Phd enviromentalsciences "social learning and climate crisis"

Phd enviromentalsciences "social learning and climate crisis"

Published Deadline Location
9 Jun 31 Jul Heerlen

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Job description

In the current debate about the sustainability of global food production, many hopes are pinned on small-scale food production with an explicit orientation towards sustainability (“regenerative agriculture”). This form of agriculture is endorsed because it preserves the soil, enhances local food security and self-sufficiency, requires less inputs and less transport costs, etc. However, the current pace and extent of global environmental change will continue to pose threats to food production in any form, including this one. The PhD-project “Social learning and the climate crisis. Small-scale food production as an inspiration for a sustainable global food supply chain” is based on the premise that social learning about climate change is the key factor that determines whether small-scale food production will prove to be resilient. Social learning regarding climate change involves processes at multiple levels (the individual, the network, the supply chain). These processes and the conditions that drive them are as of yet poorly understood and the project seeks to ameliorate this situation.

The project has various ambitious goals to improve the current academic state of art. The first objective will be to systematically inventorize the current evidence and get a clearer picture of both the role of social learning in inducing resilient agricultural practices, and of the conditions that affect social learning in the face of climate disruption, building a tentative conceptual model. The second objective is to contribute fresh empirical evidence on social learning on climate-resilient agricultural practices at two levels: that of the individual farmers, and that of the networks and network organizations in which farmers operate and exchange insight in best practices. The third objective is to stimulate the exchange between small-scale regenerative food producers and large-scale food producers. Sometimes seen as antithetical, we assume that these two classes of food producers face similar challenges and can actually learn from each other. Therefore we will analyze both differences and commonalities in the way they learn about climate change and develop recommendations for both.

The PhD project is part of the “Innovating for Resilience” program at the Open Universiteit, and is a collaboration between the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Management with excellent supervisors from both Faculties. The PhD-candidate will:

  • engage in supervised scientific research that will ultimately result in a doctoral thesis (systematic review, database construction, comparative analysis, and case studies);
  • participate in the relevant activities of the “Innovating for Resilience” Program, the two Faculties involved in the project, the Department of Environmental Sciences and the Department of Marketing & Supply Chain Management;
  • participate in the organization of scientific and practice-oriented events (workshops, conferences), in close collaboration with the supervisors;
  • participate in the course program for PhD-candidates of the OU Graduate School and the National Research School SENSE;
  • publish research results in the form of conference papers, contributions to peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as through popular publications and presentations.


The Open Universiteit (OU)


Candidates must:

  • have a relevant Master’s degree in a relevant field, for instance Innovation Studies, the Environmental Sciences, Environmental Governance Studies, Agronomy, etc.
  • have experience or interest in systematic review, data base construction, comparative analysis, and case studies;
  • be able to demonstrate excellent scientific writing and communication skills, as well as relevant collaborative and social skills;
  • have experience or be willing to work in an interdisciplinary team;
  • have the ability to conduct research in various countries (global North and South), working closely together with stakeholders;
  • be fluent in English (spoken and in writing).

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: will be extended to four years.

The PhD candidate will be appointed for a period of 12 months. The appointment will be extended to four years when progress and performance are good. The salary is € 2.395,- gross per month in the first year for a full time appointment.


The Open Universiteit provides good secondary benefits such as training, mobility, part-time employment and paid parental leave.


The Open Universiteit

Studying anywhere in the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders)
The Open Universiteit (OU) is the university in the Netherlands where students study part-time and follow online and activating education in bachelor and master degree programmes in nine fields of study. Characteristics of the education are openness, flexibility and quality. Enhancing the study success of students is an important point of focus. More than 15.000 students are studying at the OU and it has nearly 700 employees. The OU has a network of regional study centres in the Netherlands and in Belgium (Flanders) ( The head office is situated in Heerlen.

State of the art technologies and educational insights are applied in bachelor and master programmes and courses as well as in projects and programmes with partners. Both nationally and internationally the OU plays a key role in the innovation of higher education. Education and research are closely interrelated which guarantees that the current state of science is applied in education. The OU invests in research in the various academic disciplines, as well as in research in the field of learning, teaching and technology.

Top rankings
For several consecutive years, the OU has achieved top positions in the lists of the fourteen Dutch universities in the National Students’ Survey, the Dutch university guide ‘Keuzegids Universiteiten’ (in which the ratings by students and experts of the bachelor studies of the fourteen universities are compared), and the Dutch university guide ‘Keuzegids Masters’. In addition all study programmes rank highly in the study-specific rankings of the universities. All ratings are available on the website (



Faculty of Science

The faculty of Science is one of the six faculties of the OU of the Netherlands. Education, research and valorisation are the main tasks. The faculty offers academic bachelor and master programmes in the fields of Computer Science, Information Science, Environmental Sciences, and an Artificial Intelligence master programme is currently under development. The faculty’s research programme focuses on Innovating for Resilience. Furthermore, the faculty is partner in the Center for Actionable Research of the OU (CAROU). The faculty has Ph.D.-students who conduct research on various current topics within the research programme. As a result of the interdisciplinary focus on education and research, as well as the close link with practice, work at our faculty provides many innovative and challenging opportunities for entrepreneurial researchers.

The Department of Environmental Sciences is part of the Faculty of Science at the Open University of the Netherlands (OU). The Department embodies the commitment of the Open Universiteit to excellence in the environmental sciences, science for impact, and lifelong learning in the sustainability domain.The Department brings together people working on integrated environmental modelling, sustainability learning, and environmental governance and has about 20 team members. The research of the Department aims to contribute to the understanding of socio-ecological systems, the development of solutions for environmental issues, and to the wider body of knowledge that helps societies to reach their sustainability goals. There is a close link between the research and the education programs of the Department – our students are actively encouraged to get involved in our research program, and in turn, our research helps us maintain the level and currency of our education programs to the benefit of these same students.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation; Education
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • AC/FAC/BW/21060


The Open Universiteit (OU)

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