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Postdoctoral Researcher Philosophy/STS

We are looking for a postdoctoral researcher, with a background in philosophy and/or ethics of technology/STS, who will actively contribute to the NWO-MVI project ‘The Role and Responsibilities of Public Actors in Distributed Networks. Transparency, Trust and Legitimacy by Design.’ As part of our interdisciplinary project team, you will carry out research and take the lead in developing and managing activities aimed at responsible innovation. Currently, the government is developing blockchain applications to improve its services, which might lead to complexity and uncertainty about government responsibilities or the optimal design of rules. Therefore, this project investigates how distributed technologies can be designed in a transparent and legitimate way, so that citizens can trust the government.

18 dagen geleden


Warandelaan, Tilburg, Noord-Brabant
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
40 - 40 uur
€ 3637 - € 4978 per maand


A.    General NWO-MVI project 
The project of 4.5 years received funding (750.000 EUR) as part of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Innoveren (MVI) program ‘Responsible Innovation. Designing for public values in a digital world’, a cooperation between NWO, the municipality of The Hague and the Dutch ministries of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Security and Justice. Moreover, the project is co-financed by the active cooperation of seven private partners and five public partners. The establishment of this triple-helix consortium provides unique opportunities for the research to have societal impact and valorization deliverables. For more information on the project, consortium and valorization panel, see: https://www.nwo-mvi.nl/nl/project/blockchain-network-society-search-transparency-trust-and-legitimacy.

B.    Postdoctoral project 
The postdoctoral researcher based at Tilburg University will actively contribute to the NWO-MVI project planned scientific and valorization deliverables. The researcher will take an active role in managing the day-to-day operations of the project and will actively keep in touch with the other consortium members. 

This postdoc research project will investigate how values change due to blockchain applications mediating the relation of public actors and citizens and how this mediation shapes trust. This research will take an empirically-informed approach and focus on two case-studies (mentioned above). We plan to conduct semi-structured interviews for both case-studies. The assumption is that citizens develop normative ideas concerning the distributed technologies they interact with as well as about the public and private actors these technologies connect them with. These first-person perspectives do not necessarily align with the values and ideas initially put forth by the technology and involved actors. It is the hypothesis that value clashes might negatively impact trust building. 

In close collaboration with the legal (for which a PhD will be hired) and technical orientated sub-projects, the postdoc’s research is dedicated to informing the design of distributed technologies in order to translate and embed the rule of law values in a way that they consider the observed experiences, values, and interests of end-users. 

Further information A. and B., see below or https://www.tiu.nu/16685



Tilburg University believes that academic excellence is achieved through the combination of outstanding research and education in which social impact is made by sharing knowledge. In doing so, we recognize that excellence is not only achieved through individual performance, but mostly through team effort in which each team member acts as a leader connecting people. 

Applicants must:

  • Hold a Ph.D. in philosophy, science and technology studies (STS), or a related field;
  • Have experience in (interdisciplinary) research, which is apparent from publications in highly ranked academic journals, presentations at international scientific conferences, and other academic activities;
  • Possess expertise relevant to the project (e.g., in postphenomenology/theory of mediation, impact assessment methodologies, responsible innovation);
  • Possess expertise or at least show a (research) interest in and willingness to develop knowledge of distributed ledger technology (blockchain) and rule-based algorithms (smart contracts);
  • Have knowledge and experience in conducting empirical research (e.g., conducting interviews, focus groups, ethnographic fieldwork, …) 
  • Be able and willing to work in an interdisciplinary research team and triple helix consortium, and undertake teaching and project tasks in parallel to the research.
  • Be proactive and accountable, able to prioritize across responsibilities, and manage varied commitments.
  • Have strong management skills;
  • Have excellent interpersonal, as well as strong and effective communication skills.
  • Have excellent communication skills in Dutch, given the Dutch case studies, and English, both orally and in writing.
  • Be available to start working in September 2020.
  • Be committed to integrate in the environment provided by the Department LTMS and Tilburg Law School.


Tilburg University offers excellent terms of employment. We believe flexibility, development, and good employee benefits are very important. We make clear agreements on career paths and offer all kinds of facilities and schemes to maintain an optimum balance between work and private life. Tilburg University also fosters diversity & inclusion; that is why we pursue an active policy for inclusive teams where diverse talents can flourish. 

The starting gross salary varies between €3,637 and €4,978 per month (full time) based on scale 11 of the Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities. Tilburg University actively promotes equal and transparent salary between men and women by strictly applying predetermined parameters based on the candidate’s experience. Employees recruited from abroad may be eligible for the 30% tax facility- this means that 30% of your salary will be paid as a tax-free reimbursement.

Tilburg University offers you an employment agreement for a fixed period of 4 years and 1.0 fte (40 hours per week). 

You are entitled to a holiday allowance amounting to 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% of your gross yearly income. If you work 40 hours per week, you receive 41 days of paid recreational leave per year.

Please visit Working at Tilburg University for more information on our employment conditions.

Additional information

The project is led by dr. Jurgen Goossens (Public Law and Governance Department).
Dr. Esther Keymolen (Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society) is co-leader of the project, and dr. Damian Tamburri (Jheronimus Academy of Data Science) complements the initial project team.

The project focuses on complexity due to hyper-connectivity of public and private actors when exercising public tasks using distributed ledger technologies, such as blockchain. In order to solve pressing societal issues, public actors increasingly exercise public authority through network governance together with private actors, resulting in complex public-private relationships. Additionally, the increasing interest of public actors in blockchain technologies to mediate public-private relationships, enlarges this complexity, bringing forth three fundamental problems:

Public values of the rule of law such as foreseeability, transparency and reason-giving do not necessarily align with values in network governance such as efficiency and scalability, resulting in value conflicts.

  • Due to unclear rules and value conflicts citizens might experience vulnerability and uncertainty, negatively impacting the trust relationship with their government.
  • The increased use of private actors and distributed technologies to exercise public authority may cause uncertainty for citizens in terms of legal protection. 

The project aim is to answer the following questions: 

  1. Which value conflicts arise when public authority is exercised through distributed technologies;
  2. What are the rule of law conditions necessary to steer the role and responsibilities of public actors using distributed technologies? 

The project takes an interdisciplinary design approach and analyses two case studies (granting government subsidies via blockchain-based smart contracts and the CJIB Financial Emergency Brake blockchain pilot based on zero-knowledge proof technology and self-sovereign identity to help people in debt pay their fines by signaling inability to pay in a timely fashion). 

Combining expertise from philosophy, law, and computer science, this project rethinks and operationalizes the rule of law values to achieve ‘transparency, trust and legitimacy by design. The research results will empower partners and stakeholders to develop, implement, and use blockchain applications in a legally and socially acceptable way.

Research (0.8 fte):

  • Actively contribute to the operationalization of the NWO-MVI project ‘The Role and Responsibilities of Public Actors in Distributed Networks Transparency, Trust and Legitimacy by Design’, participate in and organize events and activities, present and discuss scientific and valorization output;
  • Pursue academically path-breaking research leading to articles in excellent, peer-reviewed journals;
  • Be an active member of the department LTMS by participating in and organizing LTMS events and activities, presenting and discussing research output within the department, and representing LTMS outside Tilburg University;

Teaching (0.2 fte):

  • Co-supervise Law & Technology master thesis students; 
  • Assist in the coordination and management of courses at the undergraduate and/or LLM programs that LTMS is involved in; 
  • Cooperate with other LTMS members in developing new or modifying existing courses.