Postdoctoral researcher in the ‘Eco-sensus project’

Postdoctoral researcher in the ‘Eco-sensus project’

Published Deadline Location
20 Dec 15 Jan Heerlen

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Job description

Project summary
The ‘Eco-sensus’ research project addresses the environmental footprint of distributed systems that apply consensus mechanisms. Prime examples of such systems are cryptocurrencies (eg., Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Filecoin) and distributed storage systems (eg., Filecoin). The goal of the project is to quantify and reduce the environmental footprint, including both the energy consumption and other environmental impacts such as the hardware lifecycle, of a selected set of systems. The overarching project goals are threefold: (1) to create models for estimating the size of the environmental footprint, (2) to provide methods for measuring this footprint, and (3) to provide mitigation methods for reducing this footprint. By modelling and measuring we will be able to demonstrate and predict the impact on our environment. This will raise awareness, inform tool development, and enable incentives to actually deploy our mitigation methods for reducing the footprint. Our research helps to address important societal challenges like global warming, climate change, and spare use of scarce sources. We intend to publish scientific papers on our modelling and measurement efforts, to create online dashboards, and to promote our mitigating controls for integration and application in distributed systems.

We envision how current developments that address the environmental footprint of distributed systems with consensus algorithms will evolve in the coming years, and aim at getting well ahead of these developments. We intend to do so partly by participating in ongoing innovative projects, and partly by exploring completely new directions.

In the context of the project, we invite applications for a fully financed postdoc research position with a background and focus on computing science and a strong affinity with environmental science.

Your tasks are:

  • Analysis and modelling: You will analyze consensus algorithms in selected distributed systems and create parameterized models for the resources required to execute these algorithms (including eg., compute power, storage capacity, electricity consumption), taking both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. You will combine data from various organizations on the environmental footprint of electricity consumption and production, and hardware lifecycle assessments. You will create models for the environmental footprint of electricity and hardware supply chains, and make comparisons to existing technologies such as data centers.
  • Measuring: You develop and apply methods for measuring the electricity consumption and the lifecyle of hardware resources used for executing consensus algorithms, either in a lab environment and/or in cooperation with miners and manufacturers. Such methods may involve tracking the usage of renewable energy by renewable energy certificates in a blockchain-based system.
  • Mitigating: You will propose and promote mitigation strategies to reduce the environmental footprint.
  • You will publish your results in scientific papers and present your results to the academic and professional community.

You will be the prime researcher in the ‘Eco-sensus project’ and will work in close collaboration with dr. Harald Vranken (associate professor at Open Universiteit and Radboud University in the Netherlands, expert on security and energy analysis of consensus algorithms) and dr. Alan Ransil (research scientist at Protocol Labs in the USA, expert on distributed systems and the decentralized web). The research team may be extended with master students doing their graduation projects.


The Open Universiteit (OU)


  • Enthusiastic and motivated to work in a multidisciplinary and multinational environment.
  • PhD degree (or be close to completion) in computer science or closely related field, with a pronounced interest in environmental science.
  • Basic (but preferably advanced) understanding of consensus algorithms, cryptocurrencies, distributed storage systems, decentralized web, energy analysis, and/or hardware lifecycle assessment.
  • Curious and critical thinker, with a drive to make the world ‘greener’.
  • Demonstrable research skills and/or technical skills, and committed to research excellence.
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills and a team-player.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: for a period of 2 years (with intermediate evaluation after 1 year). We are open to discuss secondment or other arrangements.

The salary will be determined on the basis of your experience and qualifications, but will be in accordance with the general salary scales 10-12 of the CAO-NU. An indication of the maximum gross salary is € 5.943.-  per month, for a full-time appointment.

The OU provides good secondary benefits such as training, mobility, hybrid work, part-time employment and paid parental leave.


The Open Universiteit

Flexible studying anywhere in the Netherlands and (Belgium) Flanders
The Open Universiteit (OU) is the part-time university in the Netherlands. Students follow personalised and activating academic distance education and disciplinary research is carried out within the various fields of science. Students can complete bachelor and master programmes in seven fields of study. The characteristics of education are openness, flexibility and quality (see Much attention is paid to improving the study success of students. The OU has over 18,000 students and more than 700 employees. The OU has branches in the Netherlands and Belgium (see The main office is located in Heerlen.

The latest technologies and educational insights are applied both in the bachelor's and master's programmes and courses and in projects and programmes with partners. Nationally and internationally, the OU plays an important role in the innovation of higher education. Education is interwoven with research, which also ensures that the current state of science is incorporated. The OU invests not only in disciplinary research in eight scientific fields, but also in research in a multidisciplinary programme: Innovating for resilience.


Faculty of Science

The faculty of Science is one of the six faculties of the OU of the Netherlands. Education, research and valorisation are the main tasks. The faculty offers academic bachelor and master programmes in the fields of Computer Science, Information Science, Environmental Sciences, and an Artificial Intelligence master programme is currently under development. The faculty’s research programme focuses on Innovating for Resilience. Further, the faculty is partner in the Center for Actionable Research of the OU (CAROU). The faculty has Ph.D.-students who conduct research on various current topics within the research programme. By focusing on research that is interwoven with education, as well as the close link with practice, work at our faculty provides many innovative and challenging opportunities for entrepreneurial researchers.’

 Department of Computer Science
The Department of Computer Science is an enthusiastic and ambitious group of approximately 35 people (29 fte) focussing on artificial intelligence, educational and learning technology, software quality, and security and privacy issues. The group contributes to these challenges through excellent research and online teaching programmes, covering a large diversity of topics, e.g. deep learning applications in industry, intelligent tutoring systems, privacy-aware technologies, reinforcement learning, e-health applications, Bayesian networks, cyber-security, automated software testing, multi-agent systems, logics for AI, and responsible AI. The department’s research lines are presented in the research strategy “Towards high quality and intelligent software” for 2020-2025. The online academic educational programmes of this Department have received the highest accolades in the country in this domain for years.




  • Research, development, innovation; Education; Postdoc
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • Doctorate
  • AC/FAC/BW/21133


The Open Universiteit (OU)

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