Job Postings

3 year PhD position at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich)

Job opening: 3 year PhD position at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich)
in the field of empirical based Multi-Agent Simulation of Opinion Dynamics.

The doctoral project “Tipping points in public opinion. A Multi-Agent System simulating shifts from indifferent and ambivalent to polarized opinions” is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Employment will be by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag:; the work will be mainly carried out at the Natural and Social Science Interface at ETH (

=== PhD project description ===
Projecting the public’s opinion and voting behavior especially regarding a contested and value-laden issue is difficult but highly relevant from a policy planning perspective. Theoretical considerations on how people form and exchange their opinions are available. However, it is largely unknown how exactly people form opinions about specific issues and how from these micro opinions a macro (= public) opinion emerges. That is, how do people develop their opinion – especially in response to media communications, influence from their social networks, and various PR campaigns?
In the proposed project, we investigate the formation and development of opinions about a planned repository for radioactive waste in Switzerland that is highly contested; an intense and long-term participatory process for selecting the respective sites is ongoing (for more information see to gain acceptance of the public.
We will apply multiple methods to investigate the research goals: Previous (own) data collected via questionnaires and interviews provides an extensive knowledge base. However, some tailored data about details of the opinion formation process have to be investigated via personal in-depth interviews. Additionally, we use web-based questionnaire method to consider in a quantitative way two important dimensions that explain opinions about radioactive waste: risks and benefits. The dynamics will be modeled and simulated by means of a Multi-Agent System (MAS) preferably using NetLogo Software.
Further information can be requested from Dr. Roman Seidl ([email protected])

=== Profile of the candidate ===
Education: We seek a PhD candidate with an excellent master’s degree (Diploma) in Psychology.
Knowledge and experience: Ideally the candidate is experienced with quantitative social-science methods such as questionnaire development and statistical analysis of the results as well as in modeling and simulation. Having a background in complex systems, agent based modeling or multi-agent simulation is an advantage. Good spoken and writing skills in English are necessary.
Personality: The candidate is able and willing to work closely with other members of an interdisciplinary team. Because questionnaire and interview studies will be in German good command of Swiss German or German is an important asset. He or she should also be interested in integrating ambiguous, contested information emerging from the participatory process to find a site for a nuclear waste repository.
Start of this position is as soon as possible. Place of work is ETH Zurich, the salary is according to rules of Eawag.

Please send your application until 29. October 2012 with
• an explanation of your interest in the proposed research field;
• a Curriculum Vitae;
• copies of diplomas together and other relevant certificates;
• names and contact details of two referees;
preferably as a single PDF directly via e-mail to: Dr. Roman Seidl .
Short-listed candidates will be invited for a personal interview.


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