PhD position Science Museums of the Future


In the light of urgently needed system transformations that serve contemporary complex societal challenges, many science museums are – and are increasingly expected to be – renewing their role at the interface of science and society. In addition to their more traditional roles as informal science educators and entertainers, science museums pioneer with taking new roles in many different ways: from displaying controversies and a plurality of perspectives, to facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogue and co-creation. Science museums and their professionals experience numerous challenges in experimenting with these new roles, for which research with and for this community could help to develop action perspectives for them and simultaneously advance the science museology research field. Therefore, the research project “Science Museums of the Future” aims to investigate (1) various sensemakings of science museum professionals on their (museum’s) role in system transformations regarding contemporary complex societal challenges, (2) the different ways by which these sensemakings materialize in new science museum content, and the diverse impacts that these materialized roles achieve. Through reflection sessions within these science museums and (later) a wider community of science museum professionals, the research also (3) aims to develop a community of practice through which the above-mentioned aims are co-creatively realized and translated to local contexts.

Your duties You will conduct (transformative) design research aimed at the simultaneous advancement of practice, theories and (research) methods. You will investigate sensemakings of science museum professionals on their (museum’s) role in system transformations regarding contemporary complex societal challenges through literature study and dialogic interviews with science museum professionals. You will study the different ways by which these sensemakings materialize in new science museum content and the diverse impacts that these materialized roles achieve, through participatory observations in various pioneering science museums; hence you will contribute to their role-related design activities while simultaneously studying these. You will develop the community of practice in these pioneering museums first, and later in a wider community with the help of the industry’s federation, through a reflexive monitoring in action approach. In that approach you are the designer, facilitator and observer of the reflections and learning curves that emerge.You will do this research in collaboration with a team of assistant and associate professors and Master research interns. Furthermore, you work with a wide range of science museum professionals and their federation(s). There is a possibility to do a part of the research outside the Netherlands, but we foresee that most research is in the Netherlands. The project entails travels to different science museums, but also, occasionally, to (inter)national conferences.Next to your research, resulting in a PhD thesis, you will be a coaching lecturer in courses taught by the Athena Institute. In a four-year PhD track this is ~15% of your time, in a six-year PhD track this is ~40% of your time (please find more information below at ‘what are we offering’). The teaching will merely be in Bachelor and Master courses related to Science Communication. Your work will be supported with committed supervision and additional research training.


We are looking for an enthusiastic, curious and creative candidate with:

  • A university masters’ degree in science communication or another relevant field, e.g. science and technology studies (STS), design engineering, architecture or museum studies etc.
  • Practical and proven experience with qualitative and transformative (design) research methods, such as the combination of two or more of the following: literature and document analysis, (dialogic / transformative) interviewing, participatory observation and focus group research.
  • An affinity with system transformations that serve our contemporary complex societal challenges.
  • Preferably: experience with transdisciplinary research approaches.
  • Preferably: experience with designing science museum-related content (education or experience design, and/or 3D design).
  • The ability to work independently and in a team.
  • Very good organizational, communicative and connective skills; you will collaborate with a wide variety of academic and societal groups.
  • A strong track record and good research skills, writing skills and presentation skills.
  • An strong command of the Dutch and English language before the start of the position.
  • Willingness to spend one day per week in a science museum elsewhere in the Netherlands (which is to be specified by mutual agreement).


The PhD candidate choses between an appointment for the duration of 4 years, or 6 years in case the candidate has an interest to take a wider set of educational tasks.In a 4 year trajectory, the division of duties will be 85% research – 15% education. The initial appointment will be for a period of one year with a possible extension conditional upon assessment of adequate functioning.In a 6 year trajectory, the division of duties will be 60% research – 40% education.  With the 40% education option there is the possibility of obtaining BKO qualification. The initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months with a possible extension conditional upon assessment of adequate functioning.The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment;
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • solid pension scheme (ABP);
  • possibility to save holiday hours, for sabbatical leave;
  • and child daycare facilities available on campus.


The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 31/01/2023.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Dr. Marjoleine van der Meij
Position: Assistant professor