Postdoc in Science & Technology Studies (STS) / bioethics

European Institute of Oncology is seeking a postdoc fellow to collaborate on the Italian arm of the international project “Solidarity in times of a pandemic. What do people do and why?” (SolPan). The SolPan consortium is one of the largest of its kind in Europe conducting longitudinal, comparative, qualitative research to examine how the COVID-19 crisis has been affecting our societies, and how people react to the policies implemented in response to it.

The Italian arm of the study (‘Pandemic Solidarity. A comparative and longitudinal study of practices and infrastructures of solidarity in times of pandemic’) is led by the University of Milan, and has been granted competitive funding from Fondazione Cariplo (Bando Ricerca Sociale 2020).

Project background

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for policymakers, public health officials and societies, highlighting the need for deeper understandings of people’s views, practices and responses to the policies implemented during the crisis. How do people react to policy measures that have been introduced? How do they appropriate scientific evidence and what actions do they take on their own initiative over and above the official advice by governments? What motivates citizens to follow, adapt to, or ignore, the advice of public authorities? What, or who, do people trust in these uncertain times?

To examine these relevant questions, the SolPan consortium has been established in April 2020. The consortium is structured in different project arms each carrying out independent – yet thoroughly coordinated – research in nine different European countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

We use a longitudinal, multi-sited qualitative research design involving in-depth open-ended interviews to compare findings across countries and to identify differences and similarities in how people respond to the pandemic and the ensuing policy measures, but also the values and reference points that underpin such responses. These findings are expected to generate valuable evidence for policies for pandemic preparedness, prevention and containment in the countries under study, and beyond.

Within this broader framework, the Italian arm of the project will explore in depth people’s practices, values and motivations in response to the COVID-19 policies implemented in the Italian context. Informed by a co-productionist perspective on the mutual shaping of scientific knowledge practices, technology and societies, the Italian arm of the study will further carry out in-depth investigation of the interplay between novel technologies (e.g. digital contact-tracing), scientific evidence and expertise, on the one side, and political and policy decision-making, on the other side. It will probe how technology mediates experiences of the pandemic; how people appropriate scientific evidence in their daily practices and relate to scientific expertise; as well as how emerging social (e.g. social distancing) and technological orders (e.g. digital public health surveillance systems) mutually shape each other around claimed practices of solidarity.

Ultimately, this project is expected to provide valuable and timely contribution to emerging interdisciplinary scholarship on the relationship between societal crises, emerging technologies, scientific knowledge practices, and solidarity. It will also foster much-needed policy learning on public health emergencies preparedness, reaching out to a varied set of stakeholders including policymakers at the regional Lombardy and national Italian level.

Job description

The postdoctoral fellow will closely collaborate with Dr. Luca Marelli (P.I. of the project), Prof. Giuseppe Testa (Group Leader of the High Definition Disease Modelling Lab and Director of the Science in Society Project at IEO), Italian project partners (Dr. Federica Lucivero, University of Oxford; Dr. Ilaria Galasso, University College Dublin; Dr. Paolo Corsico, University of Manchester), as well as international project partners (Prof. Ine Van Hoyweghen, KU Leuven; Prof. Barbara Prainsack, Univeristy of Vienna).

S/he will carry out qualitative research, will compare project findings with those of the other study arms, and will undertake conceptual analysis along distinct yet related lines of research, including identifying and discussing the underlying epistemic assumptions and values underpinning political and policy decision-making in response to the pandemic; and identifying and discussing ethical and social dimensions of the introduction of new technologies and knowledge practices to contain the pandemic (e.g. digital contact-tracing apps, COVID-19 vaccines, face masks).

Expected project activities include:

  • Collecting qualitative data (foremost by means of in-depth qualitative interviews);
  • Analyzing qualitative data collected;
  • Reviewing relevant literature in different disciplinary fields (e.g. STS, bioethics, public health, health policy);
  • Undertaking rigorous conceptual analysis leading to high-level publications;
  • Disseminating project findings with different audiences, including policymakers.

Profile

  • A PhD in STS, bioethics or closely related field;
  • Acquaintance with relevant theoretical approaches in STS, bioethics, data governance, public health ethics.
  • Experience with empirical qualitative methods in the social and health sciences (e.g., document analysis, interviews); 
  • Sufficient familiarity with policy developments in the European, Italian and Lombardy context since the onset of the pandemic;
  • Excellent organizational skills – experience in project management is a plus;
  • Full proficiency in both Italian and English, both written and orally; 
  • Strong writing and analytical skills;
  • Excellent communication skills – both oral and written;
  • Ability to meet deadlines and take responsibility for assigned research tasks;
  • Capacity to work both as an independent researcher and as part of a team;
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary context.
  • Age under 35 y.o. would be preferred

To apply

We look forward to receiving your application with the following documents:

A detailed CV with full list of publications;

  • A one-page motivation letter outlining why you are interested in the position and why you think you are a good fit for it;
  • The name and contact details of two previous supervisors or mentors who are willing to write a reference letter in your support.

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