Post-doc in Integrated Life Cycle Modelling for Regional Land Planning Support

4-year post-doc position on system dynamics and agent-based modelling


We offer
In the framework of the funded FNRS PDR project “Life cycle and system thinking to support long-term regional land planning” (Lisy plan), we offer a 4-year (0.8 FTE engagement in the first 2 years, reduced responsibility to 0.2 FTE engagement in the last 2 years) post-doc position, held in the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) (The francophone Free University of Brussels, Belgium), in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich, hosting a 1 FTE PhD scholarship on the same project), starting Sept 1st 2024).


The aim of this project is to propose and develop a new integrated life cycle modelling framework to enhance the regional political decision support of land planning, i.e. life cycle and system thinking to support long-term regional land planning. The main attention in this project is on the agricultural sector. Providing society with multiple goods (e.g., food, feed, fibre, fuel) and services (e.g., regulating, supporting, and cultural services), the agricultural territory plays a critical role in the global transition towards the bioeconomy. For example, a low-carbon scenario of the Belgian agricultural sector foresees an increase in indigenous biomass-for-energy (by up to 30% more) and a reduction in meat production (by up to 43% less) by 2050 to achieve the target of GHG emission reduction. Achieving such a large-scale transition requires multi-level decisions, ranging from the regional government (e.g., planning and subsidies) to farmers' decisions (e.g., adopting a new (energy) crop). These decisions are connected in a complex system in which various factors make the future effects of planning uncertain and complex, and can cause multi-dimensional impacts concerning social, economic, and environmental aspects crossing various sectors over different regions. Due to this complexity of the territorial system, it is not known whether such targets could be reached or whether the long-term effects would be favourable. Therefore, before implementation, policy instruments driving such a massive transition should undergo thorough and holistic evaluation to identify and then avoid unintended impacts. The Lisy plan project tackles this issue by first developing a hybrid model that allows to capture the dynamics of the complex systems (i.e., system dynamic (SD)) while accounting for individual choices across the system over simulation time (i.e., agent-based model (ABM)). The dynamic system is then assessed with the life cycle approach, i.e., assessing environmental and sustainability impacts raised from the products or services produced on the territory by tracing commodities throughout value chains that are embedded in global economy (i.e., territorial life cycle assessment (territorial LCA) and multi-regional inputoutput (MRIO) analysis).


The post-doc will lead the development of such a hybrid model of SD and ABM to capture dynamics among system components and simulate interactions among various stakeholders within the agricultural sector. The hybrid SD-ABM model will then be linked to territorial LCA and MRIO, which will be developed by the collaborating PhD candidate at ETH Zurich. As such, the integrated model, linking SD, ABM, LCA, and MRIO could help to (1) Understand how key components of the systems are interconnected over time and (2) Explore sustainability performances of alternative scenarios over time, which can foster dialogue and stakeholders’ engagement during policy formulation.

The post-doc will be part of the research team of Prof. Wouter Achten (ULB). He or She will collaborate closely with a PhD student in the team of Prof. Stephan Pfister (ETH Zurich).


We look for
The ideal candidate
- holds a PhD (after defence) in Engineering, Computer science, Bio-science engineering, Environmental Science and Management, Environmental Engineering, Agricultural Sciences or any other project-relevant domain, which was obtained since max 5 years before Sept 1st 2024.
- Strong background in systems dynamics and agent-based modelling.
- Proficiency in Python or other programming languages.
- Demonstrated ability to work in interdisciplinary teams and engage with stakeholders.
- has knowledge on, or experience with life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental impact assessment (EIA), and strategic environmental assessment (SEA).
- has knowledge, on land-based/biological production systems in general (e.g. agriculture, forestry, biomass production, etc.), and more specifically on biomass-for-energy systems.


Further, the candidate has strong analytical skills, has a quantitative reflex, can approach complex issues in a systematic way and has the capacity to work autonomously towards objectives and deadlines. The candidate should be fluent in written and spoken English, and have good communication (written and oral) skills and be able to work in a group and guide junior researchers, specifically the PhD candidate at ETH Zurich linked to the Lisy plan project. Active knowledge of French is considered an added value, but not a prerequisite.


The post-doctoral researcher is further expected to be prepared to contribute to the further development and daily activities of the research group (e.g. contribute to building related project proposals, e.g. to extend the funding after 2 year of 0.8 FTE, follow up of project related master thesis and doctoral thesis students, participating in seminars, etc.).


Work environment
Founded in 1834, Université libre de Bruxelles (http://www.ulb.ac.be) has a long tradition of excellence in Research with four scientific Nobel Prizes, one Fields Medal, three Wolf Prizes and two Marie Curie Excellence Awards. It is one of the largest and best Research Universities in Belgium, with 40 undergraduate programmes and 250 graduate programmes, 6 Erasmus Mundus. It partners 20 Doctoral schools, with almost 1,600 PhD in progress. ULB has considerable experience with European funding programmes, and it has obtained 53 Grants (26 Starting, 13 Consolidator, 11 Advanced, 1 Synergy and 2 Proof of Concept Grants) from the European Research Area (ERC) over the past few years. It coordinates or takes part in a number of cooperative programmes funded as part of the European Union’s framework programmes (Horizon Europe, Horizon 2020, FP7, etc.).


The research group of SOcio-eNvironmental dYnAmics (SONYA) (https://sonya.sciences.ulb.be/) is part of the Environmental Management and Land-use Institute (IGEAT) of the ULB Department for Geosciences, Environment and Society (DGES) (https://sciences.ulb.be/departement-geosciences-environnement-et-societe). It originated from merging the research units Environment, Society and Territory Management (GESTe) and Centre for Sustainable Development Studies (CEDD), brings together different perspectives and disciplines to study the links between society
and the environment. SONYA aims to contribute to empirical and fundamental research on socio-environmental dynamics in order to participate in a transformation towards a sustainable society through teaching and participation in societal debates. We use a wide range of methods (both quantitative and qualitative) and approach from a systemic and holistic perspective that combines the micro and the macro. Our research focuses in particular on environmental governance, transitions towards fair and sustainable societies, environmental mobilizations, land use planning, life cycle analysis, environmental impact, and ecological economics.


The research group around Prof. Wouter Achten (1 post-docs and 3 PhDs) focusses on life cycle thinking research and has activities on life cycle sustainability assessment, social LCA, Input-Output LCA, spatio-temporal LCA, land use and ecosystem services in LCA etc., and this in the context of food systems, waste management, circular economy and biobased production systems. Prof. Stephan Pfister is adjunct Professor at the chair of the Ecological Systems Design Group at ETH Zurich. He and his team work extensively on regionalized LCA including water stress and land use related biodiversity impacts, MRIO, social LCA, optimization, and uncertainties.


Apply
For further information on the position or the research project you may contact Wouter Achten (wouter.achten@ulb.be). To apply, you should send
- a motivation/cover letter stating your motivation, and past experiences with which you can contribute to the project.
- an extensive scientific curriculum vitae (including list of publications, presentations, acquired funding, …) and contact details of 3 references.
- a full text digital copy of your best scientific output so far.
to wouter.achten@ulb.be no later than June 12th, 2024. Job interviews will be planned in the week of june 24th. The starting date: Sept 1st, 2024


Keywords
System dynamic; Agent-based modelling; Life cycle thinking; Sustainability; agricultural production

  • Application deadline: Jun 12, 2024
  • Universit√© Libre de Bruxelles
  • Socio-Environmental Dynamics Research Group (SONYA)
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Postdoc Positions
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