The ocean plays a pivotal role in the climate system of the Earth. Approximately 25% of all carbon dioxide emitted through anthropogenic activities ends up in the ocean, and more than 90% of the heat due to climate change has gone into warming ocean water. This excess heat and carbon put severe stress on marine ecosystems, from rising temperatures to ocean acidification. Add to this the pressures from other anthropogenic activities such as overfishing and noise pollution from shipping, and the picture emerges that even the most far-flung marine ecosystems are impacted by our human actions.
Most of these impacts on the ocean are receiving considerable attention in public and social media, and one type of oceanic pollution, in particular, seems to be hitting the headlines a lot: microplastics. But while plastic obviously does not belong in the ocean, there is no scientific evidence that the amount of microplastic pollution currently in the ocean is high enough to be harmful to marine ecosystems. Meanwhile, the scientific evidence that climate change harms ecosystems is unrefuted.
So here is a dichotomy: while the scientific evidence for the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems is clear, the public’s concern for ocean warming and acidification has been relatively limited. The situation is reversed for marine plastic pollution, where the public concern is much greater than the scientific evidence for its harm seems to warrant.
In this PhD project, you will be teasing out the mechanisms behind this dichotomy, and then particularly with a focus on the role and messages of scientists and other important stakeholders such as journalists, activists, and policy makers. How have these different groups engaged with the general public and each other about marine plastic pollution and oceanic climate change, and what impact did this have?
In particular, you will:
- analyse and compare the content and reach of messages from (Dutch) Twitter accounts that regularly send out tweets about the impact of either ocean plastic pollution or oceanic climate change;
- create and analyse a 60-year chronology of (Dutch) mainstream media mentions and discussions about either ocean plastic pollution or ocean climate change;
- conduct and analyse (semi-)structured interviews of key stakeholders including from academia, NGOs, and ministries to assess the effects on policy and business choices of the messages in social and regular media about ocean plastic pollution and oceanic climate change.
Our ideal candidate has a driven and collaborative spirit and has:
- an MSc in a field related to science communication, in combination with a BSc in natural sciences;
- alternatively, an MSc in one of the natural sciences such as physics, biology, computer science, applied mathematics or similar, in combination with evidence of a background in science communication theory or practice;
- experience in quantitative analysis of social media or other large data sets, for example with Python or R;
- the ability to cooperate within a wider and interdisciplinary research team;
- an excellent level of written and spoken English.
Preferably you also have a proven affinity with oceanography.
- a full-time position for four years with a flexible start date, but ideally in autumn 2021;
- a full-time gross salary ranging from €2,395 to €3,061 in scale P (PhD-Promovendus);
- benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
- a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.
In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.
More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.
About the organization
You will work at the Freudenthal Institute of Utrecht University, an internationally leading institute in the field of science didactics and the history and philosophy of science. The FI is part of the Faculty of Science and employs approximately 75 professionals, including a number of young people who are conducting doctoral research, just like you. Within the FI, you will work in the science communication group. This group, which includes Erik van Sebille and Mark Bos, the Advisors for this project, focuses on the Science in Society research theme within the broader topic of Scientific and Mathematical Literacy in Life and Society.
You will also connect with the other group of Erik van Sebille, working on marine plastic litter at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research, and with interdisciplinary marine scientists through the Pathways to Sustainability strategic research theme at Utrecht University.
At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.
Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts Researchers, Professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.
The interviews for this position will most likely be scheduled on Tuesday 6 July and Wednesday 7 July 2021.
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Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button!
- your letter of motivation;
- your curriculum vitae;
- the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references.
If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.
Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.