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Postdoctoral Fellows Program: Food Systems Resilience to Climate Change

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Deadline: 
Oct 01, 2014

  
The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), located in Annapolis, Maryland, invites applications for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship beginning early January 2015 that will be a part of a new SESYNC–USDA collaboration to catalyze data-driven research on food systems resilience to climate change. SESYNC seeks applications from PhD-level researchers with an interest in and/or prior research experience with data-driven analytical and/or modeling approaches to synthesize existing climate, socio-economic, demographic, and environmental data to address pressing questions related to food/agro-ecological systems resilience to climate change. The SESYNC postdoctoral fellow will also lead the planning, organization, and management of the new SESYNC–USDA “Data to Motivate Synthesis” Program. This new program will provide a unique opportunity for 25 early career scholars to co-develop research projects through a series of data exploration workshops with the cyberinfrastructure support needed to understand and predict food systems resilience under a changing climate.

The fellow’s research and program management responsibilities will be integrated through the SESYNC–USDA “Data to Motivate Synthesis” Program to:

  1. leverage new data resources to develop an independent research project,
  2. catalyze interdisciplinary team research projects among early career scholars, and
  3. co-develop additional and/or complementary research projects with program participants.

Background

Understanding the production, supply, and distribution of our food is a daunting task. Food arrives to us through an overwhelmingly complex set of interactions between farmers, rural communities, governments, and global commodity markets that link important issues such as environmental quality, agricultural science and technology, health and nutrition, rural livelihoods, and social institutions and equality—all of which will be affected by climate change. Even under current conditions, about one billion people do not have access to sufficient calories, while a further billion do not have access to a balanced diet. The production of actionable science is thus urgently needed to inform and prepare the public for the consequences of climate change for local and global food systems. Access to data that spans multiple sectors/domains and spatial and temporal scales is key to beginning to tackle such complex issues.

As a part of the White House’s Climate Data Initiative (CDAT), the Food Resilience Team led by the USDA is launching a centralized repository of data, tools, and map products to facilitate research into climate change impacts on food systems. Leveraging these new data access opportunities, SESYNC and USDA are launching a new collaboration to catalyze data-driven research to enhance food systems resilience to climate change. This new program will support 25 early career scholars and provide a unique opportunity to co-develop research projects through a series of data exploration workshops with the cyberinfrastructure support needed to understand and predict food systems resilience under a changing climate. SESYNC and USDA computational experts will guide participants in a highly interactive and dynamic process of real-time data discovery, analysis, and visualization. Workshop participants will then be invited to submit proposals for interdisciplinary team projects. SESYNC will support up to six teams by providing logistical, travel, and cyberinfrastructure support for each team to meet multiple times over a two-year period to address their research questions.

The SESYNC Food Systems Postdoctoral Fellow will lead the planning, organization, and management of this program. Program management responsibilities will include:

  1. planning and coordinating workshop agendas and attendees,
  2. supporting collaborative, interdisciplinary team science among the early career researchers, and
  3. providing domain and technical expertise as needed during workshops and project meetings.

The fellow will be supported by and work closely with SESYNC staff to execute program activities. The fellow will also recruit one or two "external experts" in consultation with SESYNC staff. The external expert(s) will serve in an advisory/collaborative capacity during planning and execution of the workshops and subsequent team meetings and provide domain knowledge and career mentorship to the fellow. The external expert(s) may include, for example, academic, NGO, or agency researchers; policy professionals; decision makers; government analysts; etc. These individuals should have an interest in working with young scholars in this capacity and may participate in as many group meetings as they like but will not lead the group. An honorarium will be provided for the external expert(s).

Eligibility

We welcome applications from PhD-level researchers with experience using data-driven analytical and/or modeling approaches to address pressing questions related to food/agro-ecological systems resilience to climate change. Successful applicants will also demonstrate experience with and/or interest in research project/program management and supporting collaborative interdisciplinary team research among early career researchers. Applicants should have experience visualizing and analyzing complex datasets and possess basic computational skills including database and metadata creation and management and R or similar statistical and data processing software. Experience with geospatial tools (e.g., ArcGIS) and analysis is a plus.

Selection Criteria

Postdoctoral applications will be ranked primarily by the suitability for the position and novelty and feasibility of research questions. In particular, applications will be ranked with regard to their:

  • Applicant qualifications and experience.
  • Knowledge of how data-driven analytical and/or modeling approaches can be used to advance understanding of food systems resilience to climate change.
  • Novelty, creativity, and/or urgency of research questions.
  • Feasibility of producing meaningful synthetic research on this topic within a two-year time frame, including demonstrating knowledge of appropriate data and methods.
  • Potential to support collaborative, interdisciplinary team research among early career scholars.
  • Demonstrated organizational skills required to coordinate the activities of the SESYNC–USDA "Data to Motivate Synthesis" Program.

Support

Appointments will be through the University of Maryland, and awardees must be based in our facilities in Annapolis, Maryland.

The SESYNC postdoctoral fellowship provides an annual stipend, full University of Maryland employee benefits, and a small annual travel allowance to attend meetings or to meet with collaborators.

Postdoctoral fellowships are awarded for a maximum of two years and include structured mentoring programs, facilitated access to policy makers, and opportunities to participate in ongoing Center activities.

Deadline

For best consideration, apply by October 1, 2014.

Components of Application

Include the following using single spacing, 12-pt type fonts, and 1-inch margins.

Application Letter (2 pages max, excluding references)

  • Name and contact information.
  • Date of PhD defense – If the defense has not occurred, applicants need a letter from their dissertation advisor verifying the expected data of completion.
  • Statement of research interests – Clear and concise statement of the applicant’s research goals, including specific research questions and how a data-driven approach can be used to address those questions and accelerate research on food/agro-ecological systems and resilience to climate change.
  • Specific methods and data anticipated to be used for the synthesis project.
  • Applicant’s skills and experience relevant to:
  • How the applicant will make use of SESYNC’s opportunities to enhance the scholar’s career and why SESYNC is the most appropriate place to advance their research interests.
  • Potential conflicts of interest with members of the SESYNC External Advisory Board or Leadership Team.

Collaborative Center Activities: Supporting the SESYNC–USDA Food Systems Resilience to Climate Change Program (~1/2 page)

Briefly describe your interests and ideas for supporting the SESYNC–USDA Food Systems Resilience to Climate Change Program. In particular, discuss:

  1. how the program activities can complement your own independent research project,
  2. your ability to plan, organize, and manage workshops and provide programmatic administrative support, and
  3. how you foresee interacting with the program’s early career researchers throughout your residence at SESYNC.

Full CV of the Applicant, including names and contact information for three references

Letters of Recommendation

Please arrange for each reference to provide a letter of recommendation regarding your background and ability to carry out the responsibilities of the postdoctoral fellow described above and your ability to engage in collaborative research as part of SESYNC community. These letters should be submitted separately from your application. References should submit letters by October 1, 2014 to: postdoc.application@sesync.org

Submission Process

All application materials (excluding letters of reference) must be submitted as a single PDF file using the webform here. For best consideration, apply by October 1, 2014.

Potential international Postdoctoral Fellows should review visa requirements before applying.

Questions?

Email Dr. Nicholas Magliocca at: nmagliocca@sesync.org

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply