PhD Position in Communication Sciences
Catholic University of Leuven Institute for Media Studies

The Institute for Media Studies (IMS) and its subgroup the Meaningful Interaction Lab (Mintlab) are looking for candidates who would like to pursue a PhD in Social Sciences (communication sciences) at the KU Leuven in Belgium. This vacancy is part of the FWO-funded Strategic Basic Research (SBO) project, entitled “Gam(e)(a)ble: Interdisciplinary research on the blurring lines between gaming and gambling among teenagers.” The IMS and the Mintlab specialize in fundamental, applied and contract research in four domains, including strategic communication, journalism & news, human-computer interaction and media culture. The vacant position is fully embedded in its research strand on gaming, gambling, persuasion. The IMS has a state-of-the-art user experience lab (with e.g. observation/control room, eye tracking, gaming platforms) and design room. It has conducted research for the Flemish government, BELSPO, IWT/SBO, the European Commission, and for and with several national and international media organizations. It plays a key role in important Flemish, European and international academic networks (ICA, IAMCR, ECREA, Euromedia Research Group, ACM SIGCHI).


For the Gam(e)(a)ble project as a whole, IMS is looking for two junior researchers who will start a PhD in Social Sciences (communication sciences) and one part-time post-doctoral research manager (see other vacancies). The Gam(e)(a)ble project is conducted in close collaboration with the Gam(e)(a)ble consortium (KU Leuven, UGent, UCLL and LUCA School of Arts) and is led by the IMS supervisors prof. dr. Rozane De Cock and prof. dr. Bieke Zaman. 
This PhD position in particular will focus on the game design and game content impact of the convergence between gaming and gambling elements such as loot boxes and (free) casino games incorporated in games frequently played by minors. Supervisors of this PhD position are prof. dr. Bieke Zaman, prof. dr. Rozane De Cock and prof. dr. Steven Malliet. 
The Gam(e)(a)ble project starts from the observation that the lines between gaming and gambling are becoming increasingly blurred in (online) games that are popular among teenagers which rises the societal concern that minors are being progressively exposed to gambling. Games that include non-monetary forms of gambling (simulated gambling) such as free casino games as well as in-app purchases of so-called loot boxes or packages operate in a grey zone due to the lack of an obligatory strict classification system. This makes it hard for parents and teenagers to see potential risks. The convergence of gambling and gaming is a recent phenomenon, triggering a significant expansion of new forms of online gambling activities that are more covertly and unrestrictedly than traditional land-based, offline gambling and therefore potentially more problematic.

Studies on simulated gambling have only recently begun to be published and no studies have been following young simulated gamblers during their developmental stage. Early exposure to gambling elements in games may make this young age cohort more likely to gamble later in life and to develop problematic gam(bl)ing behaviour. Therefore, this project is built around major societal concerns and research needs that will result in valorisation tools. 
Most central to this PhD project is media research to a) (re)define a labelling system of gambling elements and design patterns in games popular among teenagers, and b) study adolescents’ use of simulated gambling elements in a longitudinal set-up while also taking into account their psychological development. Along with a large-scale panel study surveying Flemish adolescents (several waves), the PhD candidate will conduct content analyses of games, interview game designers and field experts, and will help other researchers within the team collecting and analyzing relevant quantitative and qualitative data. 


-Applicants should be highly motivated to study media use of adolescents and media design impacts and be genuinely interested in the Gam(e)(a)ble project.
-Applicants possess a master degree (at least cum laude) in communication sciences, psychology, pedagogy or in related fields (sociology,...), and are able to show convincing potential to become a talented PhD researcher. 
-He/she/they should be motivated to work independently and proactively, while also being open to feedback and operating as a social team member to obtain fruitful collaborations.
-Applicants need to have quantitative and qualitative research skills. Clear strengths are experience with content analysis, diary studies or longitudinal research. He/she/they should be motivated to further develop methodological skills.
-Applicants can and like to engage with theory, both at a conceptual reflective level as well as at a more applied level (e.g. when designing the research instruments and valorization tools). 
-Applicants care about the societal relevance of the project theme, and are willing to contribute to yielding societal impact and valorization for a broad set of societal stakeholder groups.
-Applicants have very good writing and presentation skills in Dutch. Applicants are fluent in English. 
-Applicants are willing to develop writing and presentation skills throughout the PhD trajectory in order to be able to write English publications in academic journals or conference proceedings, to present in English at national and international conferences and events, as well as to creatively translate research findings in an engaging and comprehensible way to a wider audience both nationally and internationally.  
-Applicants have an open intellectual mindset and are eager to collaborate with people from disciplines such as psychology, education, law and game design. 
-Applicants are willing to adhere to a high ethical standard in their research, dissemination and valorization practices. 
-He/she/they work precisely and carefully but at a good pace at the same time in order to make clear progress. You are well organized and have strong analytical and problem-solving skills. 
-Creativity, digital literacy and flexibility are added values.


An initial 1-year contract of a (PhD) research position that, based on a positive evaluation, can be prolonged to 3 years (= 4 years in total) and starts on 1 October 2020. 
Salary and benefits are in line with the university salary scales for PhD candidates.
PhD candidates will be enrolled in the KU Leuven’s Doctoral Programme of the Social Sciences, in which they acquire many important career skills.

Interested candidates are invited to submit the following documents before July 15, 2020 when applying for the position:
•CV, including the marks on methodological courses during your bachelor degree and the marks of your final master year with master’s thesis. 
•A motivation letter explaining your relevant personal background and interest in an academic career and in this PhD position and topic in specific. 
Applications have to be submitted in Dutch.


Please contact Prof. dr. Rozane De Cock if you want to receive more information about this specific position, tel.: +32 16 32 30 14, mail: 
You can apply for this job no later than July 15, 2020 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: July 15, 2020
  • Tags: Communicatie/Media

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