Postdoctoral Research Associate in Sociology

Durham, United Kingdom
£35,333 - £42,155 per annum
04 Aug 2022
End of advertisement period
26 Aug 2022
Academic Discipline
Social Sciences, Sociology
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Sociology

Grade 7: - £35,333 - £42,155 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 26-Aug-2022, 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 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 Sociology was established in 1964 initially as a Department of Social Theory and Institutions. The Department delivers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Sociology, Criminology and Social Work and supports the delivery of a faculty research methods programme as part of the collaborative NINEDTP. The Department’s research strategy is built around four themes: Communities and Social Justice, Health and Social Theory, Higher Education and Social Inequality and Violence and Abuse.

The Role

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in computational social science. This position requires strong programming and quantitative skills with an interest in social science. The successful applicant will be working in a small team funded by the MRC to develop algorithms to generate synthetic social networks for simulation projects. The principal investigator for the project is Dr Jennifer Badham.

Simulations have been used throughout the COVID-19 epidemic to adjust social distancing measures in a careful balance between hospital capacity and the economic impact of restricting activities. Simulations are able to guide policy because they can combine theoretical processes with current data to construct justified stories about plausible futures.

Big data initiatives have made it relatively straightforward to include schools, transport and other infrastructure into these simulations. Similarly, census data can be used to construct synthetic households with simulated people who go to work or school or leisure activities. What is missing, however, is similar resolution data about social networks. This project will develop methods to build synthetic social networks that reproduce structural properties that we know are important in real social networks, like mutual friends.

The successful applicant will be expected to: conceive, design and implement network modelling algorithms under supervision; collaborate effectively with other researchers on the project and more broadly; communicate research findings to other researchers, through conference and journal publications.


  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the research team
  • 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 
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator 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.

This post is fixed term until 31 August 2025. This position is funded by a grant that ends on 31/08/25.

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 1st November 2022.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Jennifer Badham at jennifer.badham@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;

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include a short presentation and formal interview. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment in August.

The Requirements


  1. Qualifications
    • A good first degree in any social science with a substantial quantitative component, computer science, data science, or any quantitative discipline.
    • A PhD (or be close to submission) in computational social science, complexity methods or a related subject.
  2. Experience
    • 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.
    • Experience in social network analysis
  3. Skills
    • 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.
    • Excellent computer programming skills in R, Python, Julia or any other language suitable for data science applications.


  1. Experience
    • 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
    • Demonstrable ability to work effectively in multidisciplinary research teams.
    • Experience of high-performance or cloud computing (i.e. AWS) platforms.
  2. Skills
    • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 
    • Knowledge of some existing methods for generating synthetic social networks.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.