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The School of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg produces top-quality research, teaching, and public engagement on today’s key global challenges. The staff of over 100 faculty and PhD researchers examines global questions and their governance in disciplines and areas such as environmental studies, human ecology, sustainability, international relations, peace and security, and development studies as well as in anthropology, regional studies, cultural heritage, gender, human rights, and migration. The School’s work is highly international, cross-disciplinary, and policy-relevant.

The School of Global Studies (SGS) at the University of Gothenburg invites applications for a two-year 40% associate researcher position. The position forms part of a research project led by Professor Merritt Polk entitled: ‘Engaging with wicked problems: Boundary spaces in Swedish planning and their contribution to promoting sustainable transitions’.

Project description

Serious planning problems still persist in Sweden despite years of initiatives targeting their resolution. Such ‘wicked’ problems are characterized by causal complexity often with broad temporal and spatial reach, a high degree of politization and uncertainty, and the involvement of multiple agencies and societal actors. One approach to handling such problems is through discrete platforms, boundary spaces, that are designed to enable different forms of collaboration.  If boundary spaces are promoted as a viable solution to wicked problems, then we need a better understanding of how such spaces work, and how can they be designed to increase their effectiveness. This project will contribute to this understanding through a transdisciplinary investigation of four examples of boundary spaces dealing with wicked problems in Swedish planning on: urban justice, urban safety, integration and large-scale urban transformation. It applies a transdisciplinary approach, which combines an analysis of the complexities of wicked problems, the spatial dimension of boundaries and boundary spaces, and the homelessness of their results, with an evaluation of their outputs, outcomes and impact. The case study analysis forms the basis of an innovative learning platform, where involved practitioners and researchers through deep learning, together develop strategies and tools to increase the ability of boundary spaces to contribute to sustainable transitions. 

The associate researcher will work in the programme to increase knowledge specifically about the spatial dimensions of boundary spaces and how they can be designed to more effectively deal with the complexities of wicked problems within urban planning processes. Drawing on urban studies, organizational studies, and transdisciplinary approaches, this project combines an interdisciplinary analysis of the boundary spaces with a transdisciplinary research approach

Subject area

Human Ecology

Specific subject description

Research in human ecology is problem-driven and relates to contemporary global challenges, such as climate change, urban planning, loss of biodiversity, and exploitation of natural resources.

Job particulars

Within the project the associate researcher will: (a) contribute to theoretical and methodological development of a spatial analysis of boundary spaces and their connections to societal impact on wicked problems (b) take responsibility for and participate in two case studies of boundary spaces in Sweden; (c) conduct interviews and field work; (d) author single and joint publications. The project includes funds for fieldwork as well as presentations at academic conferences.


The applicant must have a Master’s or Professional degree in human ecology, Architecture and/or comparable field with a specialization in spatial practices. They must also have documented practical experience of transdisciplinary research from an urban perspective, national as well as international.


Applications will be judged against the primary criteria of: (a) theoretical and empirical knowledge of urban planning and research within the project subject area (b) documented experience in transdisciplinary approaches on urban transitions (c) full fluency in spoken and written English and Swedish; (d) capacity to work independently and in a research team; and (e) ability to communicate research findings to societal audiences beyond academia.

Terms of employment

The position involves 40% employment over 2 years placed at the School of global studies, Gothenburg. Interviews will be held in early December. The starting date is January 1, 2022.


Please include the following mandatory information with your application:

  • Your contact details and personal data
  • Motivation letter describing your interest in and suitability for the position
  • CV, including degrees and other completed courses, work experience, and a complete list of publications, your language skills, your highest degree
  • Copy of your MA diploma or Professional degree

For further information regarding the position

Please contact Professor Merritt Polk +46 704546529,


Union representatives at the University of Gothenburg:

Information for International Applicants

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How to apply

In order to apply for a position at the University of Gothenburg, you have to register an account in our online recruitment system. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the application is complete in accordance with the instructions in the job advertisement, and that it is submitted before the deadline of December 7 2021. The selection of candidates is made on the basis of the qualifications registered in the application. Any documents that are not available in electronic format should be mailed in 2 copies to: University of Gothenburg, Andrea Iriarte, School of Global Studies, Box 700, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden. Clearly quote reference number PAR 2021/1540 when sending complementary documents. Applications should be written in English.

Closing date: 2021-12-07 


The University of Gothenburg promotes equal opportunities, equality and diversity.

Salary is determined on an individual basis.

Applications will be destroyed or returned (upon request) two years after the decision of employment has become final. Applications from the employed and from those who appeal the decision will not be returned.


In connection to this recruitment, we have already decided which recruitment channels we should use. We therefore decline further contact with vendors, recruitment and staffing companies.