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13 Jun 30 Jun Amsterdam

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Are you an enthusiastic and ambitious researcher with a completed (research) master's degree in Science and Technology Studies, Innovation Studies, Public Administration, Sociology, Political Science, or one of the Health or Life Sciences with an inter...

Job description

Europe's urban areas face significant challenges to ensure the availability and consumption of healthy, affordable, safe and sustainably produced food. The number of overweight or obese European citizens is rising at an alarming rate, resulting in a high incidence of diet-related health problems. Additionally, small-scale farmers, fishers and workers involved in harvesting and processing, continue to struggle to earn a living wage. Furthermore, current dietary patterns and the wider organization of the food system are associated with significant environmental challenges with negative effects on ecosystems and greenhouse gas emissions. These challenges converge within local food environments. Promising initiatives taken to change the architecture of food choice often fail to become embedded in the multi-level governance context and to reach deprived and vulnerable groups. Key factors responsible for this are siloed ways of working and fragmentation of empirical knowledge on facilitators of, and barriers to, transformation of urban food systems, which hinder the development and implementation of integrated urban food policies.

FOODCLIC, a large project funded by the European Commission, will address the above challenges. The project will create strong science-policy-practice interfaces across eight European city-regions of Barcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Braşov, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Aarhus, Denmark; Lisbon, Portugal; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Lucca, Italy (in total 45 towns and cities). The backbone of such interfaces will be provided by Food Policy Networks, which will organise Living Labs to build a policy relevant evidence base through learning-in-action in real-life interventions. Capacity-building and direct support for intensive multi-stakeholder engagement will enable policy actors and urban planners across partner city-regions to develop continuously evolving integrated urban food policies and render planning frameworks food-sensitive.

Organization of the research trajectory

The Athena Institute within the Faculty of Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is looking for a researcher interested in systems thinking, governance and methodological innovation in the fields of food system transformation, integrated food policy and multi-stakeholder engagement. As a PhD student, you will participate in cross-country activities of the FOODCLIC project: methodology development and capacity building to support the activities of the Food Policy Networks and the Living Labs. To assess progress and outcomes of project activities in the city-regions, you will be involved in the development and implementation of a reflexive monitoring and evaluation framework. Your research approach will be transdisciplinary (action research). You will work very closely with two other PhD students and junior and senior researchers of the Athena Institute, as well as with many interesting partners participating in this large EU-wide project. During the PhD program, you will also participate in teaching in bachelor and master courses, follow a PhD training programme (30 EC) and be offered opportunities for professional development.

Your duties
  • Conducting methodologically innovative, transdisciplinary scientific research on the governance of urban food system transformation;
  • Conducting a systematic literature review for theoretical and conceptual deepening;
  • Designing your PhD research proposal within the framework of the FOODCLIC project in collaboration with your VU supervisors;
  • Designing and training interactive methods, such as multistakeholder dialogue sessions aimed at problem articulation and the joint development of solutions, followed by concrete actions and their management;
  • Providing methodological support to coordinators of the participating Food Policy Networks
  • Writing Englishlanguage research articles that will be submitted to international scientific journals for peer-review and will culminate in a scientific dissertation;
  • Writing Dutchlanguage, informative articles for policymakers on the results of the research;
  • Teaching (up to 40% of the appointment) in the courses provided by the Athena Institute.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • is a graduate in, for example, Science and Technology Studies, Innovation Studies, Public Administration, Sociology, Political Science or one of the Health or Life Sciences, preferably in an interdisciplinary subject with a focus on the role of knowledge in policy processes on complex social issues or knowledge cocreation. Candidates with experience in related fields integrating social sciences and natural sciences may also apply
  • has an affinity with action research and with the dynamics between civil society organizations, knowledge institutions and policy practice
  • has knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research methods and is open to (or has experience with) transdisciplinary research methods
  • has a proven ability to work well in interdisciplinary teams (listening, flexible, adaptive, proactive)
  • has good organizational and communicative skills
  • excellent verbal and writing skills in English
  • command of the Dutch language is a plus, but not a requirement

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 18 months.

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2.443 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,122 (PhD)
The appointment is initially for 18 months (start date: 1 September 2022), with the possibility of extension if the work is satisfactory. The maximum duration of the appointment is 6 years. It is possible to obtain the Basic Teaching Qualification (BKO).

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.


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.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 36 hours per week
  • €2443—€3122 per month
  • University graduate
  • 11970


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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