PhD Artificial intelligence for tracking the politics of climate change adaptation

Research / Academic

A highly motivated PhD student on the interface of artificial intelligence and climate action.
Keen to further develop artificial intelligence approaches to enhance climate action? Always wondered why governments are typically reluctant to track their implementation of climate action? Curious about the political dynamics that shape how governments around the globe are (not) adapting to climate change? Then this PhD project on using artificial intelligence methods for analyzing the politics of tracking climate change adaptation could be a great fit!

This PhD position is part of the NWO-VIDI project led by Dr Robbert Biesbroek (Public Administration and Policy group) entitled “High ambitions, (s)low implementation? The politics of tracking adaptation to climate change (2023-2027).

Background of the program: Adapting to the impacts of climate change is necessary and increasingly urgent. Governments across the globe have increasingly formulated high adaptation ambitions to become more climate resilient. In order to understand if these ambitions are implemented in practice, tracking progress on adaptation is of critical importance. This program aims to develop, theorize and empirically test the causes and consequences of the politics of adaptation tracking. Adopting a comparative approach, the program investigates the political dynamics around the Global Stocktake under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, the EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and ongoing climate change adaptation developments in several countries from across the globe. In the program mixed methods are used, combining traditional methods of expert interviews, observations and focus group discussions, with machine learning and quantitative text analysis to analyze the politics of adaptation tracking.

The program takes a solutions-oriented perspective by co-designing politically sensitive intervention pathways with practitioners. It provides concrete evidence-based insights where and how to intervene in policy processes in order to accelerate the design and execution of adequate and effective frameworks on adaptation tracking.

There are two PhD positions in this NWO-VIDI program. The position in this call will focus on using Artificial Intelligence methods to track the politics of tracking climate change adaptation. The other PhD position will focus on conceptualizing and empirically investigating the politics of adaptation tracking using a primarily a qualitative approach.

For this PhD position “Artificial intelligence for tracking the politics of climate change adaptation”, you will:

  • Employ state-of-the art machine learning tools to develop evidence maps on what is already known about the politics of tracking policy for climate and other sustainability challenges
  • Develop and apply natural language processing methods to analyze the politics of tracking adaptation to climate change from a variety of sources (media, policy documents, minutes, speeches, etc.) at national and global levels
  • Co-organize and participate in workshops on the politics of adaptation tracking
  • Lead the development of 4 scientific publications which form the basis of your
    PhD dissertation. You will also be involved in developing program-level publications
    (as co-author)
  • Present your work at (inter)national scientific conferences and/or symposia


  • Completed MSc degree in computational social sciences, computer science, artificial intelligence or a relevant MSc with a quantitative focus (e.g. political science, public administration, sustainability science)
  • Excellent programming skills (R or Python)
  • Experience in use of natural language processing tools (e.g. social network analysis, sentiment analysis, topic modelling, etc.) and working with large volumes of textual data. Experience with Deep Learning language models will be a plus.
  • Ability to collaborate in an interdisciplinary setting as the team is consisting of qualitative and quantitative scientists from the social and environmental sciences.
  • Excellent spoken and written English required for scientific publishing. If your native language is not English and you do not hold a degree from an institution in which English is the language of instruction, you must submit proof of English proficiency from either TOEFL (minimum total score of 100) or IELTS (minimum total score of 7.0).
  • Demonstrable interest in political dynamics, particularly in the context of sustainability challenges.

The Team
This PhD position is part of the NWO-VIDI project led by Dr Robbert Biesbroek (Public Administration and Policy group) entitled “High ambitions, (s)low implementation? The politics of tracking adaptation to climate change (2023-2027). In addition to the other PhD candidate in this program, you will collaborate in Dr Biesbroek’s research lab with ~10 other postdocs, PhD candidates, and research assistants working on climate change related topics. For this project you will also collaborate with Prof. Dr. Ioannis Athanasiadis (Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, Wageningen University) who will act as the second promotor in this PhD project.

Salary Benefits:

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770,- per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. Additionally, a contract for 0.8 FTE can be discussed.

We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.
Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

Work Hours:

38 hours per week