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Assistant Researcher | Biological Sciences (Earth Sciences, Ecology)

Reference: BIOPOLIS 2024-15
Job description:

Assistant researcher

Reference: BIOPOLIS 2024-15
Research field: Biological Sciences
Sub research field: Earth Sciences, Ecology

1. A position is open for an Assistant Researcher at Associação BIOPOLIS, a Centre of Excellence in Environmental Biology, Ecosystem Research and AgroBiodiversity located in Portugal, which results from a H2020 Teaming project involving CIBIO – Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Porto Business School, and the University of Montpellier. BIOPOLIS is a private, non-profit scientific association, which will have an overall budget of around 130 million euros for 10 years, funded by the European Commission, national structural funds, and private partners. The work to be carried out will be part of a new research group — Socioeconomic Systems & Earth Systems — which is a joint undertaking of Biopolis, of the Economics Faculty of Porto University and the Science Faculty of Porto University (detailed information in Annexe 1). 

The position holder will be responsible to research and synthesize the latest science that is modeling the earth systems (physical, chemical, biological, and geological), how they interplay, as well as understanding the interactions between these systems and human action impacting any of them. Additionally, work will be conducted with a research colleague from social sciences researching and synthesizing the evolution in social and economic systems that have accompanied the increase of human impact on Earth Systems throughout the most relevant historical periods: (i) the rise of cities, complex societies, agriculture and States; (ii) globalization 1.0- mercantilism; (iii) the rise of capitalism; and (iv) the great acceleration: technology and a new kind of animal. The joint work will involve selecting or even developing a conceptual framework of how these systems are linked and interact and sufficient quantitative modeling to permit analysis of future scenarios. The scientific research activities will be developed in the scope of the project LA/P/0048/2020, funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology.

The position will be opened under a non-fixed term work contract, with expected duration of 3 years, which can be extended to a maximum of 6 years, if the conditions are maintained.

2. Applicable Legislation:
Decree-Law no. 57/2016 of August 29th, amended by Law 57/2017 and Regulatory Decree No. 11- A / 2017 which approved the doctorate hiring regime destined to stimulate scientific and technological employment for all knowledge areas (RJEC); Portuguese Labour Code, approved by Law 7/2009 of February 12, in its actual form. 

3. Pursuant to article 13 of RJEC, the tender selection panel is formed by: Paulo Azevedo (Invited Full Professor at University of Porto, Head of Research Group SESES); Professor Rik Leemans, Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University & Research); Isabel Soares (Full Professor at University of Porto); and Nuno Ferrand (Full Professor at University of Porto and President of Associação BIOPOLIS).

4. The workplace shall be at Associação BIOPOLIS/CIBIO – Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, in Campus de Vairão, Rua Padre Armando Quintas nº7, Vairão, Portugal and may involve travel in Portugal and abroad in service or representation of contract entity. 

5. The gross monthly salary (x14 months/year) entitle is € 3427,59 corresponding to 195 index of the Scientific Research Career (Anexo I do Decreto-Lei nº 124/99, de 20 de Abril).

6. Application can be submitted by any national, foreign and stateless candidate(s) holding a doctorate degree in Ecology or related areas and a scientific and professional curriculum whose profile is suited for the activity described below (item 7). In case the doctorate degree was awarded by a foreign higher education institution, it must comply with the provisions of Decree-Law no. 66/2018, of August 16, and all formalities established therein must be complied with at the signature of work contract.

7. The tender admission general requirements are those defined in the previous point 6, and additional special requirements are: 
• Holding a PhD in Biological Sciences / Earth System Sciences 
• Proved experience in earth system modelling.
• Have a minimum of 5 years of post-doctoral experience.
• Have a notable background working in renowned international research organizations.
• Exhibit exceptional written and verbal communication and presentation skills.
• Demonstrated track record of high-profile scientific publications and successfully securing and managing research grants in cutting-edge research fields.
• Possess fluency in English 

8. Pursuant to article 5 of RJEC, the selection is to be made based on the evaluation of the scientific and curricular career of the candidate.

9. Scientific and curricular career evaluation focuses on relevance, quality and up-to-datedness: 
a) of scientific, technological, production in the last five years, considered most relevant by the candidate; 
b) of research activities, fundamental or applied science, developed in the last five years, considered of higher impact by the candidate; 
c) of knowledge extension and dissemination activities developed in the last five years, namely under the scope of the promotion of culture and scientific practices, deemed most relevant by the candidate. 
d) Teaching experience and skills in Biology, Ecology or Earth System Sciences
e) The ability to work in a team and grasp complex problems with broad inputs and impacts.

10. The five-year period mentioned above can be extended by the panel, if requested by the candidate, whenever the suspension of scientific activities is reasoned by socially protected grounds like paternity leave, long-term serious illness, and other legal situations of unavailability to work. 

11. Evaluation criteria are the following: 
The evaluation of the CV of the candidates, in particular the scientific merit and research experience will take into consideration the elements presented for the last five years of activity falling within the scope of the specific areas of the tender (see Point 1) and will be performed according to the following criteria:

11.1 Integrated assessment of the curriculum trajectory of the candidate, based on an overview of their scientific merits, namely: 
I. overall scientific coherence of the CV – 15%
II. diversity and quality of scientific indicators, including relevant published peer-reviewed articles and abstracts in the specific areas of announce (see point 1) - 25%
III. participation in research projects teaching activities- 10% 

11.2 Relevant experience, proved in CV, in:
I. Ecological or earth system science projects specifically linked to measuring or mitigating human impact– 25%
II. Participation in projects dealing with socioeconomic and environmental interaction in core or related areas such as environmental economics, human ecology, environmental anthropology, conservation policy, etc… – 25%

12. In the case of admitted candidates whose evaluation does not differ more than 10% from that obtained by the best positioned candidate, the jury will interview these candidates. This will be aimed at obtaining clarifications and explanations about the curricular elements and additional information as well as to evaluate the attitude profile and motivation of the candidate.
The final score of each jury member is obtained by the following assessment: 90% scientific and curricular career evaluation and 10% interview.

13. Candidate final classification system shall be given based on a scale 0 to 100.

14. The panel shall deliberate by means of roll-call vote justified under adopted and disclosed selection criteria, with no abstentions allowed.

15. Minutes of panel meetings shall be executed and include a summary of all occurrences of said meeting, as well as of all votes casted by the members and respective reasoning, and shall be provided to candidates whenever required.

16. After selection criteria application, the panel shall prepare a sorted list of approved candidates and respective classification.

17. Panel’s final decision shall be validated by the leader of the institution, who is also in charge of deciding about the hiring. 

18. Application formalization:
18.1. The applications are formalized at the electronic address with following documents in a digital form, in PDF format:
i) Curriculum vitae
ii) Motivational Letter
iii) Qualifications Certificate
iv) Other relevant documentation

18.2. The application period is from 08/02/2024 to 31/03/2024. Expected starting date 1st of May 2024.

19. All candidates who formalize their applications in an improper way or fail to prove the requirements imposed by this tender are excluded from admission. In case of doubt, the panel is entitled to request any candidate to present further documentation supporting their statements.

20. False statements provided by the candidates shall be punished by law.

21. Both admitted and excluded candidate list and final classification list shall be notified by email.

22. Preliminary Hearing and Final Decision Deadline: After notification, all candidates have 10 working days to respond. Panel’s final decisions are pronounced within a period of 90 working days, from response period deadline.

23. This tender is exclusively destined to fill this specify position and can be terminated at any time until approval of final candidate list, expiring with the respective occupation of said position.

24. Non-discrimination and equal access policy: Associação BIOPOLIS actively promotes a non-discrimination and equal access policy, wherefore no candidate can be privileged, benefited, impaired or deprived of any rights whatsoever, or be exempt of any duties based on their ancestry, age, sex, sexual preference, marital status, family and economic conditions, instruction, origin or social conditions, genetic heritage, reduced work capacity, disability, chronic illness, nationality, ethnic origin or race, origin territory, language, religion, political or ideological convictions and union membership.

25. In order to comply with Law no. 4/2019, of 10 January, candidates must declare on the application form, under a statement of honor, their degree of disability, the type of disability and the means of communication/expression to be used in the selection process.

Annex 1



• Socioeconomic Systems Definition

• Earth Systems Definitions

• How each of these have been traditionally thought of and studied, independently and even at a great distance

• All life is connected; all organisms are a part of an ecosystem; all ecosystems are part of earth’s system (physical, chemical, biological, geological, and historical).

• Inevitably, all activities that people undertake impact the biosphere which in turn impacts people. The only question is how much, how, and with what consequences? What are the conceptual frameworks no how socio-economic systems and earth systems are linked? 

• After a long and tumultuous existence our planet reached the Holocene (1150 years before present) and created a relatively stable and self-regulating (within boundaries) state which was conducive to life as we know it today (including the emergence of agriculture and more complex human societies)

• We have reached a new era — the Anthropocene —one single species, Homo Sapiens, dominates many of the Earth’s key processes and systems and ended the Holocene.

• This species was not only extremely successful at spreading to almost the entire world and continue to grow its population size, but also managed to remove itself from its position in the food chain becoming the global apex predator, and  to, step-by step, discover novel ways to use planetary resources to its favor — domesticating a large number of other animal and plant species, withdrawing energy by other means other than eating, and extracting other resources. 

• Much has been written and discussed on the reasons of the ‘success’ of our species and the subject is fascinating (references). Independently of how much importance is attributed to particular key points in human evolution, two inescapable truths can be observed in this journey:

- Humans found ways to cooperate in ever larger groups — finding norms and rules of conduct that surpassed kinship ties and kept free rider options in check — and to expand our collective ability.
- Humans found possibilities to, per capita, consume more and more energy and extract more and more materials from the environment.

• The bumpy progress in the ability of societies to prosper seems to be directly linked to their ability to, in some form or another, solve the limitations to these enablers. 

• Where we stand today, these are still the fundamental human challenges, with the additional challenge that science clearly shows that the limits of, for example, resource extraction, pollution, land-use and climate change and biodiversity decline have already surpassed planetary boundaries. This jeopardizes systems on which people depend.

Currently these challenges look unsurmountable. Even if we consider some of the critical unbalances on their own, without contemplating the frequently negative effect they have on each other, and without allowing for population growth or the necessary improvement in quality of life of underserved people, the scale of what must be achieved is daunting. Sometimes the challenges seem technologically impossible, and they always have huge costs and huge consequences. Many questions arise: How can it be done? Who will have to do it? Who will pay? What are the roles of Governments, consumers, companies, taxpayers, rich countries, etc.?

As we begin tackling some of the issues like carbon emissions and climate change, and before we are anywhere near the kind of effort required to bend the trend, the limitations are self-evident. Poor countries rightfully claim they have not created the problem and they should not bear the cost, developing countries (some of which are top emitters) claim they are only doing what rich countries did in the past. In western democracies the majority of consumers are unwilling to substantially change their behavior or habits. Voters are increasingly supporting populists and climate change deniers. Companies are asking if they must go beyond the law, how much is it up to them to solve the problems and how is a level playing field maintained if some are willing to bear costs that other may choose not to. International coordinating institutions increasingly struggle to achieve global commitments which are then not adhered to.

Current social economic systems and the earth systems are likely not compatible for the global population size (let alone 3 billion more expected!).

Should we thus not investigate compatible solutions and what they would look like? Or should we trust that human ingenuity and technological developments will create the necessary yet unforeseen solutions and double up (perhaps a lot more than double…) on innovation and technology, creating resource-limited, sustainable, and circular economies?

Our initial goal is to understand the prospects of these two (probably complementary) alternatives gathering information and knowledge and promoting critical thinking and debate with an approach that encompasses the latest knowledge in Earth systems science, ecology, economics, sociology, and psychology. The faculties and the research institute of Porto University involved, value creating full awareness of all aspects of this complex challenge for students and society.

On the side of socio-economic systems, a historical review of the development of humanity and its impacts would seem like the obvious place to start both to fully understand the impacts and to reflect on what is truly essential and viable in our societies looking forward from the present state.

On the other hand, regarding earth systems, an understanding of the latest science that is modeling these systems, interactions between them and human impact, would seem to be critical to define what will ultimately need to be achieved to insure long-term sustainability.

The ultimate goal is to understand what a thriving world of 10 billion people that respects all the of the Earth systems limits might look like. Which version of the endpoint and which particular way of reaching it would be most compatible with human nature ¬—and thus presumably most viable — and would best ensure all other (non-environmental) SDGs.

Despite the many institutes and research groups working worldwide working at different angles concerning these matters, a truly multidisciplinary dialog on desirable and possible long-term scenarios seems to be missing. This newly created research group would aim to bring together in conferences, workshops, and steering groups the best minds from all the key natural and social sciences to promote this dialog.


Currently living people are the first generation of the first species to know that we are driving our planet off-balance with catastrophic consequences for many of the current life forms including our own species. Can we stimulate the stewardship, the social cohesion, governance, and technology to change the course of events? What will have to be achieved? What is expected to be achieved by current proposals? What is the potential of new and disruptive ideas?

1. Taking stock and understanding the massive impacts and interrelations 
A. A 10 billion people world. The energy, food, and water challenges
B. The Planetary Boundaries concept.
C. The SDGs wedding cake
D. Bill of materials
E. Earth Systems reengineering and management.
F. Earth Systems Governance
G. Human, social, and political stress.

2. Looking for solutions: Current attempts
A. New markets and new market rules
B. New legal frameworks
C. The philanthropic hope /Impact investment
D. New reporting and accounting
E. New technologies
F. Reforming capitalism

3. Looking for solutions: The Broad view, disruptive ideas, and potential end goals
A. The Half Earth
B. Circularity
C. New ethics and new goals
D. A new model for society

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