PhD: Artificial intelligence for tracking the politics of climate change adaptation

Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen, Netherlands 🇳🇱

We are looking for

A highly motivated PhD student on the interface of artificial intelligence and climate action.

Keen to further develop artificial intelligence approaches to enhance climate action? Always wondered why governments are typically reluctant to track their implementation of climate action? Curious about the political dynamics that shape how governments around the globe are (not) adapting to climate change? Then this PhD project on using artificial intelligence methods for analyzing the politics of tracking climate change adaptation could be a great fit!

This PhD position is part of the NWO-VIDI project led by Dr. Robbert Biesbroek (Public Administration and Policy group) entitled “High ambitions, (s)low implementation? The politics of tracking adaptation to climate change (2023-2027).

Background of the program:Adapting to the impacts of climate change is necessary and increasingly urgent. Governments across the globe have increasingly formulated high adaptation ambitions to become more climate resilient. In order to understand if these ambitions are implemented in practice, tracking progress on adaptation is of critical importance. This program aims to develop, theorize and empirically test the causes and consequences of the politics of adaptation tracking. Adopting a comparative approach, the program investigates the political dynamics around the Global Stocktake under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, the EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and ongoing climate change adaptation developments in several countries from across the globe. In the program mixed methods are used, combining traditional methods of expert interviews, observations and focus group discussions, with machine learning and quantitative text analysis to analyze the politics of adaptation tracking.
The program takes a solutions-oriented perspective by co-designing politically sensitive intervention pathways with practitioners. It provides concrete evidence-based insights where and how to intervene in policy processes in order to accelerate the design and execution of adequate and effective frameworks on adaptation tracking.

There are two PhD positions in this NWO-VIDI program. The position in this call will focus on using Artificial Intelligence methods to track the politics of tracking climate change adaptation. The other PhD position will focus on conceptualizing and empirically investigating the politics of adaptation tracking using a primarily a qualitative approach. 

For this PhD position “Artificial intelligence for tracking the politics of climate change adaptation”, you will:

  • Employ state-of-the art machine learning tools to develop evidence maps on what is already known about the politics of tracking policy for climate and other sustainability challenges
  • Develop and apply natural language processing methods to analyze the politics of tracking adaptation to climate change from a variety of sources (media, policy documents, minutes, speeches, etc.) at national and global levels
  • Co-organize and participate in workshops on the politics of adaptation tracking
  • Lead the development of 4 scientific publications which form the basis of your PhD dissertation. You will also be involved in developing program-level publications (as co-author)
  • Present your work at (inter)national scientific conferences and/or symposia

We ask


  • Completed MSc degree in computational social sciences, computer science, artificial intelligence or a relevant MSc with a quantitative focus (e.g. political science, public administration, sustainability science)
  • Excellent programming skills (R or Python)
  • Experience in use of natural language processing tools (e.g. social network analysis, sentiment analysis, topic modelling, etc.) and working with large volumes of textual data. Experience with Deep Learning language models will be a plus.
  • Ability to collaborate in an interdisciplinary setting as the team is consisting of qualitative and quantitative scientists from the social and environmental sciences. 
  • Excellent spoken and written English required for scientific publishing. If your native language is not English and you do not hold a degree from an institution in which English is the language of instruction, you must submit proof of English proficiency from either TOEFL (minimum total score of 100) or IELTS (minimum total score of 7.0).
  • Demonstrable interest in political dynamics, particularly in the context of sustainability challenges.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.

Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling. For instance under the “30% rule”, certain categories of international staff can receive tax exemption on approximately 30% of their gross salary.

More information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Robbert Biesbroek, Associate Professor at the Public Administration and Policy Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, by e-mail

For more information about the procedure, please contact Jouke van Oostenbrugge Corporate recruiter by e-mail

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.
This vacancy will be listed up to and including Wednesday 29 March 2023. We hope to schedule the first job interviews on Thursday 6 April 2023. Depending on the applications received, a second round of interviews could be scheduled.
When applying please upload your motivation and CV including the names of three references. Your motivation letter should not exceed more than 1 page. In addition, please upload a maximum 4 page text that you have written individually which demonstrates your writing skills (e.g. section of your thesis, individual course assignment, paper).

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development