Postdoctoral research scientist studying blockchain governance

Amsterdam Law School – Institute for Information Law

Publication date
15 January 2018
Level of education
PhD
Salary indication
€2,588 to €4,757 gross per month, based on 38 hours per week
Closing date
28 February 2018
Hours
19 to 38 hours per week
Vacancy number
18-022

The Institute for Information Law (IViR), officially established in 1989, is one of the largest research centres in the field of information law in the world. The Institute employs over 25 researchers who are active in an entire spectrum of information society related legal areas: intellectual property law, telecommunications and broadcasting regulation, media law, Internet regulation, advertising law, domain names, freedom of expression, privacy, digital consumer issues, commercial speech, et cetera.

IViR is the host institution of Dr Balazs Bodo’s ERC Starting Grant Blockchain & Society. The Blockchain&Society Research Lab is comprised of innovative scholars in the field of technology governance, who speak and understand the language of multiple academic disciplines and discourses, and are able to bridge academic research and practice.

2017 was the year of bitcoin, and blockchain based applications in general. The hype around cryptocurrencies, and the promising technical design of blockchain technologies pushed the idea of the Distributed Ledger Technology beyond the narrow confines of finance, and enabled its use in other social domains. Entrepreneurs, blockchain enthusiasts, libertarian technologists, governments, and blue chip corporations try to express and/or re-design complex social, economic, political and legal institutions, practices using digital tokens, distributed ledgers, and smart contracts.

Millions already use blockchain-based services every day, and many public services and private institutions are trying to cope with the (promise of) disruption. Despite the wide spectrum of blockchain applications and their ability to disrupt fundamental societal processes and institutions, there is very little research on their non-technical, societal, economic, policy and legal implications.

The goal of the Blockchain&Society Research Lab is to look beyond the short-term hype, and assess the impact of blockchain innovation from a long-term societal perspective.

Project and job description

As a research scientist, you will be responsible for the Lab’s activities that monitor the development of various blockchain applications, their technological designs, governance, internal factors of success and failure.

Blockchain applications display a wide range of fundamental technological design differences. Some rely on open source software, others use proprietary code. Some rely on non-permissioned blockchains, others limit access to the blockchain to select parties. Some applications, like Ethereum, allow all kinds of tokens on the blockchain; others are highly specialized and focus exclusively on one application (e.g. finance), or one type of tokenized information (e.g. domain names).

The governance, i.e. the formal and informal institutional, political, cultural, social organization of these implementations, is also extremely varied. Some communities only include software developers, while others, like the Hyperledger consortium, include a diverse set of stakeholders such as investors, incumbents, policymakers, domain experts, academics, etc. Some blockchain developer communities are meritocratic democracies, others are hierarchically structured bureaucratic organizations. Some have a charismatic leadership, others don’t. Finally, some blockchain applications become strong and successful, with high potential for disruption, while others fail to get off the ground.

The Lab’s Blockchain Monitor will study and compare different aspects of various blockchain applications: stakeholders; governance, and incentive structures. Your task will be to understand how the social, economic, and political dimensions of technology governance interact with the unique (decentralized, trustless) characteristics of the blockchain technology.

Your task will be to:

  • monitor the developments in the blockchain application space, and identify projects with unique design or governance characteristics worthy of further investigation,
  • assess the relative merits of currently prevailing technological choices, governance approaches, etc. in terms of individual/social costs and benefits,
  • identify applications, design choices, governance approaches, etc. that create high disruptive potential for the future,
  • select ~4 (un)successful blockchain applications to study and compare, and
    • catalogue and compare the (types of) stakeholders that are involved in these projects;
    • describe and assess the formal and informal governance structures which emerged to control / influence the development processes;
    • map the incentives structures that ensure the provision of key resources; and
    • analyze the results and build a coherent framework of blockchain technology governance.
  • contribute to the development of research methodology and infrastructure;
  • help organize a workshop series on the research findings;
  • help create an online curriculum.

Requirements

 Candidates are expected to meet the following requirements. You have:

  • a multidisciplinary background with training in any two of the following disciplines:
    • Sociology;
    • Economics;
    • Political Science and/or Computer Science, with special focus on sociology of organizations, sociology or economics of innovation, or science and technology studies;
    • Law.
  • demonstrated qualitative, discourse analysis/ethnography skills with expertise in computational text collection and analysis methods;
  • experience or interest in multidisciplinary research;
  • a demonstrated track record of researching social diffusion/application of digital technologies;
  • experience or demonstrated interest in contributing to the relevant policy debates;
  • fluency in English and preferably one other major European language;
  • demonstrable organizational and communicative skills;
  • willingness to attract external funding for research projects;
  • creative, critical, out-of-the-box thinking;
  • independence, reliability, autonomy.

Further information

For further information, please contact:

Appointment

The appointment is for 0.5 to 1.0 FTE, depending on the candidate, his/her skills, and other obligations. Candidates who wish to maintain their current, active involvement in blockchain related practice are encouraged to apply for a part-time appointment.

The position is initially for 2 years, with an opportunity to extend the appointment for an extra 2 years, subject to satisfactory performance.

The gross full-time monthly salary will be in accordance with the salary scales for postdoctoral researchers at Dutch universities, scales 10 and 11, ranging from €2,588 up to €4,757. Secondary benefits at Dutch universities are attractive and include 8% holiday pay and an 8.3% end of year bonus. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable.

Job application

We are building a culturally diverse Lab, and every qualified applicant will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, age, disabled status, or genetic information.

To apply please submit the following items (preferably in one file) in Word or PDF format electronically to solliciteren-fdr@uva.nl attn. selection committee:

  • your CV;
  • a letter of motivation;
  • a written piece of max. 25 pages (e.g. a published paper), and/or code library;
  • two reference (academic or practice);
  • a short research proposal (2000 words max), which sets out questions you would like to investigate in the context of our research framework and linked to the particular research strand mentioned. Locate these in the relevant literature and indicate the method you intend to use to answer the research questions indicated.

Only complete applications will be considered.

The closing date for receipt of applications is 28 February 2018. #LI-DNP

No agencies please

Published by  University of Amsterdam