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PhD student “Beyond-GDP: Interdisciplinary Indicators/Accounts for Wellbeing, Inclusion and Sustainability (WISE)” (0.8-1.0 fte)

Vacancy number
Job type
PhD positions
Hours (in fte)
0,8 – 1,0
External/ internal
Placed on
18 October 2022
Closing date
2 November 2022 Vacancy closed

The Faculty of Science and Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) are looking for:

PhD student “Beyond-GDP: Interdisciplinary Indicators/Accounts for Wellbeing, Inclusion and Sustainability (WISE)” (0.8-1.0 fte)

Vacancy number: 22-677

Economic growth is central to policy making today and dominates our societal discourse. Formally, growth is classified as an increase in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as derived from the System of National Accounts (SNA). GDP has become a de facto measure of societal success: if it goes up that is good, if it goes down that is bad. Yet, we know that GDP is not a measure of wellbeing, it also does not show inequalities and economic growth of some sectors has contributed significantly to our sustainability problems. For decades, hundreds of alternative “Beyond-GDP” metrics have been proposed that encompass wellbeing, inclusion and sustainability (WISE). Examples include the Human Development Index, Genuine Progress Indicator, Subjective Wellbeing and the Sustainable Development Goals.    

A new project funded by the European Commission, “WISE Horizons”, will start from January 1st 2023 aiming to embed Beyond-GDP thinking into the European and Global Policy agenda. It will create WISE indicators (to replace GDP), WISE Accounts (to replace SNA) and WISE models (to replace macro-economic modelling) in an innovative co-creative process. The project will be in collaboration with leading research and policy institutes, leading scientists in the European Union/UK as well as partners from China and Africa. Two PhDs will be appointed at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) who will work closely together with Dr Rutger Hoekstra and Dr Ranran Wang. These PhDs will be related to concepts surrounding growth, a-growth, circular economy, degrowth, green growth and more.

One PhD candidate will work on the subject of “Beyond-GDP: Interdisciplinary Indicators/Accounts for Wellbeing, Inclusion and Sustainability (WISE)”. We are looking for an outstanding quantitative PhD candidate with an interdisciplinary mindset. The PhD candidate will expand the WISE database, analyze the statistical trends, and create a novel accounting structure fit for the 21st century.

Key tasks:
You will work in an interdisciplinary setting to integrate theories and data from many different fields (mainstream economics, heterodox economics, psychology, natural sciences etc.). Specifically, you will:

  • Help create an interdisciplinary synthesis of current Beyond-GDP (WISE) indicators.
  • Create an accounting framework for the environment, society and economy which underlies the WISE indicators. This will be based on existing accounting standards such as the System of National Accounts, System of Environmental and Economic Accounts and Demographic Accounts. 
  • Populate and a manage the “WISE database” with global indicators going back to 1820 (historical database) and accounts/indicators (contemporary database).
  • Analyze long term and short-term trends using regression, decomposition, or other time series analysis methods.
  • Potentially contribute to the management tasks of the project.

Selection criteria:
The ideal candidate is quantitatively oriented and with broad interests and an interdisciplinary mindset. Specifically:

  • An M.Sc. in a relevant field (including but not limited to industrial ecology, (environmental or ecological) economics), psychology, sustainability science, statistics, cliometrics or other related fields)
  • Excellent quantitative skills – including some proven experience in programming, database programs, and knowledge of statistical techniques such as regressions or decompositions
  • Proficiency in spoken and written English and good communication skills. Be able to communicate effectively in the various international fora that exist for Beyond-GDP
  • The ability to produce attractive and clear visual outputs from scientific data is an asset. Ideally that would include some experience with web interfaces and interactive visualization.
  • Team player and having a collaborative attitude.
  • Experience with database management is an advantage.
  • Project management skills are an advantage.

Our organization
The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment.

The research carried out at the Faculty is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organised in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor’s and twelve master’s programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2,300 staff and almost 5,000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden’s Bio Science Park, one of Europe’s biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.

The Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) is positioned in the Faculty of Sciences. The core focus of CML is to perform research and education in the interdisciplinary field of Environmental Sciences. CML focuses on the sustainable use of natural resources and preservation of natural capital and biodiversity. CML collaborates with the TU Delft and Erasmus University in the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability (LDE-CfS), Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, and other partners. CML has a culture of mutual support and collaboration between researchers. Presently, over 150 fte (including postdocs and PhDs) are employed at CML. CML has two departments: Industrial Ecology (CML-IE) and Environmental Biology (CML-EB). This makes CML one of the few institutes covering both the circular, sustainable economic use of natural resources and natural capital, as well as assessing the environmental impacts of economic activities on natural resources, biodiversity and natural capital.

This Phd will be part of the Industrial Ecology department.

For more information, see www.science.leidenuniv.nl. Information about CML can be found at  www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/science/environmental-sciences.

Terms and conditions
We offer a 1-year position with the possibility of extension to 4 years based on performance.  Salary ranges from € 2.541.- gross per month in the first year to € 3..247 gross per month in the fourth year based on a full-time position, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

Fostering an inclusive community is a central element of the values and vision of Leiden University and IIAS. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.

Enquiries can be made to Dr. Rutger Hoekstra ( r.hoekstra@cml.leidenuniv.nl ).

To apply for this vacancy, please send an email to sollicitaties@cml.leidenuniv.nl. Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents quoting the vacancy number:

  • CV
  • A motivation letter (max 1 page)
  • The names, email adresses and phone numbers of two referees.

Only applications received before November 2nd 2022 will be considered. Interviews will take place on November 10th 2022 (online). You are kindly requested to be available on that day.

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