PhD student in Ethics of human enhancement in an international context

The Challenge


The aim of this PhD project is to perform an ethical study of human enhancement technologies and techniques that considers their full range, their potential future development, and the various ethical implications in different domains and for different stakeholders.  The study should also help answer the question how society should respond to these technologies: how they should be regulated, what ethical codes and protocols there should be in place, and what the responsibility of various actors is with respect to them.  Within this general scope, there is room to focus the project in your own way.  About 60% of the position is linked to the SIENNA project (see below), and in those 60%, you collaborate with other researchers in writing reports that address ethical issues in human enhancement and their practical application, and that also addresses the question of how we can develop general approaches for ethical analysis and ethical governance of new technologies.  You will be the main author of most of the reports on human enhancement.  About 20% of the position is for completion of the dissertation based on the reports that you have authored, and about 20% is for taking courses and providing support for other tasks in the department, particularly teaching. 


The SIENNA project


SIENNA a prestigious and exciting 3 ½ – year international project that is funded through the European Union Horizon 2020 “Science with and for Society” program with a budget of 4 million euros. It is a world-wide project with participating institutes from thirteen countries, including the Netherlands, UK, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Spain, France, Greece, United States, South Africa, Brazil, Japan, and China.  The five largest participants are the University of Twente, Uppsala University, Trilateral Research, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the European Network of Research Ethics Committees (EUREC).   Harvard University (USA) and Chuo University (Japan) are associated partners.  The project will take place from October 1st, 2017 to April 1st, 2021, and is led by University of Twente (coordinator: prof. dr. Philip Brey).

The aim of the project is to promote enhanced consideration of ethical and human rights issues in new and emerging technologies with major socio-economic impact and human rights relevance. In the project, we will provide an extensive ethical analysis of three technologies, human enhancement, human genomics and robotics & artificial intelligence.  We will also consider legal and human rights aspects.  We will develop ethical frameworks for all three technologies and translate and adapt them, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to produce four practical tools and resources for each technology: (a) operational guidelines for research ethics committees for these technologies, (b) codes of responsible conduct for researchers who develop these technologies, (c) proposals for revisions of existing ethical frameworks, and (d) proposals for revisions of existing legal frameworks, all of which should have acceptance and approval of relevant stakeholders.  We also aim to generalize the approaches for ethical analysis and for developing, translating and adapting ethical frameworks so that they can be applied to other new and emerging technologies.

The project is supported by an advisory board, with scholars such as Allan Buchanan, Julian Savulescu, Erik Parens and Mark Coeckelbergh, and by a stakeholder board, which includes the World Health Organisation, UNESCO-COMEST, Council of Europe, Human Genome Organisation, IEEE, Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society, and others.



You have a master’s degree in philosophy, ethics, medical ethics, or a related field. In addition, you:

  • are familiar with the medical sciences;
  • are interested in multidisciplinary collaboration;
  • have good analytical skills;
  • have good English language skills, both in writing and speaking;
  • have good social and communication skills in academic as well as non-academic contexts;
  • have an interest in policy and practical applications of ethics;
  • are able to work independently, but also motivated to collaborate with others, including project participants and stakeholders from different countries and with different backgrounds

The ideal candidate would have either completed a master’s thesis on ethics of human enhancement or a directly related topic, or would have completed a thesis in medical ethics on another topic and have a strong background in medical sciences.


Our offer

A four-year full-time Ph.D. position, starting September 1 (preferred) or October 1, 2017. The gross salary is € 2222,- per month in the first year going up to € 2840,- in the fourth year.  On top of this, you receive a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus.  You will have a budget for traveling to SIENNA workshops and to international conferences.  We offer excellent auxiliary terms of employment, such as professional and personal development programs; a secondary remuneration package; a dynamic environment with enthusiastic colleagues; an organization focusing on internationalization and a high degree of responsibility and independence. 


Job application

Your application should include the following documents:

  • a cover letter which explains your interest in the position and your qualifications for it;
  • a curriculum vitae which includes the name and e-mail address/telephone number for at least two references;
  • a copy of your master’s thesis or, if it is not yet available, a summary and table of
    contents of the thesis.


Applications (including curriculum vitae, master’s thesis) should be uploaded via > vacancies > current vacancies. The application deadline is June 18th, 2017. Interviews will be held in June. Since only three documents can be uploaded per application, please combine documents if needed.


Further information 

Location: This position is based at the Department of Philosophy, University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands.

Contact: prof.dr. Philip Brey (chair “Ethics of Technology”) T: +31 (0)53 489 4426 (


Your supervisors will be Prof. Philip Brey and dr. Saskia Nagel, both at University of Twente.  Prof. Brey is full professor in philosophy of technology, with a focus on ethics, and coordinator of and researcher in the SIENNA project.  Dr. Saskia Nagel is assistant professor in ethics of technology, with a focus on medical and neurotechnologies, and also a researcher in the SIENNA project. 


About the University of Twente

We stand for science and technology, high tech, human touch, education and research that matter. New technology which drives change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente (UT) is a research university with a strong international orientation and a focus on science & engineering and social and behavioral sciences. We include more than 3,300 faculty and staff and 9,000 students. Our motto “high tech, human touch” expresses the aim of combining research in engineering with social and behavioral sciences. The University of Twente is the only campus university in the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programs. The University of Twente has a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out pioneering research. The UT is a campus university, located in the city of Enschede, in the east of the Netherlands. Enschede is a lively city of 150,000, located in beautiful countryside and near spectacular nature areas. It is only two hours away from major European cities like Amsterdam, Cologne and Düsseldorf, three hours from Brussels and less than six hours from Berlin, Paris and London.


The department of philosophy 

The department of philosophy at the University of Twente ( is internationally leading in the philosophy and ethics of technology. At a recent research evaluation of philosophy programs in the Netherlands, it ranked highest in the area of ethics and practical philosophy. The department currently includes eight tenured/tenure-track staff members, three postdocs, seven PhD students, and several part-time faculty. The department participates in and directs the interuniversity 4TU.Center for Ethics and Technology ( Both the department and the Center have a strong international orientation and include members from many different nationalities. The department’s research has a strong focus on ethics of emerging technologies and their impact on society (including information and communication technology and robotics, biomedical and neurotechnologies and environmental technologies), the philosophy and ethics of human-technology relations, and the philosophy of engineering and social science.


Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences 
The Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS) of the University of Twente strives to play a pivotal role in understanding, co-engineering and evaluating innovation in society. Innovation is driven by advances in technology. Through ‘social engineering’ these technological advances are embedded in society befitting human needs and behaviour, within proper public and private management and business structures. For this the faculty of BMS upholds high quality disciplinary knowledge in psychology, business administration, public administration, communication science, philosophy, educational science and health sciences. All with a focus on the challenges in society. Research is strongly connected to our Institutes on Governance (IGS), ICT (CTIT), Health (MIRA) and Nanotechnology (MESA+).



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