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PhD Position - Policy Designs for addressing societal acceptance challenges in CCU/CCS demonstration and deployment (RESPONSE DP, ESR 23)

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

Within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847585, ETH Zurich is offering a 36-month PhD position for an early-stage researcher (ESR) in the area of sustainable energy systems.

Job description

In light of the Paris Agreement of 2015, several countries recently committed to reaching carbon neutrality within a few decades, e.g. by 2050 in the case of Switzerland. In addition to ambitious action for emission reduction, reaching this goal will likely require negative emission technologies, such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU). However, major hurdles for their deployment remain, and the feasibility of industrial-sized CCS/CCU applications remains contested. From a policy point of view, especially the economic and political feasibility need to be considered, given the immense financing needs and acceptance challenges of CCS/CCU.

Against this background, we are looking for a doctoral student working on societal acceptance and policy preferences with respect to large-scale CCS/CCU deployment. In collaboration with a larger project on CCS/CCU demonstrators at ETH Zurich, the student will use public opinion surveys, survey embedded experiments, and focus group approaches to examine: (1) public and stakeholder support for/opposition to storing or utilizing emissions abroad vs. domestically via different types of CCS/CCU to meet Swiss climate policy targets; (2) public and stakeholder preferences over different policy designs (e.g. policy packages combining voluntary and mandatory measures) for incentivizing industry and household demand for CO2 abatement via CCS/CCU; (3) policy feedback effects, i.e. how policy interventions to incentivize CCS/CCU deployment may affect public and stakeholder acceptance and thereby stickiness and ratcheting-up potential of support policies.

A planned secondment of 3 months at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s climate policy unit in Paris is part of the project. During this secondment, the doctoral student will discuss her/his preliminary findings with policy stakeholders, using the extensive network of the OECD. Under the supervision of the partner, the doctoral student will be also be trained in methods for stakeholder consultations and advisory services for policy, and hence learn practical skills that complement the academic education.

The anticipated outcomes of this project are publications in high-impact academic journals, with important results for policy advice related to CCS/CCU.

Your profile

We are looking for a candidate conducting a PhD (i.e. a cumulative PhD thesis) as part of the International Political Economy / Environmental Politics group and the Institute for Science, Technology and Policy (ISTP) at ETH Zurich. Relevant disciplinary fields include, but are not limited to: political science, political economy, sociology, social psychology, environmental sciences. You should be dedicated to scientifically rigorous work that at the same time is relevant to policy makers and financial and other stakeholders. Experience with quantitative social sciences research methods is essential. Knowledge on CCS/CCU technology, climate and energy policies, as well as relevant practical experience, e.g. in infrastructure finance, plant engineering, or energy policy is welcome. Your working style is team-oriented and you have strong communication skills. You are highly proficient in English and German; further language skills are an additional asset.

Eligibility: Early stage researcher in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, including the period of research training, starting at the date of obtaining the degree which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the initial training activities are provided.

At the time of recruitment (for call 4 = July 1, 2021) by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

RESPONSE is open to applicants of any nationality.


We are offering an interesting position at the interface of science and policy. While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment at ETH Zurich, the ESR will be jointly co-supervised by the Profs. Thomas Bernauer (ETH Zurich), Tobias Schmidt (ETH Zurich), Bjarne Steffen (ETH Zurich), and Dr. Brilé Anderson (OECD).

The complete 36 months will be under a 100% working contract.

The PhD salary follows the regulations of ETH Zurich and will be according to EU regulations for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researchers. The monthly gross salary will not be lower than CHF 3920.

The successful candidate will be matriculated and will have a working contract at ETH Zurich. He/she will work in Switzerland. The secondment will take place in France.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich Link icon


For submitting your online application: (select PhD Program Science and Policy). The online application should contain all information as indicated by the application portal. Moreover, the following documents have to be uploaded under “further documents”:

1) a letter of motivation to join a) the RESPONSE doctoral programme and b) to apply for this specific position (ESR 23), 2) a comprehensive tabular CV, 3) transcripts of records. If you apply for more than one RESPONSE position, please refer to them in your letter of motivation. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. The final deadline is July 1, 2021. If you consider applying, we also strongly encourage you to contact us early-on, please do not wait until shortly before the deadline.

For questions and further information on the position, please contact Prof. Thomas Bernauer ( early-on, no applications.

Further information

RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP): «RESPONSE - to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585. RESPONSE DP builds on the academic expertise of three world-leading institutions - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel. The successful candidate will be integrated in the research network and infrastructure of the internationally renowned competence center Energy Science Center.

All RESPONSE ESRs will follow the PSC PhD Program Science and Policy that is unique in its kind. Through the curriculum of this program, ESRs will be trained in the communication of scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public; the involvement of different stakeholder groups as well as in policy development and endorsement in Europe and at global scale.

For project, programme and application details:

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)
Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes (COFUND)

“This program receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847585”.

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