Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Geography

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £40,322 per annum
30 Sep 2020
End of advertisement period
30 Oct 2020
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Geography

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £40,322 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 12 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 30-Oct-2020, 7:59:00 AM

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

The Department of Geography at Durham comprises 68 academic staff (approximately equally divided between physical and human geography), a graduate school of around 100 research students, around 40 taught postgraduate students and more than 650 undergraduates. The Department is well supported with technical staff, including a cartography unit, and administrative staff.

The most recent QS rankings for Geography placed Durham 7th overall in the world, its 5th year in the top ten, and 1st for citations in the discipline. The department is recurrently ranked in the top handful of programmes in the UK by various league tables; in 2016, we were ranked 2nd in the Times Good University Guide and 3rd in both the Complete University Guide and the Guardian University Guide. The Department was graded top for research power (quality weighted by volume) in UK geography in REF 2014 and 3rd for iGPA (average score scaled by proportion of staff submitted). With 43% of work assessed as being in the highest category, it produced the largest number of world-leading (4*) publications in the country

The Role

The Department of Geography at Durham University seeks to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Association for 12 months to work on the research project Density Assemblages: Intensity and the City in a Global Urban Age (DenCity). DenCity is led by Professor Colin McFarlane and funded under the European Research Council’s (ERC) Consolidator Scheme, and runs from September 1st 2018 to February 28th 2023. The project examines how high urban densities are experienced and perceived in cities, and across multiple domains of urban life.

The successful candidate will join an existing team of two PDRAs and the PI, and will focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on how urban density is managed, perceived and experienced. This work will focus on three cities – London, New York, and Milan – through a combination of online and field research.

The aim of DenCity is to answer three questions: (1) How are high density urbanisms produced and managed in different sites in the city? (2) How are high density urbanisms known and understood within and between cities? (3) How does this focus on high density urbanism change how we understand density and its relation to the contemporary city and urban condition?

Research methods will be designed from the following suite of options: interviews, observation, surveys, follow-along methods, focus groups, and discourse analysis (of relevant policy, civil society and media/social media sources). To widen public dialogue and examine whether and how socially progressive understandings of density might be assembled, the candidate may also be required to organise small stakeholder ‘Urban density forums’ in one or more of the cities.


  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.  
  • To undertake analysis and interpretation of empirical material to produce findings that will form the basis of outputs for diverse audiences
  • To conduct literature reviews on urban density on required themes.
  • To coordinate and work with local research assistants.
  • To provide the Principal Investigator with regular updates on the progress of work.
  • To contribute to content for the website and social media to raise the profile of the project.
  • To work with the rest of the DenCity team to co-ordinate the successful management of the project and the timely production of deliverables

This post is fixed term for 12 months, given available project resource and the time limited nature of the project. Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by March 1st 2021.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

The Requirements



  • A PhD in Geography or a related subject, including for example Urban Planning, Anthropology, Sociology, Area Studies, Development Studies, Political Science, and Science & Technology Studies).


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a publishable quality as first author and to work to deadlines
  • A demonstrated record of curiosity-driven research and innovation.


  • Experience in the use of qualitative research methods, especially interviewing.
  • Knowledge or experience of other DenCity methods (particularly ethnography, follow-alongs, focus groups, and surveys).
  • Demonstrable ability to successfully prepare for and conduct independent field research.
  • Knowledge of relevant methods for analysing & interpreting qualitative data.
  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, with the ability to engage with a range of groups across a variety of forums.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience of overseeing students with respect to the development of their practical/research skills e.g. acting as a demonstrator; supervising student projects/practicals.
  • Experience in urban density debates.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.
  • Experience of online research methods.
  • Demonstratable language skills relevant for possible Milan case study.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Colin MacFarlane: colin.mcfarlane@durham.ac.uk All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;
  • A writing sample (eg published or draft academic paper).

Next Steps

 Short-listed candidates will be invited to the University and will have the opportunity to meet with members of the Department.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.

Similar jobs

Similar jobs