Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Three PhD Positions in Climate Change Politics; Environmental Governance, Utrecht University

Application deadline: 14 March 2021

Utrecht University has opened three new full-time four-year positions for doctoral (PhD) Researchers in the field of climate change politics and environmental governance. The three doctoral Researchers will become part of a major new research project investigating adverse societal reactions to domestic climate policy being led by Dr James Patterson. The project, titled “Climate Backlash: Contentious Reactions to Policy Action (BACKLASH)”, runs over 5 years (2021-2026), and is funded by the European Research Council (ERC).

The core aim of the BACKLASH project is to understand contentious reactions to ambitious climate policy. While there are increasing calls for ambitious climate change policy, when it is actually taken, it can trigger strong pushback (e.g. protests, policy rollbacks). Addressing this challenge is crucial for realising transformative climate action that actually works. This research will advance our knowledge of policy-society relations, and help find new ways of addressing contentious public good problems in contemporary governance.

The three doctoral Researchers will play a key role within the overall BACKLASH project by comparatively studying responses to climate policy in various locations, using various methods. The foci of the three projects are as follows:

  • Project 1: Patterns of response to climate policy in OECD countries.
  • Project 2: Post-adoption politics of climate policy (e.g. Australia, Canada).
  • Project 3: Social movements and their outcomes in climate politics (e.g. France, United Kingdom).

The three doctoral Researchers will work closely together under the supervision of Dr Patterson and other individual project supervisors/promoters throughout the entire four-year period. The BACKLASH project adopts a team-based approach where the doctoral Researchers have a key role and responsibility for helping to collaboratively deliver the project’s objectives. At the same time, you should be willing to bring your own conceptual and empirical innovation to the project in order to build your independent research skills and outlook. As one of our doctoral Researchers you will be well-supported through supervision, training courses, funding to attend conferences and workshops, and involvement in global research networks, to ensure your success and develop your career trajectory.


  • Master’s degree (or equivalent) in political science, policy studies, public administration, sociology, environmental studies, or a related discipline;
  • Research focus and/or interest in relevant fields (e.g. governance, policy, sustainability) with an interdisciplinary orientation;
  • strong quantitative or qualitative skills, matching the project/s for which you apply;
  • strong interest in theories and concepts;
  • strong analytical skills and attention to detail;
  • willingness and interest to develop new methodological skills;
  • ability to communicate complex information, and to interact effectively with both elite and lay participants and audiences;
  • ability and enthusiasm to work both independently and as part of a larger team;
  • willingness to travel internationally for fieldwork, conferences, training, and research exchange;
  • strong English language skills (written and verbal), as well as skills in other relevant languages will be an asset;
  • intellectual curiosity and motivation to address important real-world problems through rigorous and ambitious academic enquiry.

> More information

Tuesday 16 February 2021