PhD position on Floating Communities


Faculty of Spatial Sciences


University of Groningen

Job description

The Faculty of Spatial Sciences (FSS) at the University of Groningen (RUG) is looking for an enthusiastic PhD Candidate on water governance, in particular the development of floating communities.

The FSS consists of approximately 110 members of staff, 120 PhD researchers, and around 1100 students. We focus on high quality teaching and research in the fields of social and economic geography, demography, and spatial planning. With a Faculty slogan of ‘making places better together’ and an overarching research theme 'Towards Wellbeing, Innovation and Spatial Transformation' (tWIST), it is our mission to produce research which is world-leading, distinctive, and policy-relevant. With two Bachelor and eight Master programs, we provide a wide range of courses within the fields of geography and the spatial sciences.

You will be based in the Department of Spatial Planning and Environment, which has around 30 members of staff and around 30 PhD candidates. The research agenda of the Department is centered on institutional design for purposeful interventions within the human environment. The Department offers a vibrant academic environment with an international staff and extensive experience in working within national and international research projects. The Department actively pursues socially relevant research, as is also expressed in its research targeting water governance and climate adaptation in relation to spatial planning to which the PhD Candidate is to contribute.

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD Candidate on the topic of ‘Floating Communities’, which is part of the interdisciplinary and applied national research project ‘Floating Future: Scaling up floating structures as climate-proof space-creating solution enabling societal, industrial and ecological win-wins’. ‘Floating Future’, led by research institute MARIN, is funded by the Dutch Science Council (NWO) and consists of a broad research consortium including multiple universities, universities of applied sciences, research institutes, public authorities, businesses and NGOs. The overall objective is to develop knowledge about societal acceptance, the required governance and legal arrangements, the ecological impacts and the technological challenges related to building large-scale floating islands. In the context of this research project, one Postdoctoral researcher and various PhD researchers in the fields of governance, technology and ecology will be appointed and closely working together in concrete study areas (inland, coastal port city and offshore). Participatory Action Research will be the Floating Future ‘integration engine’ where the different scientific disciplines and societal stakeholders meet and co-create knowledge about how large-scale floating urban developments can be realized, developing ‘maritime urbanism’ as a new field of expertise. The Department of Spatial Planning and Environment at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences will host the Postdoctoral researcher that is part of the project and one PhD researcher on ‘Floating communities’.

The PhD position on ‘Floating Communities’ is part of the work package on Governance. The societal acceptance and inclusiveness of large-scale floating urban developments is not self-evident and needs to be studied. So far, existing floating housing projects are rather small-scale and mostly focus on relatively wealthy home-owners. This raises questions about acceptance, accessibility and affordability of larger scale floating developments. The aim of this PhD research is therefore to study the societal need for and social value of living and working on large-scale floating structures in different cases, as well as the institutional obstacles related to developing inclusive floating communities and upscaling. In this way, insight is provided in novel inclusive floating community concepts, and in the social principles and tools which enable, motivate and mobilize citizens, NGOs and other stakeholders to participate in large-scale floating urban developments.

We expect the PhD candidate to conceptualize social value in relation to large-scale floating communities, in combination with the development of an institutional perspective on upscaling floating urbanization. Empirically, the PhD Candidate is expected to review existing floating projects and to actively engage in the Participatory Action Research in the three case study areas that are part of the Floating Future project, using creative and art-based research methods, but also interviews and focus group discussions. Moreover, as a Floating Future researcher, you will not only participate in the interdisciplinary action research in the three case study areas, but from your specific discipline also proactively contribute to the organization of the various sessions and workshops that are part of the Participatory Action Research. Finally, occasionally, you may teach in Bachelor and Master educational programmes and supervise students’ theses.


We are looking for a social, enthusiastic, and ambitious candidate with an MSc degree in Spatial Planning, Geography, Environmental Policy, Policy Sciences or a related discipline. The ideal candidate has excellent study results and is experienced in working in interdisciplinary settings, applying qualitative data and research methods, conducting research in planning practice, and has knowledge on and/or affinity with the topic. Candidates should be motivated to connect science to practice, have excellent academic writing skills (English) and organization and communication skills, and should be able to cooperate in a multi-disciplinary team. Given the Dutch research context, Dutch proficiency (or the ability and willingness to achieve this within one year) is an absolute plus.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

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

• a monthly salary (based on a 38-hour working week) starting from € 2,770 which increases yearly to a maximum of € 3,539 in the fourth year
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income in May
• an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance in December
• a full-time temporary appointment for a period of in principle four years, under the condition of a positive assessment after 9 months.

The intended starting date is: 1 February 2024

Job Application

If you are interested, we invite you to apply until Thursday 30 November 11:59pm / before Friday 1 December 2023 (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

The application package consists of the following separate documents:

• motivation letter (1A4 max.) (Letter of motivation attachment)
• your CV (CV attachment)
• scan of your Master diploma including transcripts (extra attachment 1)
• proof of English and/or Dutch proficiency (extra attachment 2)
• other relevant documents (extra attachment 3).

The documents 1-4 are compulsory. Please note that incomplete application packages will not be taken into account.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:[…]/

Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers:

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Dr Margo van den Brink (for information about the research project or the vacancy)

Prof. Ina Horlings (for information about the research project or the vacancy)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID V23.0740

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

University of Groningen Faculty of Spatial Sciences

Digital application form