PhD candidate for the project, "Social Responsibility in New Digital Occupations"

Research / Academic

The PhD project is funded by an early career Starter Grant allocated to the daily supervisory team (Drs Metz & Rathert) at Tilburg University from the Dutch government’s sector funds program. 

Responsibilities are: 

  • Pro-actively planning and executing longitudinal data collection and analyses 
  • Active participation in the team involved in this project and in the Departments (e.g., by attending departmental meetings)
  • Writing international scientific publications and practitioner documents, as well as a PhD thesis
  • Presenting at national and international scientific conferences and disseminating findings to non-scientific audiences (e.g., organizations developing technology)
  • Teaching and supervision (e.g., supervision of bachelor theses, max 0.2 FTE)

Project context - Understanding the role of occupations in addressing the social responsibilities and consequences of digital technologies

We live in an era of “increasingly pervasive digital technologies, which penetrate deeply into the very core of the products, services, and operations of many organizations and radically change the nature of product and service innovations. 1). For society, digital technologies potentially also entail unintended and/or undesirable consequences, which researchers work to understand. However, the mid-level actors (occupations) involved in leading the development of digital technologies, and how they interpret and act on the social consequences of these technologies, is relatively understudied. For example, whether membership in an occupation affords individuals’ norms and values that informally govern ethical product development, such as attending to diversity in software teams, testing software for bias, or considering the broader and societal outcomes when developing a feature. A focus on the role of mid-level organizational actors and the occupations to which they belong will be crucial for understanding whether organizations can address the social consequences of digital technologies.

Project description

In this project, we examine how Product Owners conceptualize and attend to the social consequences of the technologies they develop. We focus on this occupation as a relatively recent, yet increasingly institutionalized occupation with its own set of established practices and certifications that operates at the interface of technology and stakeholder management. 2). While originating from the tech industry in terms of norms, values, and practices, this occupation is especially confronted with leading software development projects that not only ‘do no harm,’ but potentially have positive societal outcomes as well.

  1. Yoo, Y., Boland, R.J., Lyytinen, K., & Majchrzak, A. 2012. Organizing for innovation in the digitized world. Organization Science, 23(5): 1398-1408.
  2. An example of a Product Owner is a person who manages the development of a smartphone app by interfacing with business, design and technology development teams, as well as marketing and senior management. A Product Owner’s stakeholders involve business units, as well as app users, and others such as patients.

Project aim:

We seek to understand to what extent, how and why product owners perceive and enact social objectives and responsibilities, and the organizational and institutional factors that induce variation in these practices. The overarching research question will be addressed through three distinct yet interrelated subprojects. 

  • Charting a research agenda on digital occupations and social responsibilities. 
  • A qualitative comparative examination of how product owners a) conceptualize social responsibilities and objectives and b) how they orchestrate/coordinate the integration of social objectives in their organization and with outside stakeholders. 
  • A quantitative assessment of variation in how product owners integrate social responsibilities/objectives


  • This project involves longitudinal and nested comparative case studies, thus affinity for qualitative data collection methods (including interviews and observations) and data analysis as well as theory building, are essential. 
  • The project also includes developing and administering a quantitative survey, for which basic survey design and statistical analysis, or willingness to learn, are required.


We look for a highly motivated, inquisitive, enthusiastic, pro-active, and result-driven PhD student. Applicants must have a relevant MSc degree (preferably a research master), for example in management, organization studies or information technology (Open to sociology and other related disciplines).  

  • General interest in technology development as an empirical setting (technical software development experience is not required) and changes brought about by new technology 
  • Creative and open thinking (e.g. ability to listen to and react to insights from the field, instigate the involvement of new emerging concepts, rather than solely imposing one’s own views)
  • Interest in conducting high-quality research on the intersection between organization and management studies, digitalization social responsibility
  • Experience with technology development settings is an asset
  • Pro-active learning attitude and ability to work independently
  • Excellent research skills and data analytical abilities, including at least basic knowledge of both qualitative and quantitative research methods and statistical programs (e.g., STATA, SPSS or R), along with the willingness to develop and learn
  • Excellent project management and organization skills 
  • Excellent communication and cooperation skills and the willingness to work in a team 
  • Proficiency in English and advanced English writing skills 
  • Interest in providing small-scale education, such as working groups and bachelor thesis supervision. 

Salary Benefits:

The PhD candidate will be employed by Tilburg University, which is among the top of the Dutch employers and has an excellent policy concerning terms of employment. The appointment is intended to lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. The PhD appointment begins with a period of 12 months. Continuation of the appointment with another 36 months will be based on performance evaluation (4 year total). The gross salary for the PhD position amounts to € 2.541,- per month in the first year, rising to € 3.247,- per month in the fourth year, based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week).

Work Hours:

32 - 40 hours per week


Warandelaan 2