Post-doc Promoting constructive discourse in public participation panels

Post-doc Promoting constructive discourse in public participation panels

Published Deadline Location
16 Nov 3 Dec Groningen

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Postdoc Promoting constructive discourse in public participation panels (0.8-1.0 FTE)
The Social Psycholo

Job description

The Social Psychology and Environmental Psychology groups of the University of Groningen invite applications for a postdoctoral researcher position. This new position is part of the project “Speak Up!”, funded by the European Regional Development Fund: Interreg North Sea. The successful candidate will work mainly on collaborative projects together with Dr Namkje Koudenburg and Dr Lise Jans. The candidate will be part of a large international consortium of research (e.g, Hannah Arendt Institute, Belgium) and governmental partners (e.g., municipality Groningen, province of Drenthe, city of Vaxjo, Sweden; city of Oldenburg, Germany), who jointly aim to improve collaborations and communication between governments and citizens.

Project description
Participation panels enable citizens to participate in important decision making (e.g. about environmental policies). Key to having fair and effective public participation panels (in participative democracies), is the inclusion of a representative sample of the diverse population. This includes diversity in demographic (e.g. social, ethnic, educational) backgrounds and opinions. But diversity can complicate discussions and threaten the solidarity within discussion groups: There’s a risk of conflict and polarization into different opinion camps, or certain views taking the upper hand while others feel alienated, which may ultimately result in reduced trust in governmental institutions.

In this project we examine how to create a discussion environment in which distinct views are valued, which strengthen, rather than threaten the identification of people with their discussion groups, city, and (local) government.

Building on theorizing on bottom-up social identity formation, the conversations are perfect starting points for developing shared identity. The success of participation panels relies on their ability to recognize and value different backgrounds and viewpoints. Importantly, here, similarity is not what drives our solidarity, but it’s what every unique individual can bring. This project aims to examine how participation panels can be set up to enable the integration of diverse positions, and its influence on acceptance of the specific policies and internalization of broader policy aims.

In close collaboration with governmental partners that organize public participation panels on sustainability and other topics, we examine how to promote constructive dialogue among people with diverse viewpoints. In a ‘living lab’ we test the effects of different set-ups in terms of context, structure, and content of the conversation.

To examine this, we will start with a diagnostic phase, in which we identify the key elements that promote constructive dialogue and/or prevent polarization in discussion groups. A second phase experimentally tests different elements in the context, structure, and content of the conversation to assess their impact on improving dialogue. In the final phase we co-develop and test an intervention, (in the form of a toolkit, training, or game) that can be used by involved project partners and other institutes to improve dialogue in public participation panels with high diversity.

In this project, you will be expected to:

● coordinate and organize the set-up of field studies among public participation panels in the Netherlands and Europe, more broadly
● lead a series of experimental laboratory studies
● collaborate closely with project partners (e.g. local governments), in order to conduct the research and to disseminate your findings in practice
● publish the results of your studies in international scientific journals, and present your studies at international conferences
● report the results to the consortium partners and formulate policy implications for how public participation panels need to be set up to optimally benefit from the diversity of their participants
● develop, together with project partners, an intervention to improve dialogue in public participation panels with high diversity
● upon discussion: the position may be expanded with some teaching activities in the Environmental Psychology group.

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Quality has had top priority for four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

The Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences excels in teaching and research in the fields of human behaviour, thinking, learning, and how people live together. We work on societal issues and problems that people experience in daily life. Central to this is individual and societal resilience and how to increase this. To this end, we focus on the topics of migration, the environment and climate, health, upbringing and education, the protection of vulnerable minorities, and sustainable partnerships. The Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences employs over 800 staff members. For more information about the Faculty please check the link

Both the Social Psychology and the Environmental Psychology groups at the University of Groningen have an international reputation for excellence.

The focus of the expertise group Social Psychology is on cognitive and emotional foundations of social behavior in interpersonal and intergroup interactions, with an emphasis on conflict, diversity, well-being, communication, and collective action. The group aims to understand interactions among individuals and groups, as well as the influence and emergence of culture and cultural dynamics.

Research within the Environmental Psychology group focuses on a wide range of topics, including understanding which factors affect and promote individual and collective sustainable behaviours; understanding how people and groups cope with environmental challenges; understanding acceptability environmental policies and changes; the role of individuals and groups in sustainability transitions; and the effects of sustainable behaviour on individual and collective wellbeing.


University of Groningen


We are looking for candidates who meet the following requirements:

● a PhD degree in social, political, or environmental psychology (or a related social science discipline)
● a relevant publication record demonstrating your ability to publish international academic publications, preferably in top tier peer-reviewed journals
● experience wit theory-driven research with a clear eye for practical implications
● knowledge and skills in quantitative empirical research with human subjects
● the ability to manage collaborations with partners in and outside academia (e.g. relevant stakeholders)
● ability to work independently and manage joint research activities
● a team player with strong communication skills
● excellent command of the English language
● Dutch language proficiency is an absolute plus
● demonstrable competences as conceptual capacity, contextual awareness, presenting and result orientation.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 24/32 months.

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

- depending on qualifications and work experience, a salary to a maximum of € 3,877 (salary scale 10.4) gross per month for a full-time position. The position is classified in accordance with the University Job Classification (UFO) system; the UFO profile is Researcher 4
- a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
- attractive secondary terms of employment
- a temporary contract with a working time of 0.8 FTE or 1.0 FTE. Depending on the choice for the working time the length of the contract varies between 24 months (working time 1.0 FTE) or 32 months (working time 0.8 FTE). In case of a 1.0 FTE contract there is a possibility to discuss the expansion of the contract with some teaching activities to a maximum of 32 months.

Intended starting date: 1 February 2024


  • Postdoc
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • max. €3877 per month
  • University graduate
  • V23.0762


University of Groningen

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Broerstraat 5, 9712 CP, Groningen

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