Doctoral fellow

Last application date
May 31, 2021 00:00
PS04 - Department of Sociology
Limited duration
Master's degree in Sociology, Health Promotion or another relevant social science (Last-year students are highly encouraged to apply).
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

The research group Hedera (Department of Sociology) is looking for a PhD student for a project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 framework that aims to tackle vaccine hesitancy: VAX-TRUST.

Vaccine hesitancy refers to a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services. Ever since vaccines have been developed, individuals have questioned the value and importance of vaccines for their health and expressed distrust of vaccines or the authorities involved in vaccination programs. Vaccines are widely recognized as one the most successful public health interventions for preventing epidemics of infectious diseases, as well as for reducing mortality and morbidity. Yet an increasing number of individuals are reluctant to embrace vaccination whole-heartedly. They doubt the benefits of vaccines, raise concerns about their safety and efficacy and question the need for them. Vaccine hesitancy constitutes a global health threat, as it can contribute to drops in vaccine uptake and consequently may undermine the effectiveness of vaccination programs.

VAX-TRUST focuses on vaccine hesitant parents and considers vaccine hesitancy as a manifestation of a broader societal phenomenon: the fiercely contested status of authorities and experts in contemporary societies. Healthcare professionals have to handle these contestations in their daily work, and hence, should be provided with the necessary tools to deal and communicate with vaccine hesitant parents. VAX-TRUST therefore aims to develop interventions that can help healthcare professionals in the challenges they face in their expert work. An important contribution of the project is that it recognizes that healthcare professionals themselves are living in the world of contestation of expertise, and thus may be vaccine hesitant.

The VAX-TRUST consortium consists of 10 European partners and is coordinated by Dr. Pia Vuolanto (TAU University, Finland). The UGent team offers a one-year contract (starting in October 2021), which can be prolonged after a positive evaluation with a maximum of 4 years in total. Last-year students are (highly) encouraged to apply.

Your role
• You carry out an ethnographic study and in-depth interviews with parents and healthcare professionals
• You implement targeted and tailored interventions for healthcare professionals
• You evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented interventions
• You conduct a Delphi Survey among experts and stakeholders involved in vaccination programs
• You participate in VAX-TRUST meetings
• You organize meetings with the National Stakeholder Advisory Board
• You disseminate the findings of the VAX-TRUST project to an academic (e.g., participation in conferences, papers in international journals) and non-academic audience (e.g., web page, press releases). The papers will form the basis of your doctoral thesis.

Job profile

We are looking for candidates with:
• An appropriate degree in Sociology or a related discipline. The degree requirements must be fulfilled at the start of the job appointment
• A strong motivation and scientific curiosity
• Excellent study results (with at least the degree of ‘distinction’ in the Master)
• A strong interest in and experience with qualitative research methods
• High proficiency in both English and Dutch (oral and written)
• Strong organization, communication and leadership skills. You are able to take on responsibilities and work independently.
• Strong interpersonal skills to work effectively with team members from other European universities
• An outcome-focused and hands-on mentality
• Willingness to travel internationally for project meetings and conferences
• Willingness to apply for scholarships to obtain additional funding
• Ability to work under time pressure and to meet strict project deadlines

How to apply

Applications must be submitted in a single PDF file and should include:
* A detailed CV, including an overview of study results (grades)
* A motivation letter
* Publications (if applicable)
Applications should be sent via email to Katrijn Delaruelle (, Melissa Ceuterick ( and Piet Bracke ( by May 31st, 2021. Interviews will take place in the first week of July. For additional information about this vacancy, please contact Katrijn Delaruelle.