PhD Citizen science and data activism

PhD Citizen science and data activism

Published Deadline Location
15 Feb 12 Mar Rotterdam

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Today, citizens can do their own research using online data or AI. Are you fascinated by what this means for public debates? Join us for a Social Science PhD.

Job description

Citizen science and data activism: From polarisation to doing difference together

We invite applicants to develop a fully-funded independent PhD project in the social sciences about citizen science and data activism. New data types and analytical possibilities are increasingly experimented with and adopted by citizens outside the realm of formal expertise. Examples of new data types or analytical possibilities are air pollution data collected through mobile phone apps, open access satellite data or freely available machine learning software. These can be used by groups as diverse as citizen journalists, activists, social entrepreneurs and interest groups. The research in this project will lead to insights into if and how such citizen research can interact with established expertise.

Research Context
To this day many citizen knowledge claims are not acknowledged by experts in public research agencies. This reflects a gap between how citizens and experts wish to engage with public issues. As methods of analysis and beliefs are diversifying and indeed clashing, relations of trust between citizens and experts are under increasing pressure. This conundrum inspires this project and its two initial research questions:
  • In particular instructive cases, how do the adoption of new methods by citizens lead to controversies, and what impact do these controversies have on the formation of public facts and issues?
  • How can a methodology for conducting co-research be developed to engage with adversarial actors outside established knowledge institutes, without seeking to ‘correct’ and assimilate their methods?

The project seeks to contribute empirical, theoretical and practical insights into if and how we can foster more diversity in what becomes an issue on political and policy agendas. To grapple with this interdisciplinary question the project will be executed across the Erasmus University Rotterdam (ESSB, Dept of Sociology) and the Resilient Delta Methods platform (Erasmus University Rotterdam-ErasmusMC-TU Delft). The PhD can furthermore benefit from interdisciplinary expertise in the daily academic team “Public Issues & Imaginaries” at the Erasmus University.

Methodologies and activities
Applicants can develop their research through methodologies such as case studies, ethnography, digital methods, and participative methods. The daily activities and responsibilities of the PhD will include:
  • Design and execute an independent PhD project;
  • Conduct fieldwork, analyse results;
  • Translate results into theoretical and practical lessons;
  • Participate in the ESSB graduate school’s training program;
  • Regular meetings with the research supervisors, the ESSB academic team (PI&I, see below);
  • Engage and develop activities with the staff and other PhDs involved with the Resilient Delta Methods platform;
  • Publish and present research results on workshops and conferences;
  • Communicate research findings to a broader audience;
  • Assist in teaching in bachelor and master courses.


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate with the following background:
  • Master’s degree in Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Science and Technology Studies, Social Geography, or a related field;
  • Excellent research skills and a strong methodological profile;
  • Excellent verbal and writing skills in English (C1 in accordance with CEFR);
  • Proficiency in Dutch for conducting fieldwork (or willingness to learn);
  • A demonstrable interdisciplinary and collaborative orientation;
  • Familiarity with, or interest in, questions and issues around expertise, (digital) data and public issues.

This PhD position offers a unique opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. We encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply.

Conditions of employment

We offer you an internationally oriented and varied job in an enthusiastic team, with excellent working conditions in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU).

The start date of this position is 1 June 2024 and you will be based at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB). This position is for 1 FTE. The salary starts with € 2.770 gross per month on a full-time basis (38 hours) in your first year and ends up with € 3.539 gross per month on a full-time basis in the fourth year, in accordance with scale P of the CAO-NU. The contract is entered into for the duration of one year, to be continued based on good progress and good performance with three more years, leading to a total appointment of four years.

Everything else we offer you, you can find below!


Erasmus University Rotterdam

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is an internationally oriented university with a strong social orientation in its education and research, as expressed in our mission ‘Creating positive societal impact’. EUR is home to 3.700 academics and professionals and almost 33.000 students from more than 140 countries. Everything we do, we do under the credo The Erasmian Way – Making Minds Matter. We’re global citizens, connecting, entrepreneurial, open-minded, and socially involved. These Erasmian Values function as our internal compass and create EUR’s distinctive and recognizable profile. From these values, with a broad perspective and with an eye for diversity, different backgrounds and opinions, our employees work closely together to solve societal challenges from the dynamic and cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam. Thanks to the high quality and positive societal impact of our research and education, EUR can compete with the top European universities.

Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB)
The Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences is home to a vast diversity of scientific disciplines: public administration, pedagogical sciences, psychology and sociology. In addition, the Erasmus University College, IHS, and two research institutes RISBO and DRIFT are linked to the faculty. This also reflects in the content of the (international) bachelor's and master's programs and in research. Our activities are always focused on people and society. At the ESSB fundamental, internationally oriented research is of paramount importance. In addition, social research for professionals, policy makers, and the society is part of our research activities. ESSB offers a stimulating research environment where major national and international research grants are received. Appealing guest researchers and ambitious PhD candidates come along to conduct their research. Our education is small-scale and works with innovative forms of education. Both the Dutch and English programs are highly ranked by students and alumni. ESSB is home to over 4000 students and more than 400 staff-members. The different disciplines are supported by the Faculty Office (for more information, please visit


Department of Public Administration and Sociology (DPAS)

DPAS covers the disciplines of Public Administration and Sociology. Two related scientific fields with different profiles. Public Administration studies governance capacity and policy interventions. It focuses on the institutional power to organize and intervene in the relations between different social, political and economic actors. Public Administration in Rotterdam goes well beyond the public realm itself and pays attention to public-private cooperation and networks of organizations. Sociology investigates the social structure of societies and the way it evolves. Sociologists in Rotterdam focus among other things on processes of globalization and individualization and on the effects of these processes on international social relations, the labor market or family relations. Related social problems that are studied are migration, flexibilization and solidarity. The perspectives of Public Administration and Sociology complement each other. Together they guarantee a highly relevant and scientific approach to topical administrative and social issues. The bachelor- and masterprogrammes of DPAS are build on this profile and educate students to become scientifically schooled professionals.

Team Public Issues & Imaginaries (PI&I) consists of more than 30 interdisciplinary teachers and researchers with backgrounds in, amongst others, Sociology, Science & Technology Studies, Public Administration, and Media Studies, and with connections to partners both within and beyond the university. We are committed to the production of knowledge for imagining (more-than-human) living together in ways that are less exploitative, extractive, unequal, and more democratic, sustainable, and liberating. That is why we develop teaching and research on major contemporary public issues (urban politics, work & digitalization, migration, race, gender, class & inequality, global warming & sustainability), as modes of engagement with a variety of publics. Our ways of working together, for and with publics, can be captured in our three core signatures:
  1. We seek critical interrogations of and constructive interventions in public issues;
  2. We see teaching and research into public issues as modes of engagement;
  3. We seek to transform scientific and academic practice by emphasizing quality over quantity, engagement over disinterestedness, diversity over monoculture, and good work relations over a competitive rat race.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 4080


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

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Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062PA, Rotterdam

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