PhD in Citizen – Science Interactions for Food System Transformation

Updated: 4 months ago
Deadline: ;

Are you interested in contributing to changing Europe’s food knowledge system by studying citizen-driven food initiatives? Then apply for this PhD position at the Athena Institute of the VU University Amsterdam.

FTE: 1

Job description

The Knowledge and Innovation (K&I) structure that informs Europe’s food system is currently exclusively focused on and accessible to actors involved in science-driven agricultural production. Given health and environmental impacts of the current system, a broadening of the knowledge base is advisable. Taking place-based, citizen-driven food initiatives as an empirical point of departure, this PhD research will focus on how to spur co-learning between academically trained and non-academically trained experts along the entire food value chain, and on how to translate resulting insights into structural changes in the food (knowledge) system.

This PhD will take shape in the context of the EU-funded FOSTER project that seeks to promote an integrated food system perspective in Europe. It combines efforts to enhance scientists’ capabilities in food system thinking and foresight with organizing dedicated interactions between traditional knowledge providers (universities and research institutions) and citizens on food. FOSTER’s goal is to create a new Knowledge and Innovation governance structure for Europe’s food system. As a PhD in this project, you get the opportunity to develop as a researcher in the field of citizen science, citizen participation, epistemological pluralism, and governance in the domain of food- and agriculture. You publish papers in high-quality academic journals. Within the Athena Institute, you are part of a growing, vibrant research team. We are at the forefront of transdisciplinary research on sustainability transitions and methodological innovation.

Your duties

  • Designing a research proposal focused on a broadening of the range of actors involved in knowledge production along the food value chain that fits with the aims of the overarching FOSTER project, and conducting the research;
  • Designing and facilitating interactive, multi-stakeholder dialogue sessions aimed at problem articulation and the joint development of solutions, and taking care of their practical their management;
  • Writing English-language research articles that will be submitted to international scientific journals for peer-review and will culminate in a scientific dissertation;
  • Teaching (up to 20% of the appointment) in the courses provided by the Athena Institute

  • you are a graduate in, for example, public policy, sociology, system innovation, science & technology studies, organizational change (incl. communities of practice, reflective practitioners), knowledge cocreation or a related field
  • you have an interest in action research, and preferably experience with designing and facilitating focus group discussions or interactive reflection sessions as part of societal change processes.
  • You are familiar with participatory research methodologies, such as reflexive monitoring in action, learning histories, most significant change techniques
  • you have good organizational and communicative skills
  • you have excellent verbal and writing skills in English
  • you are willing to travel within the Netherlands and abroad

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 18 months. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a maximum duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • possibility to save holiday hours, for sabbatical leave,
  • child daycare facilities available on campus

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.

Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
The position is offered within the Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences. The institute’s mission is to study and design interfaces between science and society to contribute both to a deeper understanding of innovation processes as well as a responsible implementation of research and innovation in society. Athena’s research program amongst other focuses on analysing complex global health challenges, designing interventions and conducting participatory monitoring and evaluation research. The section presently has a position vacant for a Postdoc/Lecturer.
For more information about the Athena Institute visit our website .


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until


Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Dr. Anne Loeber
Position: Associate Professor

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