Post-doc: Bioenergy

Michigan Technological University / NSF PIRE Supported Post-Doctoral Position in Bioenergy Development and Sustainability

Position Summary: The Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University invites applications for a one-and-a-half year Post–Doctoral Fellowship, beginning on or about January 1, 2017, focused on the socioecological impacts of sustainable bioenergy development across the Americas. The position is funded through the ongoing National Science Foundation Partnerships in International Research and Education (NSF PIRE) grant Sustainability, Ecosystem Services, and Forest-related Bioenergy Development across the Americas. The five year PIRE grant is structured on an interdisciplinary framework that brings together an international team of social, natural, and engineering scientists to examine the socioecological impacts of forest-related bioenergy projects across the Americas and uses policy and sustainability metrics analysis to recommend strategies for increasing bioenergy benefits and minimizing negative impacts.

Project researchers representing the Socioeconomic and Policy teams have collected qualitative and quantitative data related to the perceptions, impacts, and policy dimensions of sustainable biofuel development programs in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the USA. We now seek a post-doctoral researcher who can contribute to the analysis and synthesis of this material across the varied socioeconomic contexts of the five country projects, as well as work with natural and engineering scientists to more fully understand the broader hemispherical and global implications of sustainable bioenergy production in the Americas. The post-doctoral researcher will work directly with Drs. Sam Sweitz and Kathleen Halvorsen to further the goals of the PIRE project, including data analysis and manuscript preparation (see responsibilities, required/preferred qualifications, and application requirements below). Please see the following for more information on the project: http://www.mtu.edu/forest/research/partnerships/pire/

Review of applications will begin on October 31, 2016 and will continue until the position is filled. The one-and-a-half year position includes a competitive salary of $47,500.00 per year, and includes full benefits and health insurance. All application materials should be sent to Dr. Sam Sweitz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., with the subject line PIRE Post-Doctoral Position. Please request that letters of recommendation be sent directly to Dr. Sweitz under the same subject line.

Post-Doctoral Responsibilities Include:

- Analysis and synthesis of collected qualitative and quantitative data;

- Working with national and international researchers from across the social, natural and engineering sciences on dimensions of sustainable bioenergy development;

- Preparation of multiple country and cross-country comparison manuscripts, as well as interdisciplinary manuscripts for peer-reviewed publication;

- Preparation and delivery of project findings at national and international conferences.

- Assistance to the project director in team management activities.

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Postdoc: Big Data

The Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) at the University of Washington (UW) Seattle seeks an ethnographer of data science for a 36 month (2.5yrs) postdoctoral research scientist position, starting January 2017. The hired candidate will work with Prof. David Ribes in Seattle, and in collaboration with Geoffrey C. Bowker (and an additional postdoc) at the UC Irvine School of Informatics.

The postdoc will collaborate in the investigation of the Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs and Spokes program (BDHubs), an NSF funded "umbrella organization" for US Big Data and data science. This project will investigate the ongoing activities at the BDHubs and its partner institutions, their emerging plans for the future, and will tie these to the history of research infrastructures. The goal is to understand the rise and institutionalization of 'the data sciences,' including organizational, methodological, epistemological and infrastructural transformations at the nexus of science, industry and state.

The ideal candidate will be trained in the social and/or information sciences and have a grasp of the field of Science & Technology Studies (STS); have good communication skills; have a strong background in qualitative methods; and be able to navigate a highly interdisciplinary field of investigation. Additional methodological skillsets welcome!

More details.

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Envisioning Power

Anthropologist Eric Wolf (1923-1999) last book, Envisioning Power: Ideologies of Dominance and Power (1999) is not his most well-known work, but is a book that should be read by those seeking to understand how anthropological studies, and comparative cultural studies, can contribute to our understand of power and politics and their relation to ideas and ideology. Wolf's most well-known book, Europe and the People Without History (1982), will be covered in a future post. The book Envisioning Power offers three in-depth case studies (Kwakiult, Aztec and National Socialists of Germany), and a brief conclusion that summarizes his main conclusions. For those not interested in the detailed case studies, the first two chapters (Introduction and Contested Concepts) as well as the concluding chapter are worthwhile reads. I will not draw upon the case study content, at it is detailed and requires significant context.

As many voices had done during the 80s and 90s, the limitations of disciplinary silos was addressed by Wolf in this work, at a time when interdisciplinary work and programs were becoming more common practice: "I write these lines as an anthropologist, albeit as one who see his discipline as a link in the more encompassing effort of the human sciences to understand and explicate the multiple human conditions" (p. 19). And, later in the book stating that the "anthropologist's task should be neither to exalt nor to condone but to explain" (p. 134). While Wolf's approach tends to take an academic-as-authority approach that has been criticized, such faults do not make the book one not worth reading. Consider reflections on the power of ideas:

  • "One must not forget to ask who is using reason, rationality, logic, and emotional neutrality to do what to whom. As states and enterprises around the worked incorporated Enlightenment appeal to reason to enhance their managerial efficiency, the application of instrumental logic often exacted an exorbitant price… Those charged with dispensing reason can readily tag others as opponents of progress. Down to the present, the protagonists of reason have seen themselves as apostles of modernity. They have advocated industrialization, specialization, secularization, and rational bureaucratic allocation as reasoned options superior to unreasoned reliance on tradition." (p. 25)

And, on the nature of power more explicitly:

  • "Thinking of power in relational terms, rather than as a concentrated "power-pack," has the further advantage that it allows one to see power as an aspect of many kinds of relations. Power works differently in interpersonal relations, in institutional arenas, and on the level of whole societies." (p. 5)
  • "structural power. By this I mean the power manifest in relationships that not only operates within settings and domains but also organizes and orchestrates the settings themselves, and that specifies the direction and distribution of energy flows. In Marxian terms, this refers to the power to deploy and allocate social labor. It is also the modality of power addressed by Michel Foucault when he spoke of "governance," to mean the exercise of "action upon action" (1984, 427-28). These relations of power constitute structure power." (p. 5)

In the concluding remarks Wolf writes:

  • "The three case studies presented in this book revealed societies under increasing stress, facing multiplicity of tensions posed by ecological, social, political, or psychological crises. In each case the response entailed the development of an ideology that Kroeber would have characterized as an "extreme expression." These ideologies, carried forward by elites, were fashioned out of pre-existing cultural materials, but they are not to be understood as disembodied cultural schemata. They addressed the very character of power in society, specifically the power that structured the differentiation, mobilization, and deployment of social labor, and they rooted that power in the nature of the cosmos." (p. 274)

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Post-doc: Water Scarcity (South Africa)

Future Water, a recently formed interdisciplinary research institute based at UCT, is looking for four dynamic and motivated post-doctoral fellows to join a diverse multi-disciplinary team focused on alleviating water scarcity. Research within the Future Water institute focuses on four major themes: 'New Taps' – new water resources; 'Blue-Green Infrastructure' – water sensitive design and management; 'Adapting to Change' – building resilience / governance and policy; and 'Maximising Value' – maximising value from minimal and shrinking resources. The Institute promotes an interdisciplinary approach combining aspects of social anthropology, social science and political and public-policy studies, engineering, environmental and biological sciences, public health, law, sustainability science, the built environment including architecture, and economics. It is anticipated that one new postdoctoral fellow will be appointed to each of the above four research themes and that, collectively, the postdoctoral fellows will span a range of disciplines.

These postdoctoral fellowships provide an opportunity for novel integration of research focused on the challenges of water scarcity and on water sensitive design across the above-mentioned disciplines in order to address the key themes of Future Water.

Suitable candidates must have, within the past five years, graduated, or shortly expect to graduate, with a PhD in an appropriate discipline, but they may not have held any prior permanent professional or academic posts. They must have a keen interest in team-based, interdisciplinary research which focuses centrally on the challenges faced in attempts to alleviate water scarcity, and on means to address those challenges, as well as on socio-political challenges that arise from attempting to implement those means. Candidates for the postdoctoral fellowship will be expected to demonstrate significant research experience and/or be in the process of generating a peer-reviewed publication record.

The Future Water institute provides excellent skills development and mentorship opportunities for researchers intending to pursue an academic or research career, and encourages postdoctoral fellows to become involved in project initiation and development, and the supervision of post-graduate students. The fellowship is tenable for one year in the first instance, with start dates negotiable between 1 September 2016 and 1 January 2017. Renewal for a second year is contingent on satisfactory academic progress and funding availability. The value of each fellowship will be commensurate with the applicant's qualifications and experience; and in compliance with SARS policy, will be exempt from taxation. The successful candidates will be required to register as Postdoctoral Fellows (PDRF) at the University of Cape Town and to comply with the university's policies and practices of the PDRF sector.

To apply, candidates are invited to send a CV, including research experience, a list of research outputs and the contact details of two appropriate referees by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by no later than 5 September 2016. Selection of eligible candidates will be made by the Director of Future Water and a sub-committee drawn from academics in the Institute. More information about Future Water is available at http://wsud.co.za/futurewater/.

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