Doctoral Position in Political Sciences
University of Antwerp Department of Communication Studies

Doctoral Scholarship Holder for Innovative Survey Methodologies to Study the Effectiveness of Health Communication in Radon Prone Areas and NORM Exposure Situations

Department : Department of Communication Studies

Regime : Full-time

The Department of Political Sciences in the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN and the consortium of the H2020 research project RadoNorm, are looking for a full-time

Doctoral scholarship holder in the field of “Innovative survey methodologies to study the effectiveness of health communication in radon prone areas and NORM exposure situations”

General context of the doctoral scholarship

Exposure to indoor radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is one of the main causes of lung cancer worldwide. In Belgium, radon attributes to approximately 480 cases of lung cancer per year. Although radon tests are easily accessible in most countries, and protective actions are effective and relatively easy to apply, the levels of radon testing and subsequent home remediation remain lower than aimed for. A new H2020 large scale European project “RadoNorm” will address these and other socio-technical radon related pitfalls.

Within this international RadoNorm consortium, there are two PhD positions foreseen at the Faculty of Social Sciences: one at the Department of Political Sciences (under supervision of Prof. Peter Thijssen, mentor dr. Catrinel Turcanu from SCK CEN), and one at the Department of Communication Studies (under supervision of Prof. Heidi Vandebosch, mentor dr. Tanja Perko from SCK CEN) (,-Radon-Health-Communication). The two PhD candidates are expected to conduct their research partly at the University of Antwerp and partly at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN in Mol, Belgium. The two PhD positions are a unique opportunity for early career researchers as it offers an international and multi-institutional research experience of which the results can improve radon risk mitigation and, consequently, significantly decrease the number of lung cancers in the population.

PhD on Innovative survey methodologies to study the effectiveness of health communication in radon prone areas and NORM exposure situations

This PhD research topic will address the lack of systematic and methodological approaches to socio-economic studies of sustainable remediation frameworks for exposure situations due to radon in homes or workplaces, or from Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) resulting from industrial activities. Such studies aim at understanding the socio-psychological situation of affected populations and other stakeholders (e.g. the building industry, health professionals, local, national and regional authorities, politicians, the remediation industry, those responsible at institutions, schools and universities) and their decisions related to radiological risks. The PhD will focus on the development and testing of reliable methods and scales to investigate the risk perceptions, views, opinions, motivations of affected populations and other stakeholders, as well as their attitudes and behaviors in relation to radiological risks from radon and NORM exposures. In particular, this PhD study will elucidate a number of methodological issues, such as the interpersonal contextual influences on survey response. For instance, based on earlier research we know that traditional survey methods may underestimate the effects of interpersonal contact, public discussion and neighborhood context in the evaluation of public knowledge of radiation risks or related individual decisions. While traditional evaluation studies focus on decontextualized individual respondents, this research will study survey methodologies that take into account the merits of interpersonal deliberation and neighborhood embeddedness. Concretely, we will evaluate the effectiveness of health communication in radon prone areas and NORM exposure situation based on innovative methodologies such as deliberative opinion polls and geocoded survey data.  The PhD research will complement two other PhD research topics conducted at University Antwerp (Belgium) and Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), therefore, close collaboration between different research teams is expected.


  • You work actively on the preparation and defense of a PhD thesis, which will be co-supervised by a promotor from the University of Antwerp and a promotor from SCK CEN (
  • You conduct research and publish scientific articles related to the research project.
  • You will be part of an international, interdisciplinary team.
  • You will work partly in Antwerp and partly in Mol, Belgium.
  • You will participate in RadoNorm project meetings and report on your work progress.


  • You hold a Master’s degree in Social Sciences or related degrees or you will have obtained it by the time you start work.
  • You have a demonstratable interest in health communication, quantitative research methodologies (e.g. surveys, experiments) and statistics.
  • You have a strong interest in interdisciplinary research.
  • As a social scientist, you are eager to learn about the topic of ionizing radiation, in order to translate this knowledge to effective communication strategies aimed at the general population or specific target groups (in affected areas).
  • You can demonstrate excellent study results (with at least the degree of “distinction” in the Master).
  • Your research qualities are in line with the faculty and university research policies.
  • You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity and cooperation.
  • You have a good command of English.
  • You are interested in working in an international environment.

What we offer

  • A doctoral scholarship for a period of one year. Following a positive evaluation, the scholarship can be renewed once for a further three-year period.
  • The planned start date is October 1st 2020 or as soon as possible after that date.
  • Your monthly scholarship amount is calculated according to the scholarship amounts for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for contract research staff (Dutch: Bijzonder Academisch Personeel, BAP).
  • You will work at the City Campus of the University of Antwerp and at SCK CEN (in Mol), in a dynamic and stimulating working environment.

Want to apply?

  • You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform until 31 July 2020. Click on the 'Apply' button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: a motivation letter, your academic CV and a copy of your master thesis or a copy of an academic publication. 
  • The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure. The interviews of the candidates, preselected by a selection panel, will take place on-line in the period between 17 and 28 August, 2020.
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact Prof. Peter Thijssen ( for the PhD on Innovative Survey Methodologies, and/or dr. Catrinel Turcanu (

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.

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