PhD position on integrating Consumer perspectives in Sustainability-oriented Transformations of Agri-Food Systems

Updated: about 2 months ago
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Job description

Biodiversity loss, climate change and related socio-economic and public health challenges come with a need for radical transformation of the world’s agri-food systems. Enacting sustainability transitions in agri-food systems in democratic and effective ways requires the involvement of consumers and citizens in co-directing agricultural innovation and associated policy processes. At the Athena Institute of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam we invite applications for a PhD position on sustainability transitions, specializing in engagement of societal stakeholders and consumer perspectives in ecology-based, mixed cropping systems as a form of agricultural innovation. In particular, the candidate will work in the CropMix project, that received funding under the Dutch Research Agenda initiative (NWA) of NOW (see

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This project studies how crop diversity in the field can benefit from ecological processes to (partly) replace pesticide and fertilizer use. Crop mixtures, strip cropping and rotation of crops over time enhances pest and disease suppression and thus can contribute to reaching biodiversity goals, as well as ensure more efficient use of nutrients and sunlight to promote plant growth. Understanding biodiversity restoration is not only an ecological puzzle. CropMix also investigates which societal and institutional changes in the food system are needed to enable and accelerate the transition to sustainable arable farming, for instance how measures to increase biodiversity can be factored into the price of products or into farm subsidies.

Your duties
In this position you will focus on these societal and institutional changes by being involved in Living Lab(s) set up in the project, where consumers and consumer representatives, together with other societal stakeholders, farmers, researchers and policy makers jointly learn about, and shape, agricultural transformative innovations. In particular, your work will focus on including consumer perspectives in the innovation processes in the Lab. You will closely collaborate with other PhDs and researchers at the Athena Institute and Wageningen University and Research (WUR) who are responsible for monitoring and evaluating the Lab(s). In addition, you will be involved in teaching courses as a coaching lecturer at the Athena (40% of your appointment).

  • A MSc in transition studies, sustainable development, innovation studies, agricultural sciences, policy studies, political science, science and technology studies; or a related (inter)discipline; an additional background in consumer research is a plus;
  • Willingness and eagerness to conduct action-oriented research that contributes to societal transformation in the field of agriculture and food;
  • Experience with engagement of societal stakeholders in research and innovation processes is a plus;
  • A track-record of academic excellence;
  • Proven experience within qualitative research methodologies, such as interviews and focus groups;
  • The potential to be a strong collaborator within interdisciplinary teams (able to listen, flexible, adaptive, creative, pro-active);
  • Enthusiasm to teach students in different stages of their study, across a variety of thematic topics (food, science and technology studies, health);
  • Excellent command of both Dutch and English is imperative.

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The appointment is a 6 year trajectory, with a division of duties of 60% research - 40% education. It is possible to obtain the BKO qualification. The initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months with a possible extension conditional upon assessment of adequate functioning. The expected start date is: March 1, 2023.

The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 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.

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;
  • and 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.


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 of Governance and Sustainability

Name: Dr. Kristiaan Kok
Position: Assistant Professor of Politics and Governance of Sustainability Transitions

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