Postdoc position in Sustainability Research Group


University of Basel


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Start Date

Thursday, August 1, 2024

The production of agricultural commodities such as coffee, cocoa, or palm oil is associated with persistent environmental and social problems, including deforestation, forced and child labor, and smallholder poverty. Transforming agri-food systems is thus a major sustainable development challenge. European governments currently aim to do so via the introduction of mandatory supply chain sustainability legislation such as due diligence regulations and import restrictions. Such legislation requires companies to provide granular insights on environmental and human rights-related risks in their supply chains, and gives them responsibility for risk mitigation and remediation in production sites. Select laws also prohibit companies from importing products associated with negative impacts such as deforestation or forced labor.

Despite legislators' best intentions, there are concerns that this new generation of regulations will not be effective in reducing the harms embedded in global supply chains, and might even exacerbate them. The intended transformation toward more sustainable agri-food trade will rely on how successfully supply chain actors coordinate in building more transparent and responsible value chains. How do businesses adjust their behavior to move into compliance? How do these preparatory steps change value chain organization, power dynamics and smallholder livelihood outcomes in tropical agri-food value chains? And what effects does the legislation have on intended goals, i.e. the improvement of human rights and environmental outcomes in producing countries?

You will answer these questions via a combination of qualitative (e.g. expert interviews, Q-methodology, case study analysis) and/or quantitative (e.g. company or producer surveys) research on policy implementation in tropical agri-food commodity sectors such as coffee, cocoa, and palm oil. In addition to a global-level analysis, field research in one producing country (e.g. Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire) is expected and budgeted for. The specific project, including the fieldwork locations, will be tailored to the interests and skills of the successful candidate.

You will also be integrated into broader, externally funded research projects that are currently under review, and will mentor Master's and doctoral students as part of such projects. You will further gain teaching experience by teaching three hours/week (during the semester) of graduate-level courses in the Master's in Sustainable Development (MSD) program of the University of Basel.

Your profile

Applicants should have completed a PhD in a relevant field such as political science, political economy, public policy/administration, global governance, sustainability research, sociology, or another social science discipline. The candidate should have demonstrated experience in the use of qualitative and/or quantitative research methods, and ideally have experience in conducting fieldwork in smallholder producer contexts.

We are looking for someone with a proficient level in English as well a second language (e.g. Spanish, French, Bahasa Indonesia), excellent interpersonal and communication skills, a strong work ethic, the ability to work independently, and a high willingness to collaborate.

We offer you

The appointment is scheduled to begin on August 1, 2024, or at the earliest convenience thereafter of the successful candidate.

This position is for an initial period of two years, renewable for another four years after positive evaluation. The place of work is Basel, Switzerland.

As part of the very interdisciplinary Sustainability Research Group of the University of Basel, you will be able to work in a scientifically highly stimulating environment. You will join a supportive, collaborative and cooperative work environment with regular meetings and exchanges. We further support participation in a broad and well-established international research network.

You will work closely with Professor Janina Grabs (appointed head of the Sustainability Research Group), and be provided with ample opportunity to develop your own academic leadership profile in preparation for the next steps of the career ladder. We offer dedicated faculty mentorship to support your academic progress.

The University of Basel is an equal opportunity employer; women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Further, we offer modern research facilities and an excellent scientific environment at Basel University.

Salary and social benefits are provided according to the University of Basel rules.

Application / Contact

Please submit your complete application documents, including a brief (max. 2 pages) cover letter explaining how your qualifications and experience make you a good fit for this position, a CV, a copy of your PhD certificate (or explanation of when you will defend), and the contact details of at least two academic references via our online recruiting platform. We accept online applications only.

For further information, please contact Janina Grabs, Review of applications will begin May 1, 2024.