Postdoc (2 years): Just Editing, Applying a Responsible Innovation Framework to Animal Genome Editing

We are looking for an enthusiastic and highly motivated postdoctoral researcher to work on a multidisciplinary project, funded by the NWO-MVI responsible innovation programme, examining the ethical, societal and governance implications of applying gene editing techniques to animals and animal breeding. Recent gene editing techniques – such as CRISPR/Cas9, TALENS and “zinc fingers” – are showing signs of being cheaper, faster, more accurate, and more widely applicable than older rDNA techniques because of their ability to cut and alter the DNA of any species at almost any genomic site with ease and precision.
Applications of animal gene editing techniques are many, varied and rapidly evolving, ranging from applications that promise benefits in welfare, to benefits in disease resistance and to feed efficiency. While the technology of gene editing promises significant benefits, this promise will not be realised unless the technology is firmly and fully embedded in society. New genetic technologies have an uneven past in this regard with previous innovations – particularly those involving the genetic modification (GM) of plants for commercial application – being all too often deeply mired in controversy, misunderstanding and polemic. Unless we learn how to embed gene editing technology in society, and to understand why a number of previous innovations in the new genetics have failed to do so, we risk the possibility that new genetics-based innovations in the animal sciences (and beyond) may continue to evade policy resolution, and generate further controversy, misunderstanding and polemic.
­Through the project we aim to become the leading centre for interdisciplinary research on the social, ethical and governance dimensions of animal gene editing technologies, shaping the debate on how the technology can be embedded in society, and on how reflexive corporate and scientific cultures can be best developed and propagated. We develop a responsible innovation approach to animal gene editing that will guide the responsible development of the technology and support responsible decision-making at the level of academic research, breeding companies and governments.
You will be one of two postdocs (the other is an ethicist working out of the Ethics Institute at Utrecht University) working with beta (natural) scientists, social scientists and ethicists aiming to understand, anticipate, reflect and respond to ethical and societal concerns. To take up this position you must have a passion for working on the societal and ethical challenges posed by new and emerging technologies. Your tasks will include an analysis of the benefits, challenges, risks and uncertainties of genome editing and its application to animals (workpackage 1), undertaking a public dialogue on animals and genome editing (workpackage 2), and exploring ways to integrate social and ethical dimensions into scientific and corporate research practices (workpackage 3).

We ask

We are searching for a highly motivated and enthusiastic postdoc who should have:

  • a PhD or equivalent in the social sciences;
  • a record of scholarly work in one of more fields of: science and technology studies (STS), sociology, development studies, anthropology, innovation studies, human geography, political science, interdisciplinary studies or equivalent;
  • qualitative research skills (interviews, focus groups, ethnography);
  • interest in the governance and wider dimensions of science and innovation (including, if possible, on debates in the science, governance and ethics of genomics and/or animal breeding)
  • affinity with working in a multi-disciplinary team, and of working across disciplines relevant to the wider dimensions of science and innovation;
  • excellent writing and communication skills (English), including the ability to communicate complex concepts in a way that is easily understood by stakeholders and the wider public;
  • proven management and organisational skills, including the ability to work effectively with project partners and stakeholders and engage in active research with them.

We offer

We offer you an employment contract for 0.8 FTE (30.4 hours a week) for 24 months. You will be employed at Wageningen University and Research. You will start with a one year contract. After a positive evaluation the contract will be extended with the remainder period. The maximum gross salary is € 4,084.00 per month (based on fulltime employment), (maximum scale 11.5 Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities based on relevant work experience). (Starting in scale 10 can be applicable for candidates in the last stage of obtaining their PhD degree). In addition, we offer a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-the-year bonus of 8.3% of your annual salary.

More information

Practical information:

The starting date of this position is 1 September 2018. Interviews are scheduled for Tuesday 03 July.
Before submitting an application you may wish to discuss the post further by contacting Phil Macnaghten on  for academic inquiries, or by contacting Vera Mentzel on 0317 483537 for administrative inquiries.
The deadline for applications is 25 June 2018 at midnight (CET). Please do not email your application, but use the website to upload your application. URL: Framework-to-Animal-Genome-Editing.htm

How to apply:

Candidates are asked to provide the following information in their application:

  1. A letter of application detailing why you are applying for the job and how the project will benefit from your participation.
  2. A full cv.
  3. Contact information of two referees.
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