Applications for the Postdoc Academy 2020 - 2022 could be submitted until 16th February 2020. The next call for applications should be announced on this website in December 2020.

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 (until September 2021),
  • 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 "Land use practices in a globalised world",
  • 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.

16th December 2019 till 16th February 2020

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

16th June 2020

Assessment workshop (pitch, interview, group work)

Until 30th June 2020

Notification of selection results to applicants

6th to 8th October 2020

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/ Germany

9th to 11th February 2021

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg/ Germany

12th to 14th October 2021

Stockholm Resilience Centre/ Sweden

15th March to 17th March 2022

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

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its special report entitled ‘climate change and land’ in August 2019. It states that “land provides the principal basis for human livelihoods and well-being including the supply of food, freshwater and multiple other ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity. Human use directly affects more than 70% of the global, ice- free land surface. Land also plays an important role in the climate system.” (IPCC SRCCL 2019) Similarly, the IPBES Global Assessment shows how land use conversions are the largest direct driver for loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services that undermines the wellbeing in human societies (IPBES 2019). The reports set out how the continuation of current land use practices in combination with global environmental and climate change will render many regions of the world increasingly inhabitable. Across disciplines and fields of research, they call for major transformations of the systems that produce the negative social and ecological outcomes. Central to such transformations is the notion of complex, interconnected human-environmental systems and the need to move from single solutions and single problems towards integrated understandings of interconnected and interdependent problems to integrated solutions. This includes regenerative approaches and solutions that can help deal with climate change in ways that have positive effects on land use practices and vice versa.


Land: matter, markets, meaning

In the Postdoc Academy, this insight is our starting point to think forward. The focus on land use practices foregrounds the ontological tripartite of land: Land is biogeophysical matter. It is soil, topography and literally the foundation of all terrestrial life. We can remotely sense global changes in land cover over time, assess degradation and improvement and try to understand the dynamics of biodiversity in particular biomes. Yet land also represents markets. Land is owned, sold, commodified, turned into a global asset and has become a matter of speculation. It is being ‘grabbed’, swapped and inherited and we can measure its economic value as well as the routes through which it and its products are traded. Finally, land is meaning. People call land a home, they value landscapes and they assign symbolic meaning to particular landscape features. We can interpret what land means to people, how they relate and attach to it and what kind of futures they hope for, as well as how these person-land relations affect place stewardship or change resistant responses. With ‘Land use practices in a globalised world’, we want to address all three of these dimensions and particularly their interconnectedness in a rapidly changing world. When ‘people do things on and with land’ the physical, the technological, the economic and the socio-cultural dimensions of land become intertwined.


Land use practices in a globalised world

The investigation of land use practices in a globalised world brings together a wide range of disciplines from natural sciences such as physical geography, agricultural sciences, geoinformation sciences and ecology through environmental economics, environmental psychology, and further into social sciences and humanities to practical philosophy, law and ethics. The ability to work across disciplines and thought styles is paramount. To understand the dynamics of land use practices requires becoming aware of and considering dynamics across temporal and spatial scales. Land use practices are more often than not driven by what is happening beyond ‘on site’ locally. They are driven by ‘distal’ factors such as transnational supply chains and investment flows, technological advances, global knowledge and social mediascapes, migration of people and animals alike, as well as regional and global air- and waterflows. In an increasingly urbanising world, cities as very dense and complex forms of land use shape in manifold ways their local hinterland while being embedded into global networks of human activities. Investigating such telecouplings and translocal dynamics of land use practices thus means engaging with an interconnected world and engaging with people from diverse backgrounds; it means engaging with colonial pasts and widely diverse aspirations for futures. Moreover, land use patterns are always a manifestation of power (asymmetries) and of distributional (in) justice. In fact, access to land and having the right and capabilities to use land are fundamental boundary conditions that shape today’s and future land use in a globalised world.


Transdisciplinary Research and Sustainability

Investigating land use practices, their dynamics and the sustainability transformations needed thus requires inter- and transdisciplinary approaches: Whether it is remote sensing scientists engaging in ground truthing or ethnographers co-designing urban public space; whether it is land system scientists working together with supply chain managers or agricultural scientists discussing novel production methods with regional farmers. Inquiring into the dynamics of land use practices needs to engage with various actors inside and outside academia. Increasingly, this engagement takes the form of collaboration in order to achieve a transformation towards more sustainable land use practices. Interventions, real world experimentation, co-production and co-design are forms of engaged scientific research that will become increasingly important over the next few years as academia tries and has the responsibility to contribute to a global transformation towards more sustainable land use practices.


The Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership

The Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership addresses scholars with an interest in transforming land use practices in a globalised world towards sustainability. The Academy explores through the four seminars what kind of science this will require and what this kind of science will require from the people who will shape it. How does transdisciplinary research on land use practices fit within different research institutions? How do different disciplinary lenses approach the challenges of cross-scale interdependencies of interventions in land-use patterns? How can the future governance of land use look like? What is this type of transdisciplinary research of land use doing 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?