PhD or Post-doc Position in Modelling farmers’ behavior for climate change adaptation

Politecnico di Milano

Milan, Italy

The Environmental Intelligence Lab at Politecnico di Milano invites applications for one PhD position for a period of 3 years or one post-doc researcher for a period of 2 years starting in 2023.

This position is funded under the Italian Ministry of University and Research and the European Commission (NextGenerationEU program) to develop the BECLICK project, continuing the work initiated with the EU Horizon 2020 project MODFABE (https://modfabe.deib.polimi.it/).

The BECLICK project aims to reinforce risk management on climate change by delving into farmers’ and irrigation districts’ behavior regarding climate change awareness, perceived impacts and adaptations measures and barriers, considering heuristics and social-learning as inputs for behavior modelling. Insights are collected from qualitative-social data (survey and semi-structured interviews) and analyzed to identify ‘risk aversion’ patterns that will be incorporated into an Agent-Based Model (ABM). Dialogues with multifunctional water users will also be considered through the Hydrosocial Cycle approach (HSC). While social data provides past and present scenarios, its modelling provides future frameworks to find ways to glue the anthropogenic sphere with the climate, agronomic, and hydrological systems. The application of an ABM ensures the feedback between social and physical environments and the social network based on agents’ interactions. The project aims to be a safe laboratory for policy experimentation, testing the effectiveness of strategies and policy measures on climate change.

The PhD or post-doc researcher will aim to develop behavior and cognitive modelling tools, considering risk aversion and risk normalization patterns, to reinforce farmers’ decisions and strengthen their resilience to climate change perceived impacts. In particular, the PhD or post-doc research activity will focus on tasks related to Work Packages 3 (WP3) and 4 (WP4) of the BECLICK project, including but not limited to:

Testing different behavioral models using mathematical/computational parameterized tools to evaluate their ability to integrate agent-based frameworks (e.g., social data from farmers’ and stakeholders’ perceptions) with machine-learning and artificial intelligence techniques based on socioeconomic and environmental parameters.
Co-defining a ‘risk aversion’ module through observational data collected from farmers (survey) and decision-makers (interviews) with a multi-objective optimization approach. A ‘risk normalization’ pattern will be checked to discern their influence on farmers’ and irrigation districts’ decisions on climate change adaptation to address farming vulnerability.
Designing an ABM based on farmers’ risk aversion and risk normalization patterns from a triple-loop approach (climate change awareness, perceived impacts, and adaptation measures and barriers). A pre-tested ABM (ABNexus) soft-coupled with a distributed-parameter simulation model (IdrAgra) will be considered as the model’s starting point. New utility functions (“what-if”) and adaptive capacity scenarios in different demonstration case studies and across multiple risk aversion profiles will be considered.
Qualifications for this position include an M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering or related fields. Profiles with a background in computational and programming skills, together with experience with Integrated Assessment Models and/or Agent-Based Modelling will be positively considered, as well as interest in social studies and qualitative data analysis. English language skills both in oral and written communication are required.

The candidate will be jointly supervised by Professor Andrea Castelletti (Politecnico di Milano) and supported by Dr Sandra Ricart (IP of the BECLICK project and junior Assistant Professor at Politecnico di Milano).

The application package for interested candidates must include CV, list of publications, and the name of two references. A motivation letter will be appreciated.

Deadline for the package submission: 15th January 2023.

For submitting the application and for any informal enquiries please contact Dr Sandra Ricart (email: sandra.ricart@polimi.it).


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IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development