PhD Candidate in Environmental Psychology in the Research Center

Trondheim, Norway
Jul 06, 2020
End of advertisement period
Aug 30, 2020
Academic Discipline
Social Sciences, Psychology
Contract Type
Full Time

About the position

There are two temporary positions available at the Department of Psychology as PhD candidates. The positions are fixed-term positions with the primary goal of qualifying for work in professional or academic research positions. The positions are part of the recently started, large national research center for environmentally friendly energy NTRANS ( and will be closely connected to the research activities in the center’s interdisciplinary research activities, especially in Research Area 1 and Research Area 5, but also in the other areas (see The two PhD projects are expected to address the following aspects:

PhD Project 1: Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) the role of citizens in a transition of the transportation system

Deep decarbonization of the transport system requires a substantial change of citizens’ behaviour and engagement in the transport sector. This includes a large number of citizen and consumer decisions related to transport such as investment in different transportation technologies with their potential lock-in (e.g., fossil engine cars, hybrid cars, battery electric cars, hydrogen cars, electric bicycles, bicycles, electric scooters,), choice of travel modes for a given trip, use of mobility services (e.g., car sharing, bus services, electric scooter rentals, bike rentals,), charging and refueling behaviour, support of transport policies, etc. Such decisions are not only affected by policies and economic conditions, but also by social influences, beliefs about costs and benefits in a broader than economic perspective, habits and routines, cultures which developed over time, lock-in situations created by earlier decisions, etc.

This complexity of citizen engagement is hard to capture with ordinary behaviour studies such as surveys, observational studies or experiments alone. Therefore, the proposed PhD project will employ a social simulation approach to build a complex agent-based model of the participation of citizens in the mobility system of a restricted region, for example Trondheim or Trøndelag, Norway. The model will incorporate a large group of relevant actors in the mobility system and will build an agent-based simulation of their decision-making, interactions, and the outcome of these decisions for the dynamic carbon impact and energy demand of the whole system.

The ABM will be based on existing psychological and mobility research, already existing mobility models, additional quantitative mobility surveys exploring drivers of different kinds of decisions, and qualitative interviews with key representatives of the mobility actors.

The model will simulate decisions such as

  • How do individual citizens make decisions about which transport technology to invest in? How are these decisions based on structural, social, economic, and psychological variables and their dynamic interactions?
  • How do individual citizens make choices about transport modes and how do these choices depend on the dynamic technical and social conditions of the system?
  • How does the aggregated decision-making of the actors lead to geographically and temporarily diverse effects for energy use, carbon intensity, and collective traffic burdens?
  • How can such a model be integrated with or linked to general models of the (local and global) energy system?

PhD Project 2: Citizen centered governance for future energy systems an application of Agent-based modelling to understand processes of activating citizen participation in governance processes

Citizen engagement will be of key importance for both managing to implement the deep societal transitions that are needed to meet climate and other environmental targets, as well as an important motor of accelerated transition speed (or an important barrier if not addressed appropriately). Just recently, the momentum of the Fridays for Future movement, but also the more disruptive approach of the Extinction Rebellion group has shown the effects different forms of citizen engagement can have to accelerate transitions. At the same time, the wind power opposition in Norway has also shown the power of engaged citizens to stop transitions in the energy system. Based on the experiences in the H2020 project SMARTEES which models five different types of social energy innovation in ten European cases, this PhD will study the conditions for citizen engagement, the power such movements can develop, empowering processes, but also marginalisation. A special focus will be put on social dynamics, interactions between people engaging in such movements and with people outside, the role of personal interaction, new and old media, disruptive events and actions, etc. Linked to this is also the perception of the future amongst citizen groups linked to how this is portrayed in media, art and movies and the role these representations play in citizen engagement in this energy transition. The growing concern for climate changes has also led to climate anxiety at an individual level, and this PhD will map/explore the circumstances in which this climate anxiety will lead to action and/or engagement, and when it will not.

The study will build on a thorough review of the literature on citizen engagement, the study of a number of cases with qualitative and quantitative methods, analysis of media communication in old and new media, the development of a social simulation of the processes behind including the dynamic development of citizen engagement under different socio-political conditions. This will be undertaken to ultimately enable policymakers to create contexts and local cultures which nurture citizen engagement in the energy transition (and the larger societal transitions the energy transition is a part of).

The PhD will have a focus on questions such as:

  • Which kind of actors will engage under which conditions, who is marginalized, who benefits?
  • Which communication structures are built? How do they sustain change, maybe even accelerate?
  • Which social dynamics contribute to citizen engagement? What are contextual conditions that need to be in place?
  • What is the impact of such movements of citizen engagement on the energy system and how can a citizen engagement model be coupled with energy system models?
  • What is the best regional or social group size for citizen engagement?
  • How do engagement processes change over time?

Main duties and responsibilities of the candidates in both projects

  • Design of data collections, including structuring of the theoretical background, development / adaptation of measurement instruments, data curation, and data analysis.
  • Conceptualization, programming, and validation of the models in NETLOGO.
  • Writing of academic papers both within psychology and in the interdisciplinary team of NTRANS
  • Presentation of the results in national and international fora and conferences as well as the NTRANS meetings
  • Collaboration with the user partners in NTRANS
  • Contribution to NTRANS position papers and joint publications
  • Dissemination of the findings to policy makers and other stakeholders

Required selection criteria

The PhD-position's main objective is to qualify for work in research positions. The qualification requirement is that you have completed a master’s degree or second degree (equivalent to 120 credits) with a strong academic background in psychology or equivalent education with a grade of B or better in terms of NTNU’s grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic foundation. If you are unable to meet these criteria you may be considered only if you can document that you are particularly suitable for education leading to a PhD degree.

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant.

Other qualifications

  • Good knowledge and experience in behavioral science, preferably within some of the following areas; environmental psychology, social psychology or cognitive psychology.
  • Methodological competence with an overall grade of at least B (or equivalent). Solid expertise with empirical work and the use of psychological research methods
  • Fluency in written and spoken English

Preferred selection criteria

  • Experience with agent-based modelling
  • Experience in interdisciplinary work
  • Experience with scientific publishing

Personal characteristics

  • Good skills to connect to people in the field
  • Ability to work in interdisciplinary and international research teams
  • Ability to overcome obstacles in field research
  • Curiosity for new methodologies and topics

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal suitability.

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 479 600 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 years without required duties.

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme inSocial Sciences with specialisation in Psychology within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

The position is subject to external funding.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution on a daily basis.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

Under the Freedom of Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

Questions about the position can be directed to Prof. Christian A. Klöckner, phone number (+47) 73591977, e-mail

About the application

The candidates are required to state which of the two PhD project they are applying for. The candidates are required to submit a motivation letter of maximum three pages with their application elaborating how the candidate’s educational profile, skills, and interests match one of the two outlines PhD projects. This motivation letter should also include a brief description of how the candidate would address the sketched research questions regarding one of the two PhD projects.

Publications and other academic works that the applicant would like to be considered in the evaluation must accompany the application. Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify the individual applicant's contribution to joint works, the applicant must include a brief description of his or her contribution.

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English or Norwegian.

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. Chinese applicants are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI).

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. Please refer to the application number SU-463 when applying.

Application deadline: 30.08.2020

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Psychology

Our research and teaching are based on five perspectives: biological, cognitive, social, personality and developmental psychology. We offer a clinical programme in psychology as well as study programmes in the psychology of learning and in work and organizational psychology. We have also three outpatient clinics in which we treat patients as part of the clinical programme. The Department of Psychology is one of seven departments in the Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences.

Deadline 30th August 2020
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Temporary
Place of service Dragvoll