PhD position on Integrating mental models into energy systems models to foster social change towards support for wind power deployment (1.0 FTE)

Uren per week: 
36 tot 40
Faculteit of dienst: 
Faculteit Geowetenschappen
GEO / Dept SD
Uiterlijk reageren op: 


Are you passionate about the energy transition and understanding people’s perceptions of wind energy? Do you want to be a part of a cutting-edge research project that addresses resistance to wind energy to accelerate the energy transition? Then this exciting full-time four-year PhD opportunity is for you! 

We are seeking a highly motivated and talented researcher to join our multidisciplinary team, investigating mental models of wind energy stakeholders and integrating these into energy system models.

Wind power is one of the most mature and cost-competitive renewable energy technologies and is a crucial pillar for achieving climate and energy goals. However, its deployment faces challenges due to low acceptance amongst societal actors and broader ecological and technical obstacles. Considering the pressing need for large-scale off-shore and on-shore wind power deployment and the critical role that social acceptance/resistance plays in achieving this, this PhD project will address the following questions:

  • How do stakeholders perceive the impact of the deployment of wind power infrastructure?
  • Can we use these perceptions as input for energy system modelling?
  • How do these perceptions compare with (scientific/technical) knowledge from wind power assessment models?
  • How can we transform the (mis)match between scientific knowledge and perceptions into actionable strategies to foster social change that supports wind power deployment.

In this project, you will apply a novel approach in the field of wind energy acceptance by assessing stakeholder’s mental models of wind energy around case studies in several European countries (at least Norway, Austria, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands). These mental models will be compared to energy system models to identify misunderstandings among stakeholders regarding the impacts of wind energy. Based on these findings, you will develop and test communication materials that improve stakeholders’ understanding of the impacts of wind energy deployment and present these at stakeholder workshops.
The findings of this research will contribute to creating and implementing effective communications and policies to foster social support for wind power deployment. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to a growing research field and contribute to the acceleration of the energy transition.

The PhD candidate will be part of a cross-section collaboration between the Innovation Studies group and the Energy and Resources group at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development (Faculty of Geosciences), and will be part of the Sustainable Behaviour group in the Copernicus institute. The candidate will be supervised by Dr. Karlijn Van Den Broek, Dr. Luis Eduardo Ramirez Camargo and Prof. dr. Martin Junginger.


Essential knowledge, skills, and experience:

  • A completed MSc degree in any of these subjects: Social/Environmental Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Human Geography, interdisciplinary environmental/energy science programs or related subjects;
  • Good understanding of quantitative research design demonstrated through completed projects and/or grade transcripts and CV;
  • Practical experience with quantitative data analysis (in python and/or R);
  • Excellent command of the English language (both written and oral);
  • Excellent writing and communication skills demonstrated through a writing example such as your Master thesis;
  • Able to work independently and in a team, excited to be working in an interdisciplinary team;
  • Willingness to travel to case study sites and conduct fieldwork as needed;
  • Willingness to acquire new skills as required for the research of the PhD project. 

Desirable knowledge, skills, and experience:

  • Experience working with stakeholders;
  • Experience with topics related to wind energy acceptance, environmental psychology, mental models, and energy system models;
  • Experience in developing a manuscript for publication or publishing as the lead author, a conference paper or an international peer-reviewed journal;
  • Working experience in the wind power industry;
  • Experience using geographic information systems and version control software such as Git/Github;
  • Good command of one or several of the following languages: Norwegian, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch.


Note: You do not need to fulfil all of these requirements;. Make sure you address which ones you do in your motivation letter.


You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.

Over de organisatie

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff members, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development. The faculty is located at Utrecht Science Park in the Vening Meinesz building A near the historical city centre of Utrecht.

Aanvullende informatie

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Karlijn van den Broek via or Dr. Luis Eduardo Ramirez Camargo via

Note that international candidates needing a visa/work permit for the Netherlands require at least four months processing time after selection and acceptance. This will be arranged with help of the International Service Desk (ISD) of our university. Finding appropriate housing in or near Utrecht is your own responsibility, but the ISD may be able to advise you therewith. For general questions that you might have about working and living in The Netherlands, please consult the Dutch Mobility Portal where much information can be found.


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please send us the following documents via the 'apply' button: 

  • your detailed curriculum vitae with academic records (transcripts) and qualifications;
  • a motivation letter of no more than one A4 page detailing your preliminary ideas on the topic and your interest, skills, and experience in researching wind energy acceptance, mental models and energy system models;
  • names of 2-3 references and their contact information (not the reference letter).

Uiterlijk reageren op 20 april 2023.