Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Anthropology

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 per annum
05 Aug 2021
End of advertisement period
14 Oct 2021
Academic Discipline
Social Sciences, Geography, Sociology
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Anthropology

Grade 7: - £33,797 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 24 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 03-Sep-2021, 6:59:00 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 in 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 Anthropology Department at Durham University has an outstanding international reputation for teaching, research and student employability. We are one of the largest Anthropology Departments in the UK, with nearly 40 permanent academic staff working across social, evolutionary and health anthropology. We provide an intellectually inclusive environment, fostering the academic freedom and confidence to work at both the core and boundaries of anthropology in exciting and innovative ways.

The Department of Anthropology has a vibrant research culture, with many visitors, seminars, global conferences and workshops. We provide an intellectually inclusive environment, fostering the academic freedom and confidence to work at both the core and boundaries of anthropology in exciting and innovative ways. We were the top-ranked integrated Anthropology department in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014); fifth in the UK for overall GPA (Times Higher Education); first equal for world-leading and internationally excellent Impact and Research Environment, and second equal for world-leading publications.

Each year, we welcome over 100 undergraduate students onto our single honours programmes with their flagship residential field course and ~30 students onto our joint honours degrees with the Department of Archaeology and the Department of Sociology. Our postgraduate taught and research degrees attract ~70 students from around the world each year.

Above all, we are an inclusive Department; Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are at the heart of everything we do. We have a bronze Athena Swan award, recognising and celebrating good practice in recruiting and supporting the development of women. We have signed up to the Race Equality Charter, a national framework for improving the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education. We have a very active decolonisation group (DAWG – Decolonising Anthropology Working Group), bringing together students and staff.

The Role

The GEMS research project aims to critically assess all aspects of re-using our abandoned, flooded coal mines as source for sustainable heat extraction and storage for homes and businesses in the UK. This project will provide optimized solutions to the technical, social, and financial challenges of introducing mine geothermal energy as a green and sustainable heat source. It is funded by EPSRC to begin in September 2021 and is an interdisciplinary project led by Professor Jeroen van Hunen in the department of Earth Sciences, and associated with the Durham Energy Institute.

The regulatory and financial aspects of mine-water geothermal heating (MWGH) system may pose significant challenges. The aim of this position is to map and analyse the current governance framework for (MWGH) in England and Wales with special attention on intersecting regulatory and procedural systems, and to identify investors and vested interests in the sector. The researcher will also investigate local impacts of potential MWGH schemes among diverse parties. Findings will be summarized in a briefing paper on the topic, providing recommendations for enabling reform and coordination.

Introducing a geothermal heat system in a local community involves several significant infrastructure changes to those communities. Hence, one of the aims of this project is to ensure that local community participation is integrated with project design from the start, by using action-research techniques, exchanging information through local and online exhibitions, and by creating dialogue with local communities, public authorities and miners' associations.

The research carried out by the person appointed to this position will contribute to Work Package 3 of the project. WP3 addresses the governance, investment and narratives associated with MWGH, and how it can contribute to a ‘just’ energy transition through studying its socio-economic value and the impact of government policies. Given the divergent legal and governance frameworks across the UK, WP3 focuses on England and Wales. Findings will be tested against a detailed study on County Durham as a framework for analysis of regulation, financial structures and public understanding of MWGH, with a possible comparative case study area in the South Wales former coalfields, where MWGH is also being developed. WP3 will include two PDRA positions, this one focused on the policy, regulation and local implementation of MWGH, including working with local communities and public authorities to explore how transformation of a legacy (redundant mines) might be recast as a novel renewable resource. A separate position will be advertised that focuses on the socio-economic and labour market impacts of MWGH.

The PDRA will work with Professor Simone Abram in the department of Anthropology and Dr Anna Hicks at the NERC British Geological Survey division of earth hazards and observatories. The position is funded for 24 months.


  • 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 be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.
  • 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 carry out a review of current regulation and policy-relevant to MWGH in England and Wales.
  • To carry out one or two in-depth case studies, using mixed ethnographic methods and working with a range of actors with interests in MWGH. This may include residents living near MWGH sites and former mining communities, investors, planners, developers, environmental groups, and other interested parties. Local institutions, such as local authority offices and Miners’ associations, and national institutions, such as the Coal Authority and government offices will be relevant instances.
  • To contribute to a ‘white paper’ on community commercialisation options for MWGH, a briefing paper on the regulatory landscape for MWGH, and recommendations for reform and coordination to be presented to the all-party parliamentary group for energy studies and/or renewable energy.
  • To contribute to an online exhibition to disseminate findings and academic publications on ‘new narratives of MWGH for sustainable futures’.
  • To work cooperatively with other members of the project group, including a PDRA in the Business School, and communicate effectively with the full interdisciplinary group of researchers.
  • To review and analyse the social issues related to geothermal minewater heating.

This post is fixed-term for 24 months based on the available funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1 September 2021.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Professor S Abram (simone.abram@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 
  • Covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;

Next Steps

 The assessment for the post will include an interview.  Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview and assessment in July/August.

The Requirements 



  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in Social Anthropology, Sociology, Human Geography or a field related to environmental governance and planning


  • Experience in conducting high-quality academic qualitative (preferably ethnographic) research from inception to publication, including online and in-person methods.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national/international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Ability to analyse regulatory and policy materials.
  • Familiarity with infrastructure research literatures.
  • Experience of inter-disciplinary research, including the ability to communicate across disciplinary field.
  • Experience of working collaboratively with non-university partners, in particular local authorities and community organisations. 
  • Familiarity with environmental regulation and policy in England and Wales.


  • 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, and in cooperation with peers and senior colleagues.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.



  • 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 comparative international research.
  • Knowledge of/experience of a research field relating to geothermal, abandoned mines and mining communities.
  • Familiarity with post-mining issues.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 
  • Ability to organise multi-party workshops for research and impact

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.