PostDoc - Astrobiology & Science Communication

Leiden University
March 15, 2023
Offerd Salary:Salary ranges from € 2.960 – € 4
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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The Faculty of Science invites applicants for the position of

PostDoc - Astrobiology & Science Communication. Vacancy number: 23-094

Project description Astrobiology headlines in mainstream news outlets have become increasingly common in recent years. In particular one notable headline was published in 2020 was the announcement of the "detection" of phosphine molecules in the upper atmosphere of Venus. The paper, originally published in Nature Astronomy, made the bold and exciting claim that the presence of phosphine serves as a potential indicator of life. Major news outlets jumped at the opportunity to report this exciting discovery. However, a couple of days later, the claim was refuted by researchers, causing a stir within the research and media communities. What are the lessons learned from this case study in the context of public communication of science & technology? How can we improve the communication of astrobiology research results?

This research project will examine the media's role in effective science communication and their contribution to the public understanding of the origin of life and astrobiology. It will also provide a toolkit (framework, guidelines and best practices) for communicating ground-breaking results to the media and broader public.

This project will be supervised by Pedro Russo, Assistant Professor of Astronomy & Society and head of the Astronomy & Society Group, Ionica Smeets, professor of Science Communication and head of the group Science Communication and Society within the Institute of Biology (IBL). You will also work with colleagues from Leiden Observatory, IBL, Origin Center, University of Amsterdam and ELSI, Tokyo, Japan

Key responsibilities In this project, you will examine the media's role in effective science communication and their contribution to the public understanding of the origin of life and astrobiology. It will also provide a toolkit (framework, guidelines and best practices) on communicating ground-breaking results to the media and broader public. The research will focus on retrospective quantitative and qualitative content analysis of relevant press releases and newspapers in the Netherlands (NRC, de Volkskrant, De Telegraaf) and some specific internationally relevant newspapers such as the Guardian and the New York Times.

Selection Criteria

  • PhD in Astrobiology, Science Communication, Media Studies or similar with a minor, specialisation or elective courses on science communication, science & technology studies, innovation studies, communication research, media studies or other relevant directions;
  • You bring excellent social skills enabling you to work in a growing interdisciplinary field;
  • You have strong communication skills and fluency in English and Dutch;
  • Research at our faculty of Science The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are committed to expand fundamental knowledge by curiosity and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to make a contribution to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

    The research carried out at the Faculty of Science 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 2,800 staff and over 6,000 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. Leiden Observatory, the astronomy department of Leiden University, is leading or involved in several important European and global science communication and educational programmes in astronomy.

    For more information, see https: // www. and https: // www.

    Terms and conditions The starting date is ideally between May and July 2023.

    We offer a full-time, one year term position.

    Salary ranges from € 2.960 – € 4.670 gross per month (pay scale 10 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. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

    All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Science https: // www. science. Our graduate school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training and personal effectiveness. In addition, advanced courses to deepen scientific knowledge are offered by the research school

    Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

    Information Enquiries can be made to Dr Pedro Russo ([email protected])

    Applications To apply for this vacancy, please submit the documents through: https: // . Please ensure that you add the following additional documents :

    A short motivation (max one page) on why you would like to join our group and how your research interests and background fit this topic.

    A Curriculum Vitae.

    Contact details of two persons that can provide a reference if requested.

    Timeline Only applications received before 15 March 2023 can be considered.

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