Jobs and study opportunities

Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law (Faculty of Medicine, KU Leuven)

1 fully funded 4-year PhD position

Project title


The Professionalization of Science: Analysis and Normative Implications


Background of project


In the past two decades, the realization has grown that the phenomenon of scientific misconduct is not limited to a few ill-intentioned scientists – the proverbial ‘rotten apples’. It is now clear that there are also structural causes, and hence that scientific misconduct is intertwined with ‘questionable research practices’ and sloppy science.


In response, a lot of the policy changes have followed a textbook example of professionalization: there has been a big push for researchers to adhere to a code of conduct, and for there to be integrity boards to review alleged infractions of the code. Yet what does professionalization precisely mean? Is it appropriate to impose a professional model of self-regulation, similar to that in medicine or law, on scientific research?


Goals of project


In this project we aim at understanding what precisely professionalization and professionalism are, and to what extent they are appropriate for scientific research.


The project contains conceptual, empirical, and policy-oriented sub-goals. The first is to reflect on the values of professionalism, and what these imply for how the values of science should be understood. The second is to interview scientists in a variety of domains, and map their attitudes towards professionalism and professionalization. The third is to draw out implications for how science policy documents should be organized.


Job description


You will conduct PhD research under the supervision of Professors Kris Dierickx and Hugh Desmond. You will be part of a research team on the same topic. You will play an active role in the research team, publish papers in research ethics and integrity and in philosophy of science, organise and take part in workshops, conferences, public events and other activities.


You will be based at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law at the KU Leuven, an interdisciplinary centre that performs research on ethical and societal issues. The staff members of this centre publish their work in international peer reviewed journals, participate in national and international research projects, and provide advice to academic and professional organizations.


For those wishing to do so, there is a possibility that the PhD is set up as a joint-PhD between the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at KU Leuven (lead-university) and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Antwerp.


Your profile


  • Strong interest in the ethical and social aspects of scientific research;
  • A masters degree in a relevant discipline: philosophy (of science), applied ethics, history (of science), sociology or a relevant social science, theology, law;
  • An outstanding record of undergraduate and master's degree work;
  • Some formal education in a science will be considered a plus;
  • Fluency in English, both written and orally;
  • Strong writing and analytical skills;
  • Good communication and organization skills;
  • Ability to meet deadlines and complete a PhD thesis within the defined project time;
  • Capacity to work both as an independent researcher and as part of a team;
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary context.


Apply via the following link:


Please direct informal inquiries to:

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Following should be included in your application:

  • Cover Letter


  • Curriculum Vitae

  • Sample of written work: a paper or master’s thesis

  • Contact details of two references



Deadline for applications: July 31st, 2020


Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview, to be held in the second half of August. These may be conducted in person or via Skype.


Starting date of PhD: between September 1st and December 31st, 2020