Postdoc Position (2 years, 1,0 fte): Governance of urban heating transformations

Published at: 7 July 2020

Job description

Within Utrecht University’s strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability an interdisciplinary team of researchers has developed the challenging research program ‘Transforming Cities through Infrastructures’. In this “research hub”, faculty members from different disciplines, together with local, national and international stakeholders have developed a platform for new transdisciplinary collaborations on urban sustainability transitions. One of the key mediators of such transitions are technical infrastructures—socio-technical systems in the provision of energy, water, wastewater, waste, mobility and information and communication services. However, changing urban infrastructures towards sustainability imposes exceptionally high requirements in terms of the transformation knowledge and transformative practices on decision makers.

Within the research hub, we currently invite applications for one position as postdoctoral researcher in the field of “governance of urban transformations toward low-carbon heating and cooling systems” (2 years, 1,0 fte). Within the new H2020 project “Decarb City Pipes 2050 - Transition roadmaps to energy efficient, zero-carbon urban heating and cooling”, the postdoctoral researcher will conduct empirical research in the cities of Bilbao, Bratislava, Dublin, Munich, Rotterdam, Vienna and Winterthur and supervise Master student research in those cities. At the same time, s/he will strongly engage with the local consortium partners (mostly city governments) and other local stakeholders to explore pathways to decarbonizing heating and cooling systems and thus facilitate a process of horizontal learning. The particular interest is in exploring the transformative capacity of urban energy governance and how specific transformative practices—visioning, experimentation, the design of contracts, sustainability assessment tools—could be integrated in strategic governance approaches that sustain and accelerate the transformation to zero-carbon urban futures. The appointee will supervise six master students who complete an internship at the local partner municipalities and conduct their thesis research on low-carbon transformations. Supported by those students and together with local consortium partners in the respective municipal governments the appointee will empirically analyze and compare transformation pathways of local heating/cooling systems, co-organize workshops with local stakeholders and develop recommendations on strategic governance approaches for the decarbonization of urban heating/cooling systems.

Close collaboration with the consortium partners but also with the other postdoctoral researchers in the hub, is envisioned for achieving the overall project objectives. For the position, expertise on urban energy/infrastructure systems and their governance, in empirical-analytical research and in transdisciplinary collaboration, strong methodological skills and experience in working across urban contexts is required.

Apart from this research, the candidate will also have some teaching tasks in the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning. This will include for example guest lectures and the supervision of master theses in the context of the research project.

Qualifications We seek a highly motivated candidate who holds a PhD in a relevant social science discipline such as urban planning, human geography, sustainability transitions, innovation studies or political science, who shows leadership and who has excellent project management skills. If you:

  • have a proven record of research in the fields of urban energy and/or infrastructure research, socio-technical innovation and/or urban energy/climate governance, leading to high-quality publications;
  • know how to facilitate stakeholder workshops and spark processes of social learning and see added value in collaborating in inter- and transdisciplinary research projects;
  • have excellent project management skills;
  • are able to acquire external research funding in competition;
  • are willing and confident to teach subjects beyond your niche of expertise and to supervise master students;
  • are proficient in both written and spoken English;
  • are a team player and are looking forward to contributing to, and collaborating in an interdisciplinary academic environment; we encourage you to apply.

Offer This is an appointment of 1,0 fte for the duration of two years. In case of a good performance and sufficient budget, extending the employment for three months is possible. The minimum gross salary is € 2,790,- and the maximum gross salary is € 3,619,- (scale 10 of the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities) per month, at a full-time employment.

Besides that, you will receive a holiday allowance of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 %. Utrecht University also has an appealing package of terms of employment, including the choice for a good balance between work and private (a good arrangement for leave, among other things), possibilities for development and an excellent pension scheme. More information on working at Utrecht University can be found here.

About the organization A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning has its focus on the enhancement of long-term economic developments of cities, how to cope with social inequalities, and how to accelerate sustainability transitions of cities and infrastructures. Research on these topics takes place within our research program “Urban Futures: Transitions Towards Economic and Social Sustainability for Cities”. Our research programme is the basis for our Research Master's Human Geography and Geographical Information Management and Applications and Professional Master's in Spatial Planning, Human Geography and International Development Studies. The Department also runs a large and highly appreciated Bachelor's programme and is part of the Netherlands Graduate School of Urban and Regional Research for PhD candidates. Unique characteristics of the Department are a special team focusing on innovations within teaching methods, its strong involvement in the transdisciplinary sustainability research theme and professional consultancy for public partners.

Further information: For more information on the research approach and the position, please contact Jochen Monstadt or Peter Pelzer.

Apply To apply, please go to We will require the following documents:

  • A letter of application which describes your motivation and qualifications and specifies your interest in the position;
  • a one-page document stating how your academic expertise and ideas but also your previous experience in inter-/transdisciplinary research could contribute to the success of the research;
  • your curriculum vitae and a list of publications;
  • a one-page document listing your teaching expertise;
  • the names and addresses of two referees.

The application deadline is 07/08/2020.

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