PhD Position Modelling Behavioral Change and Social Institutions in Climate Change Adaptation

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

Delft, Netherlands 🇳🇱

We are looking for an enthusiastic student interested in climate adaptation & societal transformations and experienced in agent-based modeling to join our vibrant VIDI-ERC team.

Job description

Societies have always been adapting to changing environments. As hazards intensify in frequency and severity with climate change, adaptation strategies that proved successful in the past face limits. This is especially relevant for floods and sea level rise, which increasingly call for transformational adaptation – new radical grand changes in societal responses to hazards. However, transformational adaptations (e.g. planned relocation) is more disruptive, more expensive in the short-run, and less socially-acceptable compared to incremental adaptation (e.g. raising dikes). The ambition of the VIDI project is to provide new insights into social tipping points in adaptation to changing climate, and to develop computational social models with strong theoretical and empirical foundations to account for a shift from incremental to transformational adaptation in climate policy assessments.

This PhD position focuses on advancing computational agent-based modeling to capture both individual behavior changes and evolution of social institutions (formal and informal). Such multi-scale models will permit to quantitatively explore how generic mechanisms behind societal transformations unfold in dynamics, and to identify potential social tipping points to new adaptation pathways. We will consider few specific case-studies of historic successful transformational responses to floods. Given the factors and feedbacks that proved important in enabling transformations in the past, this PhD project will elicit socio-economic thresholds and lock-ins due to long-term irreversible consequences of adaptation responses (e.g. socio-economic path-dependence triggered by urbanization, agglomeration dynamics and risk acceptance). We will then proceed to explore how the mechanisms behind social tipping points may play out under climate change. As climate change exacerbate, it is important to test whether ‘desirable’ transformational climate adaptation could be achieved through gradual changes in behavior and institutions or only in response to a crisis.  As a PhD student you will work closely with a PostDoc and another PhD within this VIDI project, and have an opportunity to collaborate with other researchers working on a complementary ERC project

You will also be part of the Policy Analysis Section in the Department of Multi-Actor Systems at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management. The Department hosts about 100 scholars with policy analysis and computer science background specialized in coupled socio-technical-environmental systems. The Policy Analysis Section balances qualitative and quantitative approaches, and is very active in the newly launched Delft Climate Action Program


A candidate should ideally have:

  • Master’s degree in Environmental Policy, Geography, Environmental or Computational Social sciences;
  • Proven excellent written and verbal English communication skills (see Graduate Schools Admission Requirements:;
  • Previous experience with agent-based modeling or with one of the programming languages (Python; Java; C++; Julia) is an advantage;
  • Capacity to perform statistical data analysis is beneficial;
  • Domain knowledge in the field of coupled social-environmental systems, climate change adaptation or flood risk policy is an asset.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Technology, Policy and Management

With its excellent education and research at the intersection of technology, society and policy, the Faculty of TPM makes an important contribution to solving complex technical-social issues, such as energy transition, mobility, digitalisation, water management and (cyber) security. We combine insights from the engineering sciences, the social and the humanities. We develop robust models and designs, are internationally oriented and have an extensive network with knowledge institutions, companies, social organisations and governments.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact prof.dr. Tatiana Filatova, VIDI Principal Investigator: [email protected]

Application procedure

Please submit your application online no later than August 31, 2022 by uploading your CV, a cover letter explaining how your skills and qualifications fit the requirements for this position, and the names and contact information of two potential referees.

You can only apply via the application button ‘Apply now’. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.

A pre-employment screening can be part of the application procedure.