Are you interested in how health-related information impacts people during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you want to use science and digital technologies like social media to help improve people’s mental well-being? Do you have the ambition to become an exceptional researcher in the field of health communication? We are seeking a PhD candidate for the ‘Health Messages, Mental Well-being, and Social Media’ project, which is funded by the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR). The successful PhD candidate will be part of the Persuasive Communication programme group.
Health promotion messages, like those informing the public about new COVID-19 related policies are an important tool for public health officials. Certain types of messages which may be “effective” in changing key behaviours (e.g. threatening information or messages about harsh restrictions like social distancing) may inadvertently cause anxiety or depressive symptoms and, thereby, harm receivers’ mental well-being. In turn, low levels of mental well-being lower a population’s resilience in the context of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and can have negative effects on physical health outcomes.
In this PhD project, you aim to examine relationships between characteristics of health communication messages and mental well-being as well as message effectiveness. Based on these insights, you will aim to develop novel intervention approaches to amplify the effects of health communication while counteracting negative effects on mental well-being. Intervention approaches will focus on social media and the “social life” of health messages. People often receive health messages in social contexts like on their social media feed or while they are with others. You will examine whether certain types of social interactions about the messages on social media may help to buffer negative effects on mental well-being.
To reach these aims, you will employ a mixed-methods approach. The first two studies aim to identify relevant characteristics of health communication messages and message-related social media use which are associated with message effectiveness and mental well-being. In Study 1, you will conduct a systematic literature review. Study 2 utilizes semi-structured interviews enhanced by social digital trace data. In Study 3, you will use insights from Study 1 and 2 to design a longitudinal field experiment using mobile digital diaries to causally test effects of key characteristics of health messages and social media use on mental well-being and message effectiveness.
The project will be supervised by Dr. Christin Scholz, Dr. Corine Meppelink, Prof. Dr. Julia van Weert, and Prof. Dr. Bas van den Putte. You will be part of the program group Persuasive Communication and become a member of the Amsterdam Center for Health Communication (ACHC). The project will be conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Urban Mental Health.
What are you going to do
- conduct research as outlined above, adopting mixed-methods including literature review, qualitative, semi-structured interviews, field experimentation and analysis of social media digital trace data;
- writing up findings for publications in academic publications in leading international journals, accumulating in a PhD thesis;
- present your work at (inter)national conferences;
- contribute to the vibrant academic life in Amsterdam by attending workshops, meetings, and lectures;
- engage in valorisation activities;
- engage in activities or committee’s in the department or the program group;
- spend 10% of your time on teaching-related tasks.
What do we require of you
- a (Research) Master’s degree in Communication Science or a related field such as (social) psychology, health sciences, behavioral science, computer science or information science;
- strong interest in research on mental health, health communication, and social media;
- a firm basis in research methods and data analysis and, preferably, knowledge of and/or experience with any or all of the following: digital trace data, (automated) content analysis, interviewing, and (longitudinal) experimentation;
- basic programming skills in R and/or Python, or a willingness to develop such skills;
- an excellent written and spoken command of English and (preferably) Dutch;
- excellent social and organizational skills.
- eager to contribute to the field of mental health within the broader domain of health communication and excited to contribute through your research to better crisis communication;
- motivated to share your knowledge with academic and non-academic audiences;
- willing to learn and think across disciplines and integrate knowledge from different academic disciplines (e.g., (health) psychology and crisis communication) in your research;
- strongly committed to methodological rigor and scientific integrity;
- intellectual curious and eager to learn about new skills, theoretical perspectives and practical issues;
- able to work in a team and you wish to pursue an academic career.
The planned start date is 1 April 2022. The position concerns temporary employment of 1.0 fte (38 hours per week) for a maximum term of three years and two months. The initial employment is for one year. Following a positive assessment and barring altered circumstances, this term will be extended by a maximum of 26 months, which should result in the conferral of a doctorate. We will design a curriculum which will also include the opportunity to attend training courses and both national and international events. You will also be tasked with teaching Bachelor’s students.
Your salary will be €2,434 gross per month in the first year and will increase to €3,111 in the final year, based on full-time employment and in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We also offer an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.
The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.
What else do we offer?
- a position in which initiative and input are highly valued;
- an enthusiastic and warm team that is open to new colleagues
- an inspiring academic and international working environment in the heart of Amsterdam.
A challenging work environment with a variety of duties and ample scope for individual initiative and development within an inspiring organization. The social and behavioral sciences play a leading role in addressing the major societal challenges faced by the world, the Netherlands and Amsterdam, now and in the future.
To work at the University of Amsterdam (Uva) is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterized by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society. Here you can read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.
Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:
Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 1 December 2021. You may apply online by using the link below.
Applications in .pdf should include:
- a curriculum vitae;
- a letter of motivation;
- Proof of your Master’s degree, including grade transcripts;
- If you have not completed your degree at the time of application, please include grade transcripts plus a statement from your supervisor confirming the expected date of completion of your degree;
- An academic writing sample in English (e.g., journal article, Master’s thesis).
The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.