RESPONSE – A new Doctoral Programme

slogan response

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 3 for PhD candidate applications open. Deadline: Dec 1, 2020.

Call 4 for Research Project Proposals open. Deadline: Nov 30, 2020.

Currently, RESPONSE DP is offering 8 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), WWF US (USA), SPYGEN (FR), Swiss Academy of Sciences, Forum Biodiversity (CH), Face the Future (Uganda), Swiss Federal Office of Energy (BFE, Switzerland), ProSpecieRara (CH), Syngenta (CH), and South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP, Malaysia) 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.

* The positions ESR17 and ESR19 are planned for 42 and 48 months, respectively. 36 month of each project will be co-funded through RESPONSE DP.

Open Projects and Positions

Project title (Number)

Research field

Host Org.

Secondment partner

Unlocking genetic resources of buckwheat to diversify Swiss agricultural and food systems (ESR15) (PDF, 276 KB)

Plant Breeding

Orphan crops, Buckwheat, Genomics


ProSpecieRara, Switzerland

FARS - For resilient and sustainable farms and value chains from the perspective of the Agricultural Region Strategies policy tool (ESR16) (PDF, 615 KB)

Agricultural economics and policy

Sub Research Field: Sustainability and resilience assessment


Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland

Sustainable storage for a resilient hydropower for a resilient future energy system (ESR17) (PDF, 556 KB)

Hydraulic Engineering Sediment Management


Swiss Federal Office of Energy BFE, (Switzerland)

Monitoring the effect of deforestation and reforestation on vertebrate diversity using river environmental DNA (ESR18) (PDF, 255 KB)

Molecular ecology

Sub Research Field: Spatial analyses, remote sensing


World Wildlife Fund (WWF), USA

SPYGEN, France

Land-use effects on the functioning of anthropogenically-dominated landscapes (ESR19) (PDF, 567 KB)

Biodiversity sciences


Swiss Academy of Sciences, Forum Biodiversity, Switzerland

Legacy effects of land-use on tropical soils as constraints on the restoration success and service provision of tropical forests in Uganda (ESR20) (PDF, 248 KB)

Forest ecosystem sciences

Soil system sciences


Face the Future, Uganda

Evidence-based evaluation of the roles and application of plant peptides for the sustainable improvement of crop resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses (‘PEPSTRESS’) (ESR21) (PDF, 843 KB)

Crop stress tolerance


Syngenta, Switzerland

Inferring legacy of human activities on tropical forest plant diversity with spatial genetics and remote sensing (ESR22) (PDF, 236 KB)

Ecology, Social-Ecology

Remote Sensing or Bioinformatics


South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership – SEARRP, Malaysia

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 3 = December 1, 2020) 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
  • 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(s) (i.e. indicate project number(s) ESR xxx)
    • describe his/her motivation to join RESPONSE DP.
  • The applicant can start the position earliest March 2021 and shall be available for the position latest in May 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 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.

*The positions ESR17 and ESR19 are planned for 42 and 48 months, respectively. 36 month of each project will be co-funded through RESPONSE DP.