Social Scientist – Social change and community transitions

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Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences


£28,384 – £29,566

Closing date

Friday 25th July

We are seeking a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher to join the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group (SEGS) at the James Hutton Institute, to conduct research on the role of community-based initiatives in societal transitions to a low-carbon economy and other, related topics. The main focus of the post is to undertake data collection and analysis within the European Union FP7-funded project “Towards European Societal Sustainability” (TESS). The post will also contribute to other projects, such as the CREW Centre for Expertise on Waters, and Scottish Government-funded research on the governance and vibrancy of rural communities.

The candidate must have a PhD (or be nearing completion) in a relevant discipline (for example, psychology, sociology or human geography), with experience and a theoretical background in the areas of collective action, low carbon behaviours, community engagement, social movements and/or sustainability transitions. The successful candidate will collaborate within multi-disciplinary and multi-country teams to design and implement several research projects with both qualitative and quantitative methods.

This post is located on our Aberdeen site, with occasional requirements to travel within Scotland and throughout Europe.

Main purpose of the job

This is a new, 30-month appointment within the Social, Economic and Geographic Science Group (SEGS) for a motivated and well-organised researcher to undertake social scientific research on community-based initiatives in the context of transitions to a low-carbon society, community resilience and vibrancy, and community engagement in more general terms. The main part of the post holder’s work will be related to the EU FP7-funded project “Towards European Societal Sustainability” (TESS) in which SEGS is a partner.

The successful candidate will be responsible for a variety of activities related to the collection, analysis and interpretation of primary and potentially also secondary data, as well as working in multi-disciplinary and multi-national teams to design and implement the associated research projects.

The successful applicant will have a background in a relevant social science (e.g. psychology or sociology) and would preferably be familiar with both quantitative and qualitative methods. Experience and a strong theoretical background in the fields of collective action, low carbon behaviours, community engagement or sustainability transitions would be an asset.

Main duties of the post holder

The post holder will contribute about 60% of their time to the TESS project, working in collaboration with other social scientists at the James Hutton Institute and partner organisations across Europe.

The post holder will also work on CREW, Scotland’s Centre for Expertise on Waters, in particular, on its newly established “Sustainable Communities” theme.

The remainder of the post holder’s time will be allocated to delivering on the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research programme, in particular, to research on the governance and empowerment of rural communities, and related work in the context of climate change, as part of the Centre for Expertise on Climate Change.

More generally, the post holder will be expected to:

  • conduct research in the context of relevant projects, such as TESS, including collaborative study design, data collection and analysis
  • participate pro-actively in team-work in the context of these projects
  • both lead on and contribute to the writing of manuscripts for publication in appropriate international journals
  • contribute to knowledge exchange activities to various audiences
  • assist in preparing research proposals to appropriate funding sources.

Academic requirements

PhD (or be nearing completion) in a relevant discipline (such as sociology, psychology or human geography).

Experience required


  • Experience in qualitative or quantitative data collection methods.
  • Demonstrable experience and theoretical background in at least one of the relevant areas (collective action, low carbon behaviours, community engagement, social movement and sustainability transitions).
  • Ability to undertake research with limited supervision.
  • Strong team-working skills.


  • Experience in both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis.
  • Ability to communicate with and relate to non-academic partners and audiences.
  • Experience of working effectively in a (multidisciplinary and/or multi-country) team.

Skills required


  • Ability to relate theoretical concepts to real-world problems and vice versa.
  • Potential to publish in high quality academic journals.
  • Ability to grasp and critique abstract theories, and to structure complex conceptual ideas.
  • Ability to interact positively with stakeholders and members of the public.
  • Fit with the overall ethos of the Institute.


  • Familiarity with collection and analysis of secondary data.
  • Ability to deliver across multiple projects simultaneously.

Other specific requirements

  • Ability to work independently and, when appropriate, remotely from the office (for example, collecting data, attending meetings).
  • Ability to work under pressure.
  • Thoroughness and attention to detail.
  • Driver’s licence valid for use in the UK.


To apply please submit a covering letter and CV, (including the names and addresses of three referees one of which must be your current or most recent employer) quoting reference number Hutton/38/14 to HR Office Aberdeen, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, AB15 8QH or Closing date Friday 25 July 2014.