Two doctoral students in Environmental Social Science - with a focus on just urban and regional climate transitions

Ref PAR 2023/117

The University of Gothenburg tackles society’s challenges with diverse knowledge. 56 000 students and 6 600 employees make the university a large and inspiring place to work and study. Strong research and attractive study programmes attract scientists and students from around the world. With new knowledge and new perspectives, the University contributes to a better future.

Environmental Social Science (ESS) at the School of Global Studies is a new and growing interdisciplinary subject that explores questions related to environmental change and unsustainable natural resource exploitation in different parts of the world. The overarching aim of ESS is to contribute to an increased understanding of complex environmental problems through the application and development of social science theory and methodology. Currently, the 20 researchers within ESS conduct studies within a broad range of themes, including environmental governance and policy, sustainable development, climate transitions, environmental justice, traditional ecological knowledge, environmental education, political ecology, sustainable urban development, environmental conflicts and marine resource use.

Environmental Social Science at the School of Global Studies announces two doctoral positions within "Just Transitions – Swedish research school on governance for just urban and regional climate transitions", funded by Formas. Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. Many cities have formulated climate plans and goals where the concept of "justice" is also emphasized as crucial to enabling a society with low carbon dioxide emissions and high-quality living conditions and environments for all residents. However, the fields of knowledge that have so far been developed around sustainable urban climate transitions have only to a limited extent included research and practice around urban and regional justice. The purpose of the research school Just Transitions is to build knowledge and competence around how a just climate transition can be realized in a local context. Through seven doctoral projects involved in municipal and regional processes, knowledge will be developed about the prerequisites and capacities required for collaboration, governance and organization towards climate-just transitions. In transdisciplinary collaboration, the research school's doctoral students will develop their projects based on the existing and future needs of the participating public institutions and their respective disciplinary starting points. Just Transitions is based on collaboration between four public and three academic partners: the City of Gothenburg, the Västra Götaland region, the city of Linköping, the County Administrative Board of Östergötland, the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology and Linköping University, as well as with the collaboration arena Urban Futures Centrum in Gothenburg. More information about the research school is available at:

One of the doctoral students will collaborate with the City of Gothenburg's environmental unit, which is responsible for driving and coordinating the city's work with climate transitions based on the goals and strategies in the city's environmental and climate program. This work includes ensuring that the work with climate transitions also reinforces other ambitions in the city, including the goal of creating a just city. One challenge is that different areas of responsibility that need to support each other are typically run by different parts of the city and formulated in different governing documents. Another challenge is that there can be difficult goal conflicts between different areas. The doctoral student will investigate this complex situation with a focus on management and governance. The goals of the project are to contribute both to a broader understanding of these goal conflicts by analyzing the policy content of various governing documents, and to developing new working methods that can better support a just climate transition in the city.

The other doctoral student will collaborate with Västra Götaland Region, which is responsible for driving and coordinating the transition towards a more sustainable and competitive society at the regional level. This work takes place in cooperation between several regional administrations and is guided by regional strategies. The challenges are to meet the ambitions of a just climate transition, regional competitiveness and developed participation and the possibility of sustainable living environments in the entirety of Västra Götaland. This means further developing organizational forms, knowledge transfer and coordination of efforts that can counteract uneven geographical development and include the region's diversity of physical environments. Here, a variety of methods needs to be developed for working with, among other things, the location of different operations, sustainable land use, housing, infrastructure and service as well as collaboration between public actors, business and civil society. The doctoral student will investigate this complex interplay with a focus on organization and management. The aim is to contribute to a broader understanding of intra-regional differences, goal conflicts and new working methods that are needed in the region to better support a just regional climate transition.

Job duties

The purpose of undertaking doctoral studies is to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for conducting independent research within the field of Environmental Social Science. The doctoral studies comprise one year of coursework and three years of research, culminating in the production of a dissertation that makes a significant and original contribution to the research field. The knowledge and skills that are acquired during the studies should be applicable to postdoctoral research or other professional work. The position is salaried and covers four years (full-time equivalent, fixed term), beginning in August 2023. The doctoral candidate may undertake departmental duties corresponding to up to 20% of a full-time position, in which case the duration of the appointment will be extended accordingly. There are no tuition fees.

We are looking for candidates who are interested in doing research on just climate transitions in cooperation with the City of Gothenburg/Västra Götaland Region, and have knowledge of relevant social science aspects, including environmental and climate policy, management and governance, urban development, sustainable development and climate transitions.

Experience with climate transitions in the public sector, in urban development, civil society or business or through studies is a merit. The candidate must be able to perform the data collection in Swedish.


Applicants must fulfil both general and specific entry requirements. An applicant meets the general entry requirements for third-cycle studies if they have obtained (Higher Education Ordinance Ch.7, Sec.39):

  1. a degree at the second-cycle level,
  2. at least 240 Higher Education Credits, of which at least 60 must be at the second cycle level, or
  3. largely equivalent knowledge in other ways in Sweden or abroad.

An applicant meets the specific entry requirements for third-cycle studies if they have obtained (Higher Education Ordinance Ch.7, Sec.40) a degree at the second cycle level in a social and behavioral science discipline, including 30 higher education credits at either first- or second-cycle level that have an environment focus and a thesis at the second cycle with an environment focus. Applicants who have acquired largely equivalent knowledge in Sweden or abroad will also be considered to meet the specific entry requirements.


Applicants will be assessed based on the general and specific eligibility requirements and their estimated ability to benefit from the study program. The assessment places particular focus on:

  1. A research proposal (max 2,000 words including references) that presents some preliminary ideas about how the applicant envisions that their PhD work will contribute to research on the focus area indicated above. You can apply for one or both positions, but your research proposal should focus on one of them. Explain in your proposal how your project relates to the partner organization (The City or Region). The research proposal will be assessed for the applicant’s ability to formulate a research problem and his/her familiarity with and handling of methodological and theoretical issues. The research proposal should suggest a research problem (including purpose, aims and research questions) and indicate tentative ideas on theory, research design, methods, and data, as well as a provisional timeline.
  2. A Master's thesis, academic papers and/or other relevant works. These will be used to assess the applicant’s ability to formulate and delimit research tasks and analyze and present research results.
  3. A CV summarizing relevant work experience, language proficiency and other skills.
  4. Grades achieved in undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
  5. Interviews will be held with shortlisted applicants.

The applicant’s skills, experience, creativity and excellence in research are also assessed on the basis of the points above.

Decisions on the shortlist will be made latest in April and final decisions in May 2023.

The Head of Department is in charge of all admission decisions at the third-cycle level. The decision cannot be appealed.

For further information regarding the position

Merritt Polk, Professor,, +46-(0)70 454 6529.


Union representatives at the University of Gothenburg:

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.

The application must include:

  • A proposal/introduction letter of maximum 2,000 words.
  • A Master’s thesis and/or any other relevant papers or publications. Submitted texts must be written in Swedish or English. Any translated versions must be accompanied by the original text.
  • A CV.
  • Copies of diplomas and/or academic transcripts verifying that the general and specific entry requirements stated above have been met. Evidence of other relevant qualifications.
  • The names of two references and their contact information. NB! No letters of recommendation will be considered.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the application is complete. No changes or additions are allowed after the final submission date.

For questions regarding the handling of the application portal or technical problems, please contact

Closing date: March 14 2023

The University works actively to achieve a working environment with equal conditions, and values the qualities that diversity brings to its operations.

Salaries are set individually at the University.

In accordance with the National Archives of Sweden’s regulations, the University must archive application documents for two years after the appointment is filled. If you request that your documents are returned, they will be returned to you once the two years have passed. Otherwise, they will be destroyed.

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.