Postdoctoral researcher in environmental crime (1 fte / 3 years)

Is looking for

The Erasmus Initiative ‘Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity’ (DoIP) at Erasmus University Rotterdam is looking for a full-time postdoctoral researcher for a 36-month period (starting as soon as possible) to join its ‘Sustainability and Ecological Inclusion’ research theme. The research focuses on industrial environmental harms, specifically those resulting from the production and use of the synthetic chemical substances per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and combines insights from public health, criminology and philosophy (or other relevant disciplines) in analyzing the historical and contemporary drivers of industrial environmental harms.

Job description

The postdoctoral research project focuses on industrial environmental harms, specifically those resulting from the production and use of the bioaccumulating “forever chemicals” such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), perfluoro octanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonates (PFOS) and the more recent GenX that is intended to replace PFOA. These synthetic chemical substances have been widely used throughout society, and are easily transported in the environment, polluting soil, water and air. They resist degradation, resulting in unprecedented persistence into the environment and any living species, and in 2009 the Stockholm Convention listed them as persistent organic pollutants. This postdoc research project combines green-critical criminological, environmental philosophical and public health approaches to examine the historical and contemporary drivers and dynamics of the industrial environmental harms related to these synthetic chemical substances.

This postdoctoral research project aims to describe and analyze drivers and dynamics of environmental harms connected to the synthetic chemical substances per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), studying this class of over 4,000 different chemicals, their industries and producing facilities, and how they relate to their regulatory, economic and social license; to learn what measures need to be taken to adequately and equitably protect people, non-human animals and ecosystems from resulting harms. Research questions include: What are the actual and perceived harms resulting from production and use of the known harmful chemicals (e.g. C-8) and the newer substitute synthetic chemicals substances? Which patterns emerge in the historical and contemporary scientific and public discourse about the industrial environmental harms related to these synthetical chemicals and about the search for less toxic alternatives? What regulatory approaches are most effective for producing health equity and precaution with new chemicals, instead of presumptions of “safe until proven toxic.” How have public and private interests interacted in governing industrial facilities that produce these harms? This research will advance our knowledge of policy-society relations, and help find new ways of addressing contentious public good problems in contemporary governance.

This research will primarily be based on qualitative research methods such as (focus group) interviewing, observation and archival, media, and policy analysis, but can also employ quantitative research methods (e.g. health/ecotoxicology statistics, GIS, surveys).

As a postdoctoral researcher, you will cooperate with DoIP team members Prof. dr. Lieselot Bisschop (Erasmus School of Law) & Dr. Yogi Hendlin (Erasmus School of Philosophy) and will be supported by them in your professional development. You will have a key role and responsibility to collaboratively deliver the project’s objectives, contributing to all aspects of the research cycle from the development of research proposals, the collection, analysis, and presentation of data, through to peer reviewed publications and approaches for knowledge exchange with non-academic audiences. We also welcome your participation in other activities of the Erasmus Initiative on the Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity. We look forward to having you bring your own conceptual and empirical innovation to the project in order to build your independent research skills and outlook.

The postdoctoral research includes:

  • Historical analysis of industrial environmental harms such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (based on documented case studies);
  • Investigation of the history and present-day governance of synthetic chemical substances, especially the PFAS suite;
  • Interviews (or focus group interviews) with citizens living near industrial facilities to investigate the subjective (lived) experience with these chemical;
  • Expert interviews with company, government, NGO representatives in dealing with clean-up of environmental harm from industrial sites (e.g. related to Chemours/DuPont Dordrecht);
  • Research and application of the Chemical Industry Documents online library (University of California, San Francisco) and other online industry documents repositories; including possible industry documents acquisitions;
  • Writing and revising peer-reviewed academic journal articles;
  • Communicating findings to broader stakeholders;
  • Writing bids for research funding on the research topic.


We are looking for a colleague with a completed and relevant doctoral degree with demonstrable empirical and interdisciplinary experience. The position requires the ability and motivation to conduct independent scientific research and lead co-authored publications.

Requirements include:

  • PhD in social sciences, humanities, environmental sciences, or related inter-disciplinary field (e.g. philosophy, criminology, public health, public administration, sociology, law, environmental sciences);
  • Experience at PhD level with qualitative (and quantitative) analysis;
  • Experience with interdisciplinary scholarship and teamwork;
  • Ability to publish in international peer-reviewed academic journals;
  • Interest in bridging the science and society gap;
  • Participation in international academic networks and conferences;
  • Excellent written and oral English communication skills - knowledge of other languages (especially Dutch) is a plus.

About the Erasmus Initiative ‘Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity’

The Erasmus Initiative ‘Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity’ (DoIP) focuses on enabling as many people as possible to benefit from increasing prosperity, whilst minimising the negative consequences. Increased prosperity requires constant coordination of the changing needs and values of governments, businesses, citizens and entrepreneurs. In order to chart this dynamic field, scholars from Erasmus School of Law, Rotterdam School of Management and the Erasmus School of Philosophy entered into a multidisciplinary partnership to develop a better understanding of inclusive prosperity, expose its drivers and analyze how these contemporary societal challenges can be addressed, in the Netherlands and elsewhere. This combination of academic expertise puts it in an excellent position to study how in a context that is “oriented” by different layers of legislation and (self) regulation, public and private sector actors can interact to leverage inclusive prosperity. How are the benefits of activities distributed and how are the interests of all stakeholders protected? Through which mechanisms and legal institutions is inclusion promoted? What are the epistemologies of injustice and hurdles to transformative change? The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play an important role in the assessment of current situations and contemplation of possible improvements.

As a post-doctoral researcher, you will work within the Sustainability and Ecological Inclusion research theme of the Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity. Ecological trade-offs can have significant effects on inclusion (or exclusion) through activities that, at least at first glance, quite clearly lead to more prosperity. Industrial agriculture, fisheries and forestry, mineral mining and the petrochemical industry are commonly seen to contribute to economic prosperity and are therefore protected by strong legal frameworks, despite degrading the environment at the local and global level. Obvious gains from industrial activities and global supply chains are accompanied by substantial and sometimes dramatic losses for widespread communities. This research theme focuses on questions such as: What is needed to create outcomes that are socially more fair and ecologically sustainable? How can global supply chains be transformed so that the benefits are fairly shared and the environment is respected?

More information about DoIP, its teams and research projects:

About Erasmus University Rotterdam

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is an internationally oriented university with a strong social orientation in its teaching and research. Our scientists and students work on solving global, social challenges, inspired by the always cosmopolitan and dynamic Rotterdam. Our academic education is intensive, active and pragmatic. Our research increasingly takes place in multidisciplinary teams, which are strongly interwoven with international networks. With our research impact and educational quality, the EUR can measure up to the top of European universities. Important values for Erasmus University Rotterdam are daring, curiosity, social involvement, a focus on pushing boundaries.

More information:

About Erasmus School of Law

Erasmus School of Law (ESL) employs 500 members of staff and is attended by around 5000 students. ESL offers bachelor programmes in Law, Tax Law and Criminology, with a focus on active academic learning. Students can subsequently choose from a wide variety of master programmes. ESL also collaborates in Double Degree programmes combining law and (business) economics or law and business administration and is one of the founders of the European Master in Law & Economics. Once students have completed their master’s degree, they may choose from several postgraduate tracks provided by Erasmus School of Law (in collaboration with Erasmus Academy and others).

The fundamental premise underlying academic research conducted at Erasmus School of Law is that law cannot be considered in splendid isolation or as an end in itself. It is embedded in an economic and social context that shapes law. At the same time, law itself shapes society and defines economic relationships. In line with this vision, our mission is to conduct innovative research on the function of law in its economic and social context. This research has a strong social and business-driven orientation. Erasmus School of Law is committed to promoting international and interdisciplinary research, as shown by its participation in several international research collaborations. We engage in research-driven education, in which research questions as well as the interdisciplinary and international approach are embedded.

Employment conditions

The grantee will be affiliated with the Faculty of Law at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Starting date: as soon as possible. The location of work is Rotterdam. The position is fulltime (1,0 fte), a part-time appointment (0,8 fte) is negotiable. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU) with a minimum of € 3.746,- and a maximum of € 5.127,- gross per month (scale 11), based on a full-time working week of 38 hours per week. The attractive benefits package includes an end of year bonus of 8.3%, holiday allowance of 8%, extensive leave facilities for a healthy work/life balance, a good pension fund and an excellent collective insurance package. Staff are also entitled to use various facilities, such as sport facilities and library. You are eligible for reimbursement of your moving expenses (under certain conditions).

EUR ultimately seeks to provide excellent education and research which is innovative, internationally oriented and can be applied in society. Achieving this ambition is intrinsically linked to the quality, efforts and passion of our employees. Talent diversity is invaluable in this respect. The more diverse the views, cultures, knowledge and experience, the more innovative and creative education and research at EUR will be. EUR has therefore defined diversity as a key strategic objective, pursing a diverse workforce in the broadest sense. EUR furthermore undertakes to create equal opportunities for everyone and a culture in which the diverse talents feel at home and can excel: A culture which allows you to be yourself, an inspiring and motivational culture.

EUR offers a Dual Career Programme (DCP) to assist the life partners of new academic staff (on pay-roll) in finding employment in The Netherlands. The programme is offered in close cooperation with nearby universities of Delft and Leiden.

We value diversity and believe that a diversity of talents contributes to our vision and strategy to excel as a university on research and education. Erasmus School of Law is an equal opportunities employer and encourages applications from candidates of all genders, ethnicities and nationalities.

Application procedure

Your application should include (written in English):

  • A 2-page application letter, indicating your motivation to work with us, your research record, and expertise related to the research field;
  • A curriculum vitae, including a list of publications;
  • 2 reference letters;
  • 1 relevant first-authored peer-reviewed publication.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The last day to submit an application is 11 April 2021. Late applications or applications with missing parts will be rejected. 

For more information about the published vacancy, please contact Prof. dr. Lieselot Bisschop and dr. Yogi Hendlin

You can directly apply to this position via Academic Transfer or email your application to Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity Operations Manager Mr. Remi van Leer  

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