the activities of AIPRIL - Antwerp Interdisciplinary Platform for Research into Inequality, the Antwerp Centre for Urban History, the UGent Quetelet Center - Center for Quantitative Historical Research and UC Louvain Center for Demographic Research (DEMO)

Profile and requirements

  • You hold a PhD in history, (historical) demography or sociology
  • You are an excellent researcher, with an international track record and experience in research fields relevant to the objectives of EPIBEL
  • Research experience in the field of historical demography and/or the history of health and/or the history of socio-economic inequality is an added value.
  • You are fluent in academic English, Dutch and French.
  • You are acquainted with the statistical analysis of historical data.
  • Your academic qualities comply with the requirements stipulated in the university’s policy
  • You are quality-oriented, conscientious, creative and cooperative
  • You have strong communication skills.

What we offer

  • We offer a 4-year (80%) position as post-doctoral researcher. This can be supplemented to a 100% position pending additional tasks within the team or teaching assignments.
  • Your gross monthly salary is calculated according to the pay scale for a principal research fellow in the contract research staff category (Dutch: Bijzonder Academisch Personeel, BAP)
  • You will do most of your work at the UAntwerpen City Campus and the UGent Faculty of Arts and Humanities, two dynamic and stimulating working environments. Working from home will be possible to a certain extent.
  • The planned start date is 1 June 2021 (but open to negotiation).

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform until April 15, 2021. Click on the 'Apply' button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: (1) a motivation letter, (2) your academic CV, (3) any additional information you deem relevant for the selection.
  • The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure.
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to jobs@uantwerpen.be . If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact one of the supervisors: Prof. dr. Tim Soens (tim.soens@uantwerpen.be ), prof. dr. Isabelle Devos (Isabelle.devos@ugent.be ), prof. dr. Thierry Eggerickx (thierry.eggerickx@uclouvain.be ) or prof. dr. Hilde Greefs (hilde.greefs@uantwerpen.be )

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, we need to be flexible in this hiring procedure. If we can assist in any way or should be made aware of certain issues that affect your application, please let us know as soon as possible so we can take these into account.

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity  and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.


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