Postdoctoral Position Available: Co-Production of Knowledge, Technologies & Practices for Sustainable Nitrogen Management in Chile

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William San Martin

Sep 3, 2023, 3:06:02 AMSep 3
Dear all,

I'm hiring a Postdoctoral Researcher with experience in STS, knowledge co-production, participatory methods, and soil/agricultural/sustainability sciences to work on an NSF-funded project on Sustainable Nitrogen Management with agricultural scientists, extensionists, and farmers in Chile.

Please see more information and application details below.

Dr. William San Martín (Department of Integrative and Global Studies, Global School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute) seeks a Postdoctoral Researcher for a five-year, collaborative NSF-funded project: URoL-ASC “Co-Producing Knowledge, Biotechnologies, and Practices to Enhance Biological Nitrogen Fixation for Sustainable Agriculture.”

Job Description

The Postdoctoral Researcher will work closely with an interdisciplinary team that includes agricultural and soil scientists, biochemical engineers, and social scientists in Chile and the United States (Atlanta and Boston). The researcher will co-design and lead participatory methodologies with international partners to co-produce knowledge, technologies, and practices to increase sustainable nitrogen management among small-scale farmers and Indigenous communities in Chile. Important additional tasks include organizing workshops with project partners and disseminating findings in formats targeted at project participants and the broader public, peer-review publications, and professional conferences. This is a 5-year position primarily based in the United States, with significant annual fieldwork in Southern Chile (Los Lagos and Ñuble Regions).  The starting date for this position is November 1st 2023, or as soon as possible after this date.

Project Background

The excessive use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has created a cascade of global social and environmental adverse effects. Accordingly, national and intergovernmental organizations, including the recent United Nations Resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, have identified nitrogen as a critical socio-environmental issue and a key component in achieving the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The recent UN Resolution called for Member States to accelerate actions to significantly reduce nitrogen waste globally, develop National Action Plans for sustainable nitrogen management, and share knowledge and lessons across national, regional, and global levels. 

However, at a national and subnational level, scientific knowledge, institutional capacities, and policy responses have grown unequally. In developing and postcolonial nations, nitrogen management often faces the challenges of unequal access to resources, laboratories, and instruments. Since these nations have unique challenges in building institutional infrastructure and technologies, developing local research capabilities and community-oriented responses are pressing needs. In addition, global efforts are even more difficult when research on social and cultural factors shaping farmers’ decisions and needs regarding fertilizer use is still poorly understood. This is a particularly pressing issue among small-scale farmers and Indigenous communities in the Global South, who have historically received limited access to resources and have been marginalized in national agricultural development projects. 

As the variability of fertilizer prices and the effects of climate change increase, impacts on agricultural practices and food production are expected to grow, with profound consequences for food security and the livelihoods of communities, particularly for low-income and small-scale farmers. Therefore, developing co-production strategies across national, disciplinary, and institutional boundaries to develop new agricultural knowledge, technologies, and practices will be critical to limit the negative impacts of the excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers on the environment, reduce the costs for farmers, and enhance more sustainable nitrogen management practices.

Co-production methodologies and research addressing global sustainability issues have shown the importance of context-specific and community-based research. Using participatory action research, ethnographic fieldwork, and knowledge co-production methods and strategies, this project will work with agricultural and soil scientists,biochemical engineers, extensionists, and small-scale farmers in Chile to co-produce knowledge, technologies, and practices aiming at enhancing biological nitrogen fixation and reducing dependency on synthetic fertilizers. International partners include researchers at Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the School of Biomedical Engineering, the Latin American Center of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), and scientists, extensionists, and farmers working with Chile’s Institute for Agricultural Research (INIA), the Department of Soil & Engineering in the School of Agricultural Sciences at Universidad de Chile, Chile’s Institute for Agricultural Development (INDAP) and its Local Development Program (PRODESAL) and Indigenous Territorial Development Program (PDTI). 


  • A Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology, Human Geography, Environmental Studies, Environmental and Rural Sociology, Environmental History and the humanities, or related social sciences and humanities disciplines. 
  • Experience in the fields of agroecology, environmental justice, political ecology, socio-ecological conflicts, ethno- and cultural ecology, agri-food systems, climate adaptation, regenerative agriculture, soil biodiversity and sustainable soil management, environmental policy and management, traditional systems of ecological knowledge, or related biocultural approaches to agriculture and biodiversity conservation. 
  • The doctorate must be awarded prior to the start of the appointment, and candidates must have received their degree within the past six years before the start of this appointment. 
  • Excellent writing and communication skills in Spanish and English.
  • Demonstrated experience with qualitative and community-based participatory research, ethnographic fieldwork, and knowledge co-production methods and strategies. 
  • Interest in policy-relevant interdisciplinary research, issues of justice and equity, and sustainable development. 

Additional desired assets and skills:

  • Experience working with small-scale farmers or other agricultural stakeholders in social science research in Chile or Latin America.
  • Experience in soil and agricultural sciences and climate-related research, especially in the Latin American context.
  • Experience working with interdisciplinary research teams, international partners, and remote academic and non-academic partners.
  • Demonstrated capacity for communicating research findings among diverse audiences, including farmers, scientists, NGOs, policymakers, etc.
  • Experience with multi-site research, comparative analysis, and studying the circulation of knowledge, technologies, practices, and policies between Latin America and other regions.

Application and selection process:
Please submit following this link 1) a cover letter highlighting research skills and relevant assets and experience, 2) a CV, and 3) contact details for two professional references.  Pre-selected candidates will be called for an interview, after which personal references may be contacted. A second interview may be considered as a final selection method. The review of applications will start on August 30th 2023, and continue until the position is filled.

Any inquiries about the position and the project may be addressed to Dr. William San Martín (wsanmartin[at]wpi[dot]edu)

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