PhD Ethics of Safe-and-Sustainable-by-design

Ethics (Moral Philosophy)Innovation studiesPhilosophyPolitical Science
Sep 07, 2023 21:59:00 GMT+00:00
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Job description

Chemical pollution is an ever increasing persistent problem, the implications of which are becoming ever more manifest. Recently, the EU introduced the concept of Safe and Sustainable by Design (SSbD) and part of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. The goal of these is to stimulate the transition of EU’s industry to produce safe and sustainable products and replace existing hazardous compounds, such as PFAS. A holistic approach for finding safe and sustainable alternatives to chemical compounds and products is however still lacking. Such an approach requires technical measures and design choices but also specific societal conditions, such as mutual learning about uncertainties and ways to mitigate these uncertainties as well as a fair, complete and effective allocation of responsibilities along the entire value chain of products and materials.

TU Delft offers a PhD position focused on the societal and ethical aspects of SSbD in the chemical industry and in the product industry. This position is situated in the Philosophy group at TU Delft, supervised by promotors dr. Lotte Asveld (TU Delft – Philosophy group) and Prof.dr. Laurens Hessels (Leiden University – Center for Science and Technology Studies) and co-promotor Britte Bouchaut (TU Delft – Safety and Security Science group).

The position focusses on the question of distribution of responsibilities within innovation ecosystems, with specific attention to the development of PFAS alternatives. Researchers developing chemical compounds typically operate within their own sphere of influence. They can only exercise choices that are within their reach and have little influence on decisions that were made upstream and/or at earlier points in time. This situation hints at the limits of what can be achieved via technical design choices and indicates the need for transdisciplinary collaboration and networked responsibility. Specifically the responsibility for identifying uncertainties may be challenging, as it may clash with other responsibilities such as the responsibility to offer innovative solutions for pressing, current challenges. The main question guiding this project is: how to allocate responsibilities for SSbD measures fairly and effectively within the chemical innovation ecosystem? This project is part of the TOSS research consortium which concerns the replacement of Persistent, Mobile and Toxic Chemicals, a collaboration with several universities, RIVM and VNCI. The candidate will conduct a literature review, case studies, and interviews, and will collaborate with other researchers from this consortium. Based on the acquired insights, the candidate will also design and validate interventions to improve SSbD practices.


  • Masters degree in Science and Technology Studies, Applied Philosophy or Ethics, Political sciences, Innovation Studies, or a related field.
  • A keen interest in addressing the safety and sustainability issues in the chemical industry.
  • You thrive in a collaborative and multi-disciplinary environment and look forward to interacting with researchers and experts on different domains.
  • You have an excellent command of spoken and written English and good communication skills.
  • You have a demonstrable interest in research, and academic writing skills are regarded as assets.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service. This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Technology, Policy and Management

The Faculty of TPM provides an important contribution to solving complex technical-social issues, such as energy transition, mobility, digitalisation, water management and (cyber) security. TPM does this with its excellent education and research at the intersection of technology, society and policy. We combine insights from both engineering and social sciences as well as the humanities. TPM develops robust models and designs, is internationally oriented and has an extensive network of knowledge institutions, companies, social organisations and governments.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management.

Additional information

For more information about these vacancies please contact either Lotte Asveld For information about the application procedure, please contact Olivie Beek, HR advisor,

Application procedure

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 7 September 2023 via the application button. Applicants should send their CV, a cover letter outlining motivations and qualifications, and an example of their writing.

  • A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.


Faculty of Technology, Policy & Management




Behaviour and Society




€ 2.541,00 – € 3.247,00


University graduate