RESPONSE – A new Doctoral Programme

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The RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE - to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585. RESPONSE DP builds on the academic expertise of three world-leading institutions - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel - and the three internationally renowned competence centers Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center (PSC), the World Food System Center and Energy Science Center. RESPONSE DP is centrally managed by the PSC. It will start in February 2020.

Call 1 for PhD candidate applications is now open

Deadline December 1, 2019


Currently, RESPONSE DP is offering 8 early-stage researcher’s positions for 36 months (100%) at the interface of science and policy, as well as science and innovation at one of the three world-leading academic host organization - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich or University of Basel. RESPONSE DP will train ESRs to reflect on their role as scientists in society, contributing with evidence to policymaking and to build capacities to address global challenges in the areas of sustainable food systems, sustainable energy systems and sustainable land use decisions.

While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment in the natural, life and engineering sciences at one of the three host organization, the ESRs will be co-supervised by renowned Partner Organizations, for example from industry, public and civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations or governmental organizations to transfer research results into policy or society.

A mandatory secondment (= internship) of 3 to 12 months at selected partner organizations such as MWSchmid GmbH (CH), CIMMYT (MX), German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ (DE), Bellona Europe (BE), Swiss Energy Foundation (CH), Swiss Federal Office of Energy (CH), Bitplane (CH), Nitidae (FR), WWF (BE) and Barenbrug (FR) is part of each project. The specific time and duration of the secondment is indicated in the individual position announcement (see table below).

Successful candidates will be matriculated at either ETH Zurich, University of Zurich or University of Basel based on the academic supervisor’s location with a PhD awarded after successful completion of a PhD thesis. All successful applicants will follow the PSC PhD Program Science and Policy that is unique in its kind. Through the curriculum of this program, PhD fellows will be trained in the communication of scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public; the involvement of different stakeholder groups as well as in policy development and endorsement in Europe and at global scale.

Currently open projects and positions

Project title (Number)

Research field

Host Org.

Secondment partner

EpiBreed: Unlocking Epigenetic Variation to Breed Sustainable Crops in a Changing Climate (ESR 01) (PDF, 544 KB)

Plant Science, transgenerational epigenetics, bioinformatics, statistics


MWSchmid GmbH, Switzerland

Wheat responses in changing climates studied by Asian varieties as underexploited genetic and genomic recourses (ESR 02) (PDF, 670 KB)

Plant science, bioinformatics


International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT, Mexico)

Developing a source-to-sink value chain for Swiss industrial carbon dioxide via a holistic approach (ESR 03) (PDF, 740 KB)

Energy science, social sciences or engineering/system sciences


German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ,  Germany

Bellona Europa, Belgium

Energy transition and the transport sector – assessing the impact of European and national policies on future drive technology mixes, energy use, and emission pathways (ESR 04) (PDF, 644 KB)

Energy science, cimate and energy policy, innovation studies


Swiss Energy Foundation (SES), Switzerland

Engineering the Policy-Enabled Transition to Sustainable Multi-Energy Microgrids (ESR 05) (PDF, 546 KB)

Energy systems,  energy economics and policy


Swiss Federal Office of Energy, Switzerland

Plant reproduction: chromatin-based controls in the reproductive lineage (ESR 06) (PDF, 552 KB)

Plant science, microscopy imaging and image processing, cell biology, plant development


Bitplane, Switzerland

The role of biodiversity in sustainable energy transitions for charcoal (ESR 07) (PDF, 545 KB)

Land-use decisions, sustainability, social-ecological research and ecology, energy sciences


Nitidae, France

WWF, Belgium

Towards improving forage productivity under future climates (ESR 08) (PDF, 543 KB)

Plant science, Quantitative genetics, statistics, Applied plant breeding


Barenbrug, France

For details about the individual projects, please download the project and job descriptions.

Eligibility criteria

RESPONSE DP is open to applicants of any nationality fulfilling the following eligibility criteria:

  • Only early stage researcher (ESR) can benefit from the RESPONSE DP. ESRs are researchers in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, including the period of research training, starting at the date of obtaining the degree, which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the initial training activities are provided.
  • The applicant must not have a doctoral degree yet.
  • They must hold a Master's degree or equivalent. It is possible to apply when the master's degree is received until the starting date of the fellowship.
  • At the application deadline (= Call 1, December 1, 2019), applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

Application and recruitment

RESPONSE DP guarantees fair recruitment criteria and procedures on the basis of open competition and selection of candidates that show scientific excellence in their CV.

Applications shall include:

  • a CV (tabular)
  • a personal motivation letter to be uploaded under ‘Further documents’ in the online application portal
  • 2-3 reference letters
  • diploma(s) and additional supporting information (e.g. proof of competence in English).

Within the letter of motivation, the applicant shall:

  • refer to his/her preferred individual research project (i.e. indicate project number(s) ESR xxx)
  • describe his/her motivation to join RESPONSE DP.

The applicant can start the position earliest February 2020 and shall be available for the position latest in May 2020.


Application needs to be submitted via the online application portal: (Select the PhD program Science and Policy)