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 started in February 2020.

Call 4 for PhD candidate applications - Deadline: July 1, 2021

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Currently, RESPONSE DP is evaluating PhD candidates for 6 early-stage researcher’s positions (see table below) 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 Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL (CH), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, FR), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD, CH), Office for Nature and Environment Grisons (CH), Puregene (CH) and RWE Renewables GmbH (DE) 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 or University of Zurich or University depending 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.

Open Projects and Positions

Project title (Number)

Research field

Host Org.

Secondment partner

Policy Designs for addressing societal acceptance challenges in CCU/CCS demonstration and deployment (ESR23 (PDF, 199 KB)) Energy Sciences


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), France
FINCCS – Effective policy mixes to mobilize finance along the CCS/CCU supply chain (ESR24 (PDF, 200 KB)) Energy Sciences


International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Switzerland
Roles of chemical communication in forming plant-insect networks in a changing world (ESR25 (PDF, 196 KB))

Chemical Ecology, Network Ecology

Plant-insect Interactions, Information Theory


Office for Nature and Environment Grisons, Switzerland
Genomic selection 2.0: Developing targeted vs universal machine learning approaches for improving the rate of genetic gain in crop Species (ESR26 (PDF, 244 KB))

Molecular Breeding, Genomic Selection

Plant Genetic Resources, Genomics, Statistical Modelling, Linear Models, Mixed Models, Machine Learning, Deep Learning (Neural Networks), Genetic Gain, Plant Breeding


Puregene, Switzerland

Fermentation with functional co-cultures: A metabolite driven approach to improve cocoa bean quality, safety and sustainability (ESR27 (PDF, 225 KB))

Food Biotechnology, Food Chemistry

Food Analytics, Food Microbiology


Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland

Innovation strategies and policy approaches to support the transition to a clean energy system (ESR28 (PDF, 219 KB))

Energy Science

Clean energy Technology Innovation


RWE Renewables GmbH, Germany

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

Eligibility Criteria

  • Early stage researcher 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.

  • At the time of recruitment (for call 4 = July 1, 2021) by the host organisation, researchers 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
  • Contact details of min. 2 referees (to be added to the application portal)
  • 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(s) (i.e. indicate project number(s) ESR xxx)
    • Describe his/her motivation to join RESPONSE DP and the PhD Program Science and Policy.
  • The applicant can start the position earliest October 2021 and shall be available for the position latest in November 2021.

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

Benefits and Working Conditions

Each RESPONSE position offers an interesting opportunity to work at the interface of science and innovation. While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment at University of Zurich, ETH Zurich OR University of Basel (see table above), the ESR will be jointly co-supervised by an academic Professional Investigator and the non-academic partner.

The successful candidate will be matriculated and will have a working contract at either University of Zurich, ETH Zurich OR University of Basel (see table above). He/she will work in Switzerland. The secondment will take place in Switzerland or abroad (see table above).

This program offers a three-year (36-month)* full-time position (100%) according to the PhD salary regulations of the University Zurich, ETH Zurich OR University of Basel and according to EU regulations for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researchers. The gross salary will not be lower than CHF 3920.