PhD Position in Philosophy of Biomimicry

Wageningen University

Netherlands

PhD in Philosophy of Biomimicry

Location Wageningen

We are looking for

Do you want to follow your passion for philosophy technology or environmental philosophy in a PhD study in our Philosophy group? Are you an openminded thinker who likes to collaborate with other researchers in an ambitious research program?

The Philosophy Group seeks a talented PhD candidate in the field of philosophy of technology or environmental philosophy, doing philosophical and ethical investigations of biomimetic technologies and their applications.

An increasing trend in technological design is biomimicry or biomimetics. Biomimetic technologies consist in the imitation or integration of natural design – e.g. a wasp needle – to solve technical problems, for example a self-propelling Ovipositor Device for surgery. As nature provides sustainable solutions – e.g. nature recycles everything, nature uses only the energy it needs, nature banks on diversity etcetera. – Nature based technologies provide creative solutions which turned out to be effective in nature. Furthermore, the more these nature based solutions are embedded in and in harmony with the natural ecosystems of planet earth, they can claim to be sustainable and ecofriendly (Benyus, 2002). Proponents claim that biomimetic technologies could potentially underpin a new “industrial revolution”, because it does no longer exploit nature, but learns from nature, and could pave the way for a genuinely circular approach to engineering design. The first objective of this PhD project is to reflect on the relation between nature and technology in biomimetic technology and to critically assess the potential and limitations of biomimicry as sustainable design principle.

The first research question is: what are the opportunities and limitations of biomimicry as design paradigm for sustainable engineering practices? One particular angle of the research concerns our understanding of control in biomimetic design. The question of control is ethically significant, as traditionally, designers bear moral responsibility for impacts of technological designs in relation to the control condition. Biomimetic technologies raise the question whether control is a feasible ideal of technological design and calls for a reconceptualization of control and reflection on its implications for the moral responsibility of designers.

The second research question is: which concept of control fits with the new reality of biomimetic technologies in general and bio-integrated design in particular? With this, the project aims to inform the governance of responsible biomimetic design and stimulate ethical reflection in practices involving biomimicry in order to support value sensitive design in these engineering practices.

This PhD position is part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies Gravitation program, a new ten year long international research program of seven universities in the Netherlands that has started in January 2020. This program has a combined budget of € 27 million, and is funded by the Dutch Research Council NWO, in the Gravitation funding scheme for excellent research, and by matching funds from the participating institutions. The duration is from January 2020 up to December 2029. The program has the aim of achieving breakthrough research at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology / engineering and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. 

We ask

  • you have an MSc degree in Philosophy, Ethics or STS, with affinity with life sciences;
  • you are an enthusiastic, dedicated and engaged thinker who is well capable to work in interdisciplinary contexts;
  • you like to explore fundamental questions in philosophy and ethics of biomimetic technologies; 
  • you have an excellent English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C1 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page;
Our PhD students are encouraged to spend a semester abroad, and a budget is available to cover expenses. Also generous (conference) travel budgets are available for the position. Our PhD students are encouraged to supervise MSc thesis students when such opportunities arise, and you will be involved in teaching activities.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our  Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 1 year which will be extended for the duration of 3 years if you perform well.

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 16th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad

Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.
Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

More information

For more information please contact Dr. Zoë Robaey via zoe.robaey@wur.nl  or Dr. Vincent Blok via vincent.blok@wur.nl.

For more information about the procedure, please contact Sandra Willemsen, Corporate recruiter or Bianca Aversteeg, Recruitment support via recruitment.ssg@wur.nl.

Do you want to apply?

You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including the 13th of May, 2021. We hope to schedule the first job interviews at the end of May 2021.

The position is to start preferably on the 1st of September, 2021, when physical travel from and to Wageningen is hopefully possible again.

The program includes four research lines, “Nature, life and human intervention”, “The future of a free and fair society”, “The human condition” and “Synthesis: Ethics of Technology, Practical Philosophy, and Modern Technology-Driven Societies” (candidates selected for an interview can request more information on the program and its four research lines). See for more information for the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies project: www.esdt.nl. 
Please note that there will be other vacancies in the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme at different participating universities. In case several are of interest to you, we want to encourage you to apply to them simultaneously.

Equal opportunities

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

Wageningen University & Research

The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.500 employees and 12.500 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.

Apply now


In your application, please refer to Professorpositions.com

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