ESR / PhD position: Perceptions of Risk: Adaptive Community Strategies (ESR5)


Faculty of Spatial Sciences


University of Groningen

Research project hosted by the University of Groningen, Department of Spatial Planning and Environment in Groningen.

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative institution of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 30,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. Ranked among the European top in the field of academic research, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global centre of knowledge.

The Faculty of Spatial Sciences consists of 95 members of staff and focuses on high quality teaching and research in the fields of spatial planning, economic and cultural geography and demography.
The Department of Spatial Planning & Environment has a research agenda which centres on the relationships between spatial transformation and institutional innovation. The Department is responsible for 1 bachelor and two master programmes. The Department is looking for researchers with an interest in innovative, transdisciplinary and transformative approaches to promoting and facilitating resourceful and resilient community environmental practice.


Funded by the European Commission (2018-2022), RECOMS is comprised of a transdisciplinary consortium of scientists, practitioners and change agents from eleven public (universities and government research centres), private and non-profit organisations, located in six European Union countries: Austria, Belgium, England, Finland, Germany and The Netherlands. The purpose of RECOMS is to train 15 ESRs/ doctoral candidates in innovative, transdisciplinary and transformative approaches to promoting and facilitating resourceful and resilient community environmental practice. By delivering an advanced programme of training in both scientific and professional skills, RECOMS will enable ESRs to pursue an academic career or high-professional career in either the public, private or third sector (e.g. government, university, NGO, consultancy, business or charitable body). For further information on RECOMS, inclusive of the full network of 15 ESR doctoral positions currently open for recruitment see:

Job description

The recruited ESR will be engaged in a series of collaborative research and training activities and will be supported in pursuing a doctoral study project. If you are highly motivated; inspired by learning and undertaking innovative research, thinking and knowledge exchange across disciplines, institutional boundaries and wider society; and wish to be part of an advanced, international, network of creative change agents specialising in resourceful and resilient community environmental practice; then this ESR/PhD vacancy could be the ideal appointment for you.

Co-supervised by academic and non-academic partners, the RECOMS ESR will be encouraged to critically, practically, and creatively explore the contribution and relationships between their individual doctoral study projects across three interconnecting research themes:
- empowering and unlocking the potential of vulnerable communities to become more resourceful
- strengthening the adaptive and transformative capacity of local groups through resourceful environmental practice as critical to building community resilience
- encouraging a more just and inclusive approach to stimulating community resourcefulness by nurturing broader participation in resourceful environmental practices.

A core feature of the RECOMS programme - both with respect to informing the design and delivery of all the training, as well as enabling and maximising opportunities for knowledge exchange through research and associated outputs - will be the incorporation of a broad range of visual and creative research methods and modes of communication.

The following position is now open for application within the Netherlands. Research projects hosted by the University of Groningen, Department of Spatial Planning and Environment in Groningen:

ESR 5. Perceptions of Risk: Adaptive Community Strategies

Full title: Perceptions of vulnerability and risk, and the motivations and capacity to develop adaptive community strategies

Globalisation and modernisation speed up people’s lives, turning their world into a village. In a world of flows, feelings of unsafety, uncertainty, and insecurity occur. Some people may become ‘global villagers’ while others are ‘chained to place’. Especially in the context of climate change and energy transition, diverse types of coupled social-ecological risks arise which affect the wellbeing, livelihoods and environments of individuals and whole communities. The objective of this project is to understand how people deal with so called vulnerable and risk situations, such as environmental volatility, uncertainty and opacity; how they individually, in peer groups or through broader collectives, perceive, cope, adapt to, and manage risk in dynamic, wavering and unsettled situations. Typically, socio-cultural characteristics such as class, ethnicity, age, immigration status, gender or socio-economic status, alongside other forms of intersectionality and power relations, are pervasive in shaping capacity to act and/ or adapt. Hence, vulnerability is generated by interlinking social, economic and political structures and processes operating in a range of ways and at a range of scales. Collectively this influences the extent and intensity to which individuals and social groups are affected, but also, how they are able to respond.
Drawing on examples and scenarios of community-based environmental risk management and adaptation strategies as a central point of focus, this research will explore the vulnerability and risk perceptions of individuals and collectives, as well as their navigating capacities. It will investigate what motivates individuals to engage in individual and collective environmental action at a local level, as well as (where they are able to do so), if and how collective action ‘pays off’. The study will contribute to understanding on individual and group capacity to resist, avoid, or adapt to the above mentioned processes and forces of vulnerability and risk in context specific situations. Integral here is a need for exploring the ways in which individuals and groups develop actions to deal with insecurity in such situations. The research will be targeted towards the experiences of so called ‘vulnerable groups’ and communities in differing types of socio-cultural and physical environmental context. Drawing on a range of qualitative, creative and also visual research techniques (including, for example, narrative and story-telling, scenario workshops, as well as international comparison), research participants will be encouraged to engage with, experience and recall collaborative processes and practices of adaptation in place, through collaboration, and over time.

Expected Results:
Transdisciplinary framework for analysing risk perceptions, motivation and the capacity of individuals and groups to develop adaptive strategies in vulnerable situations of risk. Methodology to map perceptions and motivations in a socio-spatial context; international comparative analysis to explore perceptions, motivations and the potential for empowerment of vulnerable groups. Scientific methods linked up with novel nature- and art based methods (inclusive of collaborative investigation with the Dutch arts-based ‘PeerGroup’ organisation).

Candidate specification
- applicants MUST – at the start date of the employment contract [1st September 2018] – be an ‘early stage researcher’: they must be in the first four years of their research career and NOT have a doctoral degree
- at the time of appointment by University of Groningen applicants MUST NOT have resided in or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account.


- applicants must have an MA/MSc degree in a relevant discipline, e.g. spatial planning, geography, sociology, policy administration, or related social science discipline
- excellent English language proficiency both orally and in writing to derive the full benefit from the network training. An IELTS English language test will be required, achieving an overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)
- research experience in the field of the specific ESR position
- knowledge and/or experience of collaborative approaches to sustainable resource management
- knowledge and experience of qualitative research methods.

Additional requirements
- in accordance with the mobility goals of Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks, appointed candidates will be required to visit other network partners for secondments, and attend research and training events for the network. Whilst the individual training events will require one-two weeks travel only, the secondments (which will be hosted by the consortium institutions) will each require a residence of three months. All eligible costs will be fully funded by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions programme
- candidates should possess a strong affinity with the RECOMS topic, be motivated to practice multi- and transdisciplinary forms of research inquiry and action-learning, and wish to gain a broad and advanced range of scientific and professional skills
- candidates should understand the aims, rules and procedures of MSCA Innovative Training Networks
- candidates should have an interest in engaging with, applying and receiving training in visual and creative methods and forms of communication. Whilst evidence of direct prior experience is desirable, it is not essential
- the ability to work as part of a team and the ambition to engage in participatory and collaborative forms of research and learning are essential
- candidates will be expected to mainly work under supervision but also taking full delivery responsibility for individual tasks.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 36 months.

The University of Groningen offers, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, a salary of € 2,222 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 2,709 gross per month in the third and final year, based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE), excluding a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and a 8.3% end-of-the-year bonus.
In addition to individual scientific projects, the ESR will benefit from research collaboration within the RECOMS network, extensive joint training opportunities, and collaboration with non-academic organizations.

How to apply
You may apply for this position until 1 March 23:59 / before 2 March 2018 (Dutch local time) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the University website).

Please submit your application in English.

Applicants are permitted to apply for a maximum of three positions from across the total 15 RECOMS ESR vacancies. For information on all the ESR positions inside and outside the Netherlands please see:

Applicants are required to submit:
- a full CV
- a motivation letter (maximum 2 pages)
- the names of two referees (to be called upon should you be shortlisted)
- proof of eligibility as an annex where relevant, including a) proof that you have no more experience than 4 years as a researcher, b) proof that you did not spend more than 12 months in the last 3 years in The Netherlands, and c) proof of English language proficiency.

Please make a separate application for each position to which you are applying*. Multiple applications will not influence the selection chance in any particular project. Please mention on every application all ESR projects to which an application is being submitted.

By submitting an application, the candidate is consenting to their application being shared with the Selection Committee and the RECOMS coordinator. If you are short-listed for interview, please note the interview panel will consist of the host and non-host institution RECOMS partners. Your application will be available to all panel members from submission for the purpose of assessing your suitability for the post.

[*Please take care to ensure that applications for individual ESR/PhD positions are submitted directly to the respective host institutions – only applications for the positions hosted by RUG/RWS should be submitted via the RUG recruitment portal]

Additional information
Note: short-listed candidates will be invited for an interview during April/May 2018. Where candidates are shortlisted for an interview they will be required to prepare a short doctoral study project research plan. Further information will be provided at the point of announcement of short-listing.

Start date: 1 September 2018
Duration: 36 months (fixed term)

Frequently asked Questions:
General information about the Marie Sklodowska Curie (MSCA) Innovative Training Network programme:

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Prof. L.G. Horlings, Professor Socio-Spatial Planning (general information on these positions)

Katharina Gugerell, Spatial Planning and Environment (information on the individual position)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 218013

Extra informatie kan worden verkregen via een van de volgende links:

Overview of the RECOMS Project General information about the RECOMS programme and the 15 ESR Fellow vacancies Overview of RECOMS Training Programme

Digital application form