Postdoctoral researcher (Postdoc) at Urban Futures Studio & Utrecht University Pathways to Sustainability (1.0 FTE)

Postdoctoral researcher (Postdoc) at Urban Futures Studio & Utrecht University Pathways to Sustainability (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
22 Jul 14 Sep Utrecht

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Are you interested in exploring themes related to futuring?

Job description

In this three-year postdoc, you will be working in the Urban Futures Studio in close collaboration with its director prof. dr. Maarten Hajer. You will in explore themes related to futuring, ranging from issues how we imagine the future, to the mobilization of scientific knowledge or rethinking decision making and citizen engagement. You are expected to have an understanding of the role of experts, the science-policy interface and its dilemmas and are interested in collaborating with policy makers and societal groups (transdisciplinarity). The UFS welcome candidates from a wide variety of disciplines from the social sciences of humanities, bringing relevant disciplinary knowledge and look forward to operating in a creative and interdisciplinary climate. Successful candidates understand not only how imagined futures weigh on action in the present, but also how action in the present simultaneously creates such imagined and path-dependent futures. Moreover, we encourage candidates to reflect on the ways in which we know about and interact with the future


At the UFS, you will combine an understanding of environmental issues and politics with insights from fields like Science and technology Studies (STS), public policy, discourse analysis, human geography or governance, and/or with artistic insights. You will actively contribute to the further development of the Urban Futures Studio into an academically innovative and societally relevant institute. You work to deliver innovative insights, intertwined with collaborating in new transformative policy practices. In conversation with the UFS Team, you study existing ways in which futures are performed, for instance by policy makers or in society. You investigate the techniques of futuring in use and report on your findings, both in peer-reviewed articles and via media that can reach selected target audiences. This means reporting your findings in ways both appealing to a wider audience (e.g. short videos, blog posts, presentations, one-pagers) and academic contributions (e.g. peer-reviewed articles, books). Within the established UFS interest in futuring, you are welcome to suggest and contribute to new lines of inquiry – we are always happy to hear new ideas. We are looking to strengthen our understanding of our four core topical interests:

  • the relationship between democracy and the sustainability transition;
  • the collective imagination and its change;
  • reimagining the relationship between science and policy; and,
  • recombining techniques of futuring for sustainability transitions.

Possible lines of inquiry include:

  • How do imagined futures travel from presentation and performance to policy?
  • How can we (empirically/conceptually) enrich our understanding of the performance of futures and techniques of futuring?
  • How can we further connect our work to work on authority, legitimacy, justice, and democracy?
  • How can we further develop an interdisciplinary futuring agenda, including art, education, literature, and policy?
  • How can we connect our work on futuring to a new pedagogy oriented towards interventions in societal processes?

Additionally, candidates are expected to play an active role in the further development of ‘Futuring’ education at Utrecht University. In addition to regular courses, we are in the process of setting up a new experimental form of education: the Academy of Hope. This will be a novel programme in which professionals and Master's students work together on the active engagement with the future. You are also interested in collaborating with academics, policymakers, and other parts of society. Teaching will be part of the portfolio (but not more than 25%).

Given the fact that the UFS reaches out to policymakers and societal groups, good communicative skills are crucial and fluency in Dutch (or a willingness to quickly develop this) is appreciated.


Utrecht University


The candidate is expected to have:

  • a PhD in a relevant social science or humanities discipline, such as political science, sociology, urban studies, science & technology studies, anthropology, history, or the environmental humanities. Or a design discipline such as architecture or urban design;
  • a proven track record of research skills (relative to experience);
  • academic writing and presentation skills;
  • shown an ability to contribute to international academic debates through written contributions (peer-reviewed articles, conference papers, books, etc.);
  • the ability to work both independently and as part of a team;
  • an interest in setting up organizational experiments;
  • proficiency in English & Dutch is required;
  • an experimental attitude and excellent communication and collaborative skills;
  • experience in interdisciplinary work, design thinking and societal challenges, which is considered an advantage.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered a Postdoc position (1.0 FTE), initially for a period of 12 months. Upon good performance, the contract will be extended for another 24 months (three years in total). The gross starting salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience  - ranges between €2,790 and €3,746 (scale 10 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.


Utrecht University has a strong commitment to community outreach and contributes to answering the social questions of today and tomorrow. Utrecht University strives for excellence in teaching and study performance. This also holds for the clearly defined research profiles with respect to four core themes: Dynamics of Youth, Life Sciences, Institutions for Open Societies and Pathways to Sustainability. Spanning different faculties and institutes, these four themes direct Utrecht University on important contributions to societal issues such as health, governance, climate, environment, and upbringing.

You will be working with the theme Pathways to Sustainability, which focuses on tackling open questions related to exploring and validating pathways to just and sustainable futures for all. It has a transdisciplinary approach, involving scholars from different disciplines and societal stakeholders from outside the university. The theme draws on the reputation of Utrecht University as a world-leading university in sustainability research to bring together scholars, students, practitioners, and policymakers. Combining top-notch fundamental research and modelling with innovation and transition studies, law, governance and sustainable finance, as well as the environmental humanities and social sciences, Utrecht University is well-positioned to be at the forefront of innovation in sustainability research and education.

The Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University offers a unique environment to study this challenge as it combines knowledge on energy efficiency, economics, energy policy, behavioural sciences, innovation systems, as well as knowledge on (sustainable) urban development.

The Urban Futures Studio is a small research group at Utrecht University. We critically study how images of the future, positive and negative, become embedded in our collective imagination. We conduct empirical research on existing practices, but also help initiate experiments. We aim to shed light on how imagination and re-imagination can contribute to finding roads to sustainable futures.

At the Urban Futures Studio we focus on futuring, turning our engagement with the future into a (diverse) set of activities. Our goal is to understand current ‘techniques of futuring’, and, in doing so, to shed light on the politics of the future. We always think about futuring in direct relationship to deepening our democratic practice.

Our interest in sustainability animates investigations of the neighbourhoods of the future, climate change and climate modelling, biobased building and nature-based solutions, the future of energy systems, futures literacy, the social theory of the collective imagination, and climate engineering.

Convinced that new thinking starts in crossovers and ‘soft spaces’, we actively initiate experiments with carefully staged meet-ups and exhibitions. Our aim: to understand the dynamics of change and expand the reflexivity on our repertoire of action.


  • Postdoc
  • Behaviour and society; Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2790—€3746 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 1161920



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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