PhD position in just transitions in crop genome editing for smallholder farmers (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in just transitions in crop genome editing for smallholder farmers (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
2 May 31 May Utrecht

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Are you passionate about understanding the relationship between agricultural technologies and smallholder farmers in the global South? Then join our team.

Job description

Are you passionate about understanding the relationship between agricultural technologies and smallholder farmers in the global South? Do you want to be part of an interdisciplinary team of social scientists and plant biologists that investigates how cutting-edge technologies can be made to benefit marginalized farmers? Then this opportunity at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development is for you.

We are seeking a highly motivated and talented researcher to join our team in studying the potential impact of gene editing technologies (such as CRISPR-Cas) for smallholder farmers in the global South. In theory, genome editing is highly promising for developing climate resilient crops that may benefit smallholder farmers in the global South – hence addressing both sustainability and inequality. In practice, however, this promise is not yet realized. We will investigate whether and how crop genome editing can contribute to a just transition for smallholder farmers in the global South.

In this project, you will investigate the needs and concerns of smallholder farmers concerning genome editing, and critically study how institutions like funding strategies, regulations, and intellectual property regime enable and constrain the use of genome editing for smallholders. The study will be conducted in collaboration with plant scientists and can include fieldwork in the global South.  

The findings of this research will be used to formulate recommendations for both research and policy on creating just transitions in agriculture – whereby innovation is directed towards solutions that are both sustainable and equitable.


Utrecht University


Essential knowledge, skills, and experience:

  • You have a (research) Master degree in Science and Technology Studies, Innovation Studies, Sustainable Business and Innovation, Rural Sociology or a related social science discipline.
  • You are interested in the intersection between agriculture, technology, and inequality.
  • You have a clear understanding of qualitative research methods, demonstrated through grade transcripts and CV.
  • You have excellent writing and communication skills, demonstrated through a writing example such as your Master thesis.
  • You can work in a self-propelled manner.
  • You are able and excited to work in an interdisciplinary team.
  • You are willing to travel to case study sites and conduct fieldwork as needed.

Desirable knowledge, skills, and experience:

  • You have experience in topics related to agricultural technologies, seed systems in the global South.
  • You have experience in developing a manuscript for publication of publishing as the lead author, a conference paper or international peer-reviewed journal.
  • You are willing to acquire new skills as required for the research of the PhD project.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P 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, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.


Sharing science, shaping tomorrow. 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. You can watch the Utrecht University Campus Tour to get an impression of our university.

Utrecht University's sustainability research has the greatest citation impact worldwide according to a study conducted by Times Higher Education (2016). The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old centre and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht has been consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the Netherlands.

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 Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development is part of the Faculty of Geosciences. The institute investigates and develops processes and opportunities for innovative change towards sustainability. The Copernicus Institute has been evaluated in a 2014 international review as the highest ranked research institute in environmental sciences in the Netherlands. Since then, the institute has intensified its efforts in maintaining its leading position, among others by investing in several new international faculty appointments and by developing new, internationally oriented teaching programmes. 


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 28—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1209406



Princetonlaan 8a, 3584 CB, Utrecht

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