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Postdoctoral Research Associate in Philosophy of Science

Durham University
United Kingdom
Salary Not specified
Closing date
Aug 10, 2021

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Position Type
Faculty Positions, Humanities, Other Humanities
Employment Level
Employment Type
Full Time
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Job Details

The Role Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Researcy Associate to join 'Exploring Uncertainty and Risk in Contemporary Astrobiology', a Leverhulme Trust-funded research project led by Dr Peter Vickers, with Dr Sean McMahon, Professor Chris Greenwell, and Professor Martin Ward as Co-Investigators. The project also features a steering committee with six relevant experts: Carol Cleland, Catriona Menzies, Lynn Rothschild, Tom McCleish, Steven J. Dick, and Lee Cronin. One thing that sets the field of astrobiology apart is the degree of uncertainty compared with other fields: open questions abound, and in recent decades astrobiologists have been surprised by unanticipated developments, both theoretical and empirical. Such uncertainty generates significant disagreement in the community, even concerning the central concept of a 'biosignature'. In addition, astrobiologists are aware of the fact that some of the most important advances in the field have had surprising origins, and several projects and missions have made discoveries that were not anticipated at the planning stage or during competition for funding.

With guidance from the PI and Co-Is, the PDRA will critically analyse the spread of low/medium/high risk projects in the community, cataloguing projects and missions over the past ~20 years, and develop a strategy for improved balance of risk and reward in the field moving forward, as well as investigating how effectively risks and rewards are balanced during selected astrobiology mission operations. The work will be complemented by conducting (and eventually publishing) interviews with astrobiologists concerning their own experiences and perspectives of 'risk' and 'reward'. With the PI, the PDRA will bring the 'scientific community modelling' literature to bear on the astrobiology field. The PDRA will also be expected to: develop project publications (as sole or joint author as appropriate), attend project events including reading groups, assist with organising activities such as conferences and seminars, and help mentor the project's PhD student.

This position will come with a dedicated budget for research expenses such as travel and accommodation. This role offers an excellent opportunity for an early career scholar to develop her/his research profile as part of a multidisciplinary team.

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