PhD Candidate, “Managing Scarcity” at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of History, Maastricht University 1.0fte, 4 years

PhD Candidate, “Managing Scarcity” at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of History, Maastricht University 1.0fte, 4 years

Published Deadline Location
9 Mar 6 Apr Maastricht

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You are invited to apply for a PhD position in the project “Managing Scarcity and Sustainability: The Oil Industry, Environmentalism, and Alternative Energy in the Age of Scarcity.” The project is funded by a NWO Vici grant awarded to the principal investigator, Cyrus Mody.

Job description

Research project
The project ‘Managing Scarcity’ will combine perspectives from the history of science and technology, business history, and environmental history in order to understand how and why many oil firms constructed ties to environmentalists and alternative energy technologies in the 1970s but largely withdrew from such partnerships in the 1980s.

The project will study the oil industry’s involvement in the resource scarcity debate of the 1970s. Through channels such as the 1972 Limits to Growth report and UN Conference on the Human Environment, current and former oil executives helped focus global attention on the scarcity of clean air and water, food, electricity, and of course oil. Through external collaborations and in-house projects in solar and nuclear energy, computing, biotechnology, and other technologies, oil firms explored ways of addressing scarcity. Yet in the 1980s, the urgency of scarcity diminished and oil firms withdrew from association with environmentalism and alternative energy.

The project will consist of four interlinked subprojects – focusing respectively on: solar and nuclear power; the resource scarcity debate and resource forecasting; and oil firms’ involvement with computing and biotechnology. Apart from the PI and a Post-Doc, two PhDs will work on the project. You will analyze the oil industry’s participation in nuclear energy from the 1940s onward (PhD1) and oil firms’ role in solar energy’s rise in the 1970s and fall in the 1980s (PhD2). You are expected to collaborate closely with the other participants in the project.

Your research will be located in the Research Institute for Arts and Social Sciences (see:

Job description
On the basis of case studies, you will carry out historical research on the oil industry’s involvement with:

  • Nuclear energy (PhD1)
  • Solar energy (PhD2).

In both cases you will be:

  • Developing a line of historical research that studies the solar or nuclear energy industry and its relationship to the oil industry particularly (but not limited to) the years 1968 to 1986.
  • Carrying out archival and oral history research in several countries. For this, travel will be required.
  • Dedicating some time to teaching at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Maastricht).
  • Communicating with the external partners of the project.
  • Writing academic publications, and co-authoring with other members of the team.
  • Participating in team meetings.
  • Taking part in training by the Graduate School of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, as well as the WTMC Graduate School.


Maastricht University (UM)


You hold an MA/MSc degree in history, Science and Technology Studies or a related discipline (or are expected to obtain such a degree before 1 September 2020). Particularly experience with research in the history of science or technology, business history, or environmental history is an advantage.

You have received excellent grades and you have an obvious interest in academic research, particularly qualitative research methods. You have good organizational skills. You are capable of autonomously conducting original research as well as working in a team. You write and communicate fluently in English (Cambridge English Proficiency, level C2, oral and written).

Because of the transnational nature of the oil industry, sources will be written in several different languages. At least one member of the project should be able to read French and/or Italian. One of the PhD candidates should be able to work with Dutch sources and preferably write in Dutch for wider audiences. Knowledge of other languages (e.g., Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese, or Arabic) is a plus: please indicate your ability in any languages and the possible relevance of those languages to the project.

Conditions of employment

We offer a dynamic and challenging job in an internationally-oriented organisation where young people receive an advanced education and scholars conduct exciting research. You will be part of an international network of top universities and renowned scholars within the field.

We offer a 4-year full-time appointment as PhD candidate.
The first year will be a probation period, after a positive assessment the position will be extended with another 3 years.
Under the condition that your dissertation is positively evaluated by the assessment committee, you will be eligible for a postdoc positon in year five of the project.

Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2.325,- with a yearly growth to € 2.972,- gross a month (based on a full-time appointment.

Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.

You have to be willing to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. If you do not already live in Maastricht (or its direct surroundings), you will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs. You may also be eligible for an allowance for alternative housing. Other secondary conditions include e.g. a pension scheme and partially paid parental leave.

You will be provided with shared office space and a PC. 

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > Support > UM employees.

Starting date: 15 August 2020.


Maastricht University

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 18,000 students and 4,300 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • AT2020.90


Maastricht University (UM)

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