Applications for the Postdoc Academy 2021-2023

Per intake, 20 researchers will be selected. To be eligible for the Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership you should be an early career researcher with sustainability focus and

  • be affiliated with a European research institution that is your major place of work,
  • have funds for your research for the majority of the programme (at least until September 2022),
  • have obtained your doctorate no more than four years prior to applying (family and caring times excluded),
  • have a research topic relevant to this year's focus topic " Pathways for regenerative development",
  • have a strong interest and experience in doing inter- and transdisciplinary sustainability research, and
  • conduct research that asks for the complementarity of natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities,
  • be an excellent researcher with a vision (societal impact),
  • be on the way to professorship or other academic leadership positions,
  • be an academic intrapreneur, who acts responsibly and initiates positive changes and innovation within his/ her institution,
  • be a shaper, a shaker and a mover,
  • have excellent English language skills (equivalent to CEFR Level C2) and
  • be committed to attending all seminars and relevant networking activities.

Applicants should be early career researchers at an academic institution in one of the following European countries: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican.

The closing date for applications for the Postdoc Academy 2021-2023 was 15th February 2021.

The call for applications for the Postdoc Academy 2022-2024 will be out in December 2021. You will find the details on this website.

15th December 2020 till 15th February 2021

Online application (motivation, CV, letter of support, etc.)

9th June 2021

Virtual assessment workshop (pitch, interview, group work)

Until 18th June 2021

Notification of selection results to applicants

28th to 30th September 2021

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (IRI THESys)/ Germany

8th to 10th February 2022

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg/ Germany

11th to 13th October 2022

Stockholm Resilience Centre/ Sweden

14th to 16th March 2023

Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT), Rotterdam/ The Netherlands

Several academic articles, global synthesis reports, and initiatives such as the United Nations' Decade for Action are calling for large-scale, rapid and transformative change in the relationships between humans and nature. This is because “humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy we wish to leave to future generations” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity.
Comprehensive assessments of evidence from different disciplines, addressing different aspects of human production and consumption and their telecouplings provides an unprecedented picture of the extent of the mutual dependence between people and nature, the breadth and depth of the ongoing and impending crisis, and the interconnectedness among sectors and regions (Nyström et al. 2019; Díaz et al. 2019). Along the same lines, evidence, including national reporting and global models show that ambitious targets for protecting biodiversity are nowhere near being met (Leclamp et al. 2020, GBO 2020). These efforts show that conservation interventions in themselves will not be enough to limit further loss of biodiversity – integrated efforts are needed that address climate change as far reaching food system transformations (Leclamp et al. 2020). The transformative changes that can help humanity towards sustainable and equitable futures have not been happening fast enough and not at scales that match the Anthropocene challenges (Olsson et al. 2017; Díaz et al. 2019). While integration and systems thinking are vital for imagining sustainable futures and designing paths towards them, such transformative efforts also need to address fundamental ontological and cosmological differences arising from planetarity (Spivak 2013): who is shaping these transformations and for whom?   
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to key actors in society including academic scholars, business corporations, decision-makers, civic movements claiming that this is a once-in-a-generation moment for large-scale transformations. Some argue that the responses - from governments, business corporations and others - must be prompt and drive far-reaching economic and social change relating to energy and food systems, to avoid building in the same kinds of vulnerabilities to crises in the future.
We already see efforts now during COVID-19 to – at least in principle – commit to these kinds of changes. As just one example, in Europe there are proponents of a Green Deal initiative that aims to seize the window of opportunity that the pandemic has opened up.
There are also numerous calls to” building back better” following the pandemic. However, understanding what building back better entails, and whether this achieves a peaceful transformation to more sustainable and just futures is critical.
Do these initiatives change the system dynamics that created the problem in the first place or do they perpetuate the very systems that need to change? There are opinions emerging about the promise or perils of big actors and their role in achieving large-scale transformations, but more robust empirical evidence is needed about the current and future potential impacts.
The program will explore the interactions between crisis and opportunity and the abilities to seize such opportunities to navigate transformations towards regenerative development and biosphere stewardship - building back better. This call thus addresses postdoctoral scholars, who’s research conduct research on sustainability issues in the broadest sense and who are addressing aspects of transformative change, not only with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic. This could include participatory research on restoration, local change processes, or scenarios, examining systemic drivers of social inequalities and exclusion modelling studies mapping out trap-conditions as well as sustainable paths forward or tipping points, or research on policy processes or incentives for changing human behavior.
The Postdoc Academy explores through the four seminars what kind of science is needed to understand and move towards transformative change for sustainability and what this kind of science will require from the people who will shape it. How does transdisciplinary research on transformative change fit within different research institutions? How do different disciplinary lenses approach the challenges of cross-scale interdependencies of change processes, including ethics? What is this type of transdisciplinary research doing for or to my academic career? Do I have the right skills already to lead a group in this direction? Do I know people across Europe who can help me develop those skills and build networks for future projects?