PhD Candidate: Philosophy of Science: Causal Inquiry in the Social Sciences

Research / Academic

Are you a creative and independent thinker and passionate about analytic philosophy of science? Are you interested in exploring how social scientists uncover causes and effects in the social world? And do you hold (or are close to obtaining) a Master's in Philosophy or a related field? If so, apply as a PhD candidate!

In this PhD project, you will critically study causal mechanisms in the social sciences. The project is suitable for a candidate with a strong background in philosophy of science and a proven interest or experience in social scientific research (such as political science, international relations studies, sociology, or educational research). You will be able to shape the project in a way that matches your interests and background.

Why did the Hungarian democracy backslide? Why do some women perform worse on standardised math tests? Increasingly, social scientists frame questions like these as queries about causal mechanisms. Thus, political scientists claim that ‘polarisation’ is a causal mechanism undermining the Hungarian democracy, and sociologists claim that ‘stereotype threat’ is a causal mechanism behind the worse performance of some women on standardised math tests. While social scientists cannot formulate exceptionless laws that tell them when democratic backsliding or poor academic performance will occur, many believe they can explain and/or predict instances of these phenomena by discovering case-specific mechanisms. These mechanisms, they argue, can open the ’black box’ of correlational research by showing how a putative cause led to an effect of interest. But how and in what sense can one speak sensibly about causal mechanisms in the heterogeneous, ever evolving, complex social world?

You will participate in relevant conferences, workshops and seminars, and communicate your findings through publications in proceedings and peer-reviewed journals. In addition to your research, you will have a standard 10% teaching load to help you develop your teaching skills and further qualify for a career as an independent academic researcher. You will also have the opportunity to further develop your skill set by attending courses that are relevant for your project and general development.

This PhD project will be funded by a starter grant awarded by the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies to Dr Rosa W. Runhardt, Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Science, specialist in causal inference and measurement in the social sciences. In this project, Dr Runhardt will also be your daily supervisor. Furthermore, Dr Harmen Ghijsen will be your secondary supervisor and Prof. Marc Slors will be your PhD supervisor (promotor).


  • You hold or are about to obtain a Master's degree in Philosophy or a field related to the project.
  • You are a highly motivated, passionate, critical, and creative thinker who wants to grow as a scholar.
  • You have a demonstrable affinity with and/or experience in the social sciences, such as sociology, political science, international relations studies, or educational research.
  • You are self-organised, proactive, and able to work independently, but enjoy engaging in scientific discussions and are open to providing and receiving feedback.
  • You possess excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.

Salary Benefits:

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (0.8 FTE 5- year contract - 1.0 FTE 4- year contract) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract) or 3.5 years (5-year contract).
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20.

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Work Hours:

30.4 - 38 hours per week


Houtlaan 4