PhD candidate: How trustworthy are simulation studies? A meta-research perspective

Tilburg University | Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences is looking for a PhD candidate: How trustworthy are simulation studies? A meta-research perspective for the Department of Methodology and Statistics, location Tilburg.
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Tilburg University


We are looking for a PhD candidate who is motivated to improve (psychological) science as part of our Meta-Research Center (https://metaresearch.nl/) by studying simulation studies from a meta-research perspective.

Your position
The employment is primarily dedicated towards carrying out the proposed research described below, with the aim to write a dissertation, likely consisting of academic articles following principles of open science (i.e., open data, materials and computer code) that are publishable in peer-reviewed journals. The position also involves contributions to teaching giving the candidate the opportunity to build a teaching portfolio during the PhD project. The position and the environment in which the candidate will be embedded provide an optimal starting point for an academic career in academia in general and methodology and statistics in particular. The candidate will follow a customized track of graduate courses as part of the Interuniversity Graduate School of Psychometrics and Sociometrics (IOPS) program which will further develop the candidate’s research skills, background knowledge, and network.

Project description
Title: How trustworthy are simulation studies? A meta-research perspective.

Monte-Carlo simulation studies are ubiquitous in the scientific literature. These simulation studies are, for example, used for evaluating the properties of statistical methods or for determining the required sample size by means of a power analysis in complex research designs. The design, conducting, reproducibility, and reporting of the results of simulations studies have hardly been studied from a meta-research perspective. Studying this is especially relevant because researchers who conduct the simulation studies have a clear conflict of interest. Researchers generally want to showcase that their newly developed method performs well and/or outperforms existing state-of-the-art methods. Hence, this project is part of the recent movement to assess and improve the quality of published research, in the context of a strong team of researchers doing research on this broad topic in the Meta-Research Center (https://metaresearch.nl/).

There is ample room for the candidate to come up with their own research questions that are related to the general topic of the position. Potential questions that can be addressed within this project are:

  1. Are simulation studies in the social sciences reproducible? Can the results of a simulation study be reproduced if computer code is shared or are there still barriers for reproduction?
  2. Are simulation studies at risk for being biased? That is, are the results (and conditions) of simulation studies more favorable to the new methods that are introduced in the same paper as the simulation studies?
  3. Do simulation studies that are set up by different independent researchers yield different results? We are planning to conduct a so-called “Many Analyst” project where we ask researchers to design and program a simulation study on a predefined topic.
  4. How can a simulation study be preregistered? What recommendations can be made with respect to designing, conducting, and reporting the results of simulation studies?


The ideal candidate should have sound knowledge of statistics, have programming skills in R (or a comparable statistical program), and affinity with research methods and techniques, and programming. Furthermore, the candidate should have a nearly or recently completed (Research) Master’s degree with excellent academic results in methodology, statistics, sociometrics, psychometrics, quantitative psychology, biostatistics, econometrics, or a related field. Academic curiosity, an interest to work in an interdisciplinary environment, being receptive to open science practices, and good communication skills are important characteristics for this position.


Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (TSB) is a modern, specialized university. The teaching and research of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences are organized around the themes of Adaptive societies, organizations, and workers, Healthy life span, Personalized prevention and care. The School's inspiring working environment challenges its workers to realize their ambitions; involvement and cooperation are essential to achieve this.
Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

About Tilburg University
Serving society and making it better for its citizens. That is what drives us. Tilburg University's founder, Martinus Cobbenhagen, believed that anyone who wants to understand society must be actively and consciously involved in it. These ideas still form the basis of our university.
Under the motto Understanding society, our more than 2,800 employees develop and transfer knowledge and bring people from different disciplines and organizations together. In this way, we want to contribute to solving complex social issues. In doing so, we work from the fields of economics, business and entrepreneurship, social and behavioral sciences, law and administration, humanities and digital sciences, and theology

We educate our 20,000 students of 132 nationalities to become Tilburg University Shaped Professionals: responsible and entrepreneurial thinkers, driven by solidarity, a sense of responsibility and empathy, who are able to influence and give direction to a rapidly changing society in an innovative way.


This is a position for 1.0 FTE (40 hours per week) of the full-time working week.

The salary amounts to a minimum of €2.541 and a maximum of €3.247 gross per month for full time employment contract, based on UFO profile PhD student and salary scale number PhD’s of the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. Tilburg University uses a neutral salary system for scaling that is based on relevant education and work experience.

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

Tilburg University offers excellent employment conditions. We think flexibility, professional and personal development, and good employee benefits are important. We make clear agreements about career paths and offer all kinds of facilities and schemes to maintain an optimal balance between work and private life. You can also follow numerous training courses, for example, in the areas of leadership skills, personal effectiveness, and career development.

Tilburg University values an open and inclusive culture. We embrace diversity and encourage the mutual integration of groups of employees and students. We focus on creating equal opportunities for all our employees and students, so that everyone feels at home in our university community.

Tilburg University has a lively campus in beautiful green surroundings that is easily accessible by public transport. We are committed to a sustainable society and challenge you to make an active contribution.

Please visit working at Tilburg University for more information on our terms of employment.

Meer informatie

For more information regarding this position and the project you can contact dr. Lieke Voncken (Lieke.Voncken@tilburguniversity.edu) or dr. Robbie C.M. van Aert (R.C.M.vanAert@tilburguniversity.edu). The telephone number of the secretary is +31134663687.