PhD Researcher (f/m/x) – Natural language processing in understanding narratives linked to adaptation to climate extremes (Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Leipzig, Germany 🇩🇪

Place of work: Leipzig, remote work possible some days of the week

Working time: 65% (25,35 hours/week), The job position is available for full-time or part-time employment.

Contract limitations: limited contract / 36 months


Remuneration according to the TVöD public-sector up to pay grade 13 including attractive public-sector social security benefits.


The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) with its 1,100 employees has gained an excellent reputation as an international competence centre for environmental sciences. We are part of the largest scientific organisation in Germany, the Helmholtz association. Our mission: Our research seeks to find a balance between social development and the long-term protection of our natural resources.

The job

The UFZ will establish a Graduate School within its Research Unit “Environment and Society” on the topic: “Governance Monitor – Tracking and assessing governance narratives for sustainability transformations” The Graduate School consists of four PhD researchers. They will participate in a structured training program that facilitates integration and exchange among the different projects involved as well as within the larger UFZ research context. The PhD projects will develop a scientific basis for the comprehensive, long-term monitoring of political developments related to complex environmental issues, including the governance of bioeconomy, chemicals in the circular economy, and climate extremes. The advertised position is part of this Graduate School.

PhD Researcher (f/m/x) – Natural language processing in understanding narratives linked to adaptation to climate extremes (Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology)

Working time: 65 % (25,35 hours/week).
Contract duration: The position is initially limited to 36 months.
Earliest start date: May 1, 2023

Your tasks

The successful candidate will develop and apply natural language processing (NLP) methods to analyze narratives on climate-related events, such as floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms. The goal is to identify which (i) narratives are predominant in media coverage and political discourse surrounding climate-related events, (ii) how they evolve over time and (iii) how they are linked to climate change adaptation. To this end, a text-as-data approach (using e.g. policy documents, newspapers, laws, and social media) will be applied. Prof. Christian Kuhlicke (University of Potsdam) will be the University supervisor, and Dr. Mariana Madruga de Brito will be the UFZ advisor. In order to meet the project aims, the PhD candidate will:

  • Investigate how extreme events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves influence political and media narratives on the need to adapt to climate change
  • Identify which societal actors (e.g. NGOs, government, industry) are linked to distinct narrative types
  • Analyse the causal relationships between such disasters and changes in the discourse over time and across different regions (e.g. Germany, Europe)
  • High-level publication of research results

We offer

  • A vibrant research community in an open, diverse and international work environment
  • Scientific excellence and extensive professional networking opportunities
  • Excellent support and optimal subject-specific and general training with the UFZ HIGRADE graduate school
  • Remuneration in accordance with the TVöD public-sector pay grade 13
  • We support a good work-life balance with the possibility of part-time employment and flexible working hours
  • Numerous company health management offerings
  • An employer subsidy for the VVO job ticket
  • PhD enrolment at the University of Potsdam

Your profile

  • Master’s degree in digital humanities, geography, computer social sciences or related discipline
  • Programming and statistical competence (e.g. R or Python)
  • Familiarity with machine learning, natural language processing is beneficial
  • Proficiency in English
  • Basic skills in handling and processing large datasets
  • Motivation to work in an interdisciplinary environment, also in cooperation with modellers and natural scientists


Your contact for any questions you may have about the job:
Mariana Madruga de Brito (
Christian Kuhlicke, (





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development