Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher in Transforming Phosphorus Governance

University of Leeds

Leeds, United Kingdom

ID: 7078053 (Ref.No. ENVEE1465)
Posted: May 10, 2021

Job Description

Are you an enthusiastic graduate looking for your next career move? Would you like to become part of the next generation of international interdisciplinary professionals addressing one of the 21st century’s biggest global sustainability challenges? Would you like to obtain a Doctoral degree at one of the UK’s leading research intensive Universities?

We are inviting applications to the Marie Curie Innovative Training Network RECAP:  Capture, recycling and societal management of phosphorus in the environment. RecaP will train a novel type of Phosphorus specialist with the capacity to investigate transformative pathways to address the Global Phosphorus Challenge (GPC) in a transdisciplinary manner. This unique research programme has the ambition to disentangle the complex relationships of the GPC to secure food, agricultural productivity, a clean environment and ultimately, a closed phosphorus cycle as part of a sustainable circular bio-economy. The role is automatically associated with the University of Leeds’ Postgraduate Research Programme leading to obtaining a PhD

Phosphorus has no substitute in food production and all nations currently  depend on fertilisers derived from a finite supply of phosphate rock to produce food. Phosphorus supply is controlled by a handful of countries subject to geopolitical instability. This creates major uncertainties over continued access and makes national and regional agri-food systems, and global food security more broadly, potentially vulnerable to supply disruptions and price fluctuations. At the same time, our system of phosphorus use is inefficient, generating large phosphorus surpluses in agricultural soils, from where it is lost to the hydrosphere, causing global scale pollution of water resources and compromising secure access to water and biodiversity worldwide. The dispersal of phosphorus in the system is the result of a ‘chaotic’ governance of P in terms of its distribution, usage, loss and accumulation. While phosphorus, like water, is essential for everyone, no national or international body is currently responsible for ensuring long-term security and sustainable use of the critical resource. Roles and responsibilities are fragmented and ambiguous, and phosphorus falls through the institutional cracks.

This research project will explore the causes of this chaotic phosphorus governance and how it can be transformed by conceptualizing phosphorus sustainability issues as policy problems. It will explore processes of phosphorus framing and problem definition that can block phosphorus sustainability from entering the institutional agenda leading to success or failure of attempts to improve phosphorus governance. The research will use the UK, the European Union and Australia as exemplars of the success-failure spectrum.  

The main duty for the successful candidate will be to carry out such research supervised by Prof. Julia Martin-Ortega from the University of Leeds and  Associate Professors Dana Cordell and Brent Jacobs from University Technology Sydney in Australia. The role also includes close interaction with the other fourteen Early Stage Researchers (ESR) of the RecaP International Training Programme, including at least three secondments at RecaP partner organisations across Australia and Europe, contributing to the delivery of programme level outputs.

This position is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action European Joint Doctorate Innovative Training Network RecaP (Capture, Recycling and Societal Management of Phosphorus in the Environment) within the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Commission (Agreement No. 956454).

To explore the post further or for any queries you may have, please contact:

Professor Julia Martin-Ortega


Location:  Leeds - Main Campus
Faculty/Service:  Faculty of Environment
School/Institute:  School of Earth and Environment
Category:  Research
Grade:  Off grading structure
Salary:  p.a.
Working Time:  100% - We will consider job share / flexible working arrangements
Post Type:  Full Time
Contract Type:  Fixed Term (for 3 years from 1 September 2021 - due to external funding)
Release Date:  Monday 10 May 2021
Closing Date:  Monday 07 June 2021
Reference:  ENVEE1465

The University community is made up of a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds and circumstances, which we value and regard as a great asset. As part of our continued commitment to equality and inclusion, we strive to create an environment where everyone can reach their full potential and have a real opportunity to participate in and contribute to our activities.


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