3 PhD positions Delft University of Technology

“Design for changing values: a theory of value change in sociotechnical systems”: energy systems, artificial intelligence and design strategies.

Delft University of Technology offers three positions for PhD students as part of the research project Design for changing values: a theory of value change in sociotechnical systems. The entire project consists of 3 PhD positions and 2 postdoc positions and will be supervised by prof.dr.ir. Ibo van de Poel. A complete description of the project can be requested. The project aims at better understanding how moral values may change as a result of technological development and how we can better deal with such changing values in the design of new technology. Each of the PhD positions focuses on one of the following more specific topics:

  • Changing values and the design of energy systems
  • Design for value change in robot systems and artificial intelligence
  • Design strategies for value change in sociotechnical systems

Each of the projects involves empirical as well philosophical investigations into the phenomenon of value change and its implications for the design of sociotechnical systems. The first two projects focus on value change in a more specific domain (energy systems and artificial intelligence). The third project focuses on developing design strategies that better allow to deal with value change.

The candidate will carry out doctoral research which will lead to a dissertation, and will also produce relevant publications. The candidate will participate in the Graduate School of TU Delft and in the PhD program of the 4TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology.

When applying please indicate in which position(s) you are interested; you can indicate more than one position.
The candidate will also be involved in the teaching activities of the department.


  • A master degree in philosophy, engineering or a relevant socio-scientific discipline, like STS (science and technology studies)
  • A demonstrable interest in applied ethics and in technology
  • It is recommended that the candidate has had experience in carrying out empirical research and has knowledge of the relevant technological domain studied in the PhD project
  • Good analytical and reasoning skills, as demonstrated by, for example, a master thesis
  • Willingness and ability to work in an interdisciplinary team
  • Ability to present his or her ideas clearly also to people with another disciplinary background
  • Openness to criticism
  • Productive and dedicated
  • Good command of both written and spoken English

Conditions of Employment

TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers childcare and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.
As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit www.tudelft.nl/phd for more information.


Delft University of Technology, Faculty Technology, Policy and Management

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is a multifaceted institution offering education and carrying out research in the technical sciences at an internationally recognised level. Education, research and design are strongly oriented towards applicability.

The Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management contributes to sustainable solutions for technical challenges in society by combining the insights from engineering with the humanities and the social sciences.


To apply, please e-mail a detailed letter of application before by November 12, a curriculum vitae and the names and contact information of references to vacature-TBM@tudelft.nl . When applying for this position, please refer to vacancy number ATTBM 18.022.

For information about this vacancy, you can contact Ibo van de Poel, email: i.r.vandepoel@tudelft.nl, tel: +31 15 278 4716

Different perspectives on care work

2017 Carework Summit: coming together of feminist economical, political and sociological views on care work.

This June, scholars, policymakers and members of societal organizations gathered during the three-day conference 2017 Carework Summit in Lowell, Massachusetts in the United States. Together, they inquired and discussed problems in the field of Care Work – a field that focuses on researching, advocating, policymaking and institutional transformation of care work.  Inge van Nistelrooij and Merel Visse attended this conference on behalf of the Care Ethics group of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Below, we highlight two conference themes: 1) care on a global level, seen from a United Nations perspective; 2) care from a feminist economist perspective.

Care Work

But let us first explore what the field of Care work is concerned about. Most speakers strive for equality and justice in both paid and unpaid care work in all kinds of areas, like long term elderly care, child care and home-based elderly care either provided by family cares, formal carers, non-migrant and migrant carers. We noticed that the majority of the attendees have a background in sociology, political science or economy.

As care ethicists, we learned about how they perceive and conceptualize care in the context of the research field of ‘care work’. Although there seemed to be little attention for philosophical ethical views on care work, we believe care ethicists could deepen thinking about ‘what care is’ and how to inquire ‘good’ care work.

Care work on a Global Level: United Nations Programs

The keynote address of the conference by Shahra Razavi, Chief of Research & Data Section at United Nations Women, focused on numbers in care work. She is a specialist in gender dimensions of development, with a particular interest on work, social policy and care. The United Nations Program on Sustainable Development proposes an Agenda that explicitly addresses care work and the importance of gender equality.

Concurrent sessions varied from discussions on qualitative methods to research care work, to contributions by feminist economists on the benefits and costs of investing in care. At the UN, a normative framework is being developed to assess and promote care work.

A feminist economist, intersectional perspective

Nancy Folbre
Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre, director of the program on Gender and Care Work at Umass in Amherst, was deeply concerned about care work. Her feminist care economist perspective aims to counterbalance developments like outsourcing, offshoring, immigration and privatizing. These threaten the equal division of care work.
Collective identities and interests based on gender, race, income level shape our institutions and economic inequality. According to her, we should begin by rethinking the care paradigm by understanding the origins of patriarchical systems.

Bargaining power

“These developments have reduced the bargaining power of care workers and undermine the democratic apparatus,” according to her. Other factors that reduce bargaining power of care workers, are: the relational vulnerability of care workers (often women); the characteristics of consumers who often have a lack of agency and even if they have agency, it’s often difficult for them to access the right information; characteristics of the services themselves.

The bargaining power of care workers is not just determined by assets, information or income level, but by social norms as well. These social norms should be collectively contested and re-negotiated. Attention for an intersectional approach is crucial here, she argued. These can have risks, but can also be seen as an opportunity to create progressive alliances: e.g. create beter rules for distribtion of care work.

Focus on high power groups?

To solve problems in care, Folbre searches for how we can bargain collectively with powerful groups to reduce inequality. “We have a tendency to focus on low paid, marginalized groups. Now we need to focus on how to challenge groups with high power”. This could be interesting for us as care ethics, as we are often focused on processes of inclusion by providing marginalized groups with power.

Social spillovers

As care ethicists, we noticed that just a few of the speakers during the conference, actually spoke about what ‘care’ is. Folbre was one of them. She clarified care as ‘not just relational work’ motivated by concerns for others, not just ‘work’, but as also inclusive to financial support and other resource transfers. She stressed that care is tending to the needs of those who cannot care. Care work is not tangible.
Folbre speaks about ‘social spillovers’: “the marginal social product of care is far greater than marginal private products”. Care gives numerous contributions to human and social capital.

Soon: the global meaning of Tronto’s Caring Democracy, with a contribution by dr. Inge van Nistelrooij.

Raymond de Vries

Raymond De Vries PhD co-directs the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan and is a Professor in the Department of Learning Health Sciences and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology there. He is also visiting professor at CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands. He is particularly interested in the regulation of science and the production of scientific knowledge; clinical trials of genetic therapies; the export of western moral traditions to non-western societies; and the social, ethical, and policy issues associated with the medicalization of pregnancy and birth.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am a sociologist, working at the bioethics program at the University of Michigan Medical School. I have appointments in the departments of medical education, obstetrics and gynaecology, and the department of sociology in the College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?

My research is built on what I call a “sociology of bioethics” perspective. This means that rather than using my ability as a social scientist to answer questions generated by bioethicists (“sociology in bioethics”), I use bioethics as an arena for learning more about society, culture, and social organization. This approach naturally leads me to investigate different approaches to ethical reasoning – care ethics, principlism, feminist ethics, casuistry, etc. – with an eye toward understanding why and how these different strategies are used.

At the moment I am completing a book-length social history of bioethics and I am involved in a few research projects including, a study of the use of deliberative democracy to guide the creation of policy on surrogate consent for research and an interview study that is challenging existing ideas about the therapeutic misconception.

3. How did you get involved into the ethics of care?

As I explained above, I am interested in the different approaches to defining and resolving ethical dilemmas – how they have been developed, where they are used, who champions them. So my interest in care ethics (and its social location and social uses) begins there. My understanding of care ethics was greatly enhanced by a semester I spent at the Center for Law and ethics at the University of Leuven in the Fall of 2006. My great teachers there – Chris Gastmans, Kris Dierickx, Paul Schotsmans, Herman Nys, and Pascal Borry – introduced me to important nuances in the field.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

The ethics of care is an approach to seeing and resolving ethical problems that begins by understanding the individual and her social situation. Rather than an abstract approach that seeks to generalize about the nature and content of ethical problems, care ethics looks at moral problems in situ, seeking to understand and resolve these problems by recognizing how they are generated by (among other things) unequal relationships that derive from ideas about gender, ethnicity, and social class.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?

I am not a well-versed student of Levinas, but his notion of the concept of l’autre – the other – and his insistence that the beginning of ethics is consideration of “the other” has given me a foundation on which to build an approach to (bio)ethics. Acting ethically in medicine, or in any sphere, requires attention and consideration of the other. Interestingly, this same idea is at the heart of principlism. The Belmont Report describes three principles: justice, beneficence, and respect for autonomy (not simply autonomy): this latter principle comes to close to the idea of Levinas in that it is asking that attention be paid to the (autonomy of) the other.

6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

Most important to me has been the work of Margaret Urban Walker. Her work on moral contexts, moral repair, and moral understanding (the titles three of her books) helped me (a social scientist!) to think more broadly and more clearly about the relational aspects of moral decision-making.

7. What works of in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?

Aside from the books by Walker mentioned above, I was inspired by Carol Gilligan’s, In a Different Voice. Long before I became interested in bioethics, this book got me thinking about how one’s situation in life shaped one’s moral sensibilities.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

  • R. De Vries. How can we help? From ‘sociology in’ bioethics to ‘sociology of’ bioethics. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2004: 279-292.
  • R. De Vries. Firing the neuroethical imagination. EMBO Reports. Vol. 8, 2007: S65-69.
  • R. De Vries. The Prepositions of Bioethics. Hastings Center Report, 38(3), 2008: 49.
  • R. De Vries, N. Berlinger, and W. Cadge. Lost in translation: the chaplain’s role in health care. Hastings Center Report, 38(6), 2008: 23-27.
  • R. De Vries. Why can’t we all just get along? A comment on Turner’s plea to social scientists and bioethicists. Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics. 18 (1), 2009: 43-46.
  • R. De Vries, Charles Bosk, Leigh Turner and Kristina Orfali (eds.). The view from here: Social Science and Bioethics. London: Blackwell, 2007.

9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?

Ethicists must begin to think more about “upstream” solutions to ethical problems. At the moment, ethics is largely a reactive exercise, where one waits until an ethical dilemma arises and then struggles with a solution. Care ethics points us in a different direction: toward a way of thinking about the social and cultural conditions that are likely to generate ethical problems and then seeking to alter those conditions.

10. Our ambition is to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

Yes, how about organizing an international conference on “upstream bioethics?”

Christa Schnabl

Christa Schnabl is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social at the University of Vienna, and currently the Vice Rector of the University of Vienna. 

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am Associate Professor at the Institute for Social Ethics of the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Vienna. From 2007 until 2011 I am also appointed as vice-president of the University of Vienna (Austria) and therefore I am on leave from my educational and research work.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?

As a social ethicist I am mainly interested in anchoring socioethically the impulses that emerge in an ethics of care. I therefore focus on the activities and demands from a societal perspective, rather than on the immediate and personal relation of care. Put differently, I am interested less in the inner perspective of caring, and more in the outer perspective on care and the social responsibility to care.

3. How did you get involved into the ethics of care?

It was gender ethics that led me to care ethics. I learned to recognize care as a key concept for the further development of modern societies, because in it many areas of life come together. The questions of care unite questions of family policy, social policy, health care policy, gender policy and economic policy. This recognition only arose later on, after first having held care as a peripheral theme….

4. How would you define ethics of care?

That is difficult, because I do not consider myself a care ethicist in the first place. I consider care a central topic area of ethics. However, I want to stress that the ethical principle of care should be connected to the principle of justice, and not be elaborated as a separate, special ethic. An ethic of care that puts questions of care and caring central, should in my view be more broadly orientated.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?

I have learned to see the implications of drawing into the ethical reflection those themes that are invisible within the public sphere. Ethics is not a construction of reflective thoughts in itself, but must always reflect upon everyday fields of reference. For human experience does lead to different plausibilities, which effect both the reflection and the special sensitivity for themes that emerge. Moreover, the naturalness of ethical systems is questioned.

6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

To me certain theoritical lines have been more important than any specific teacher. For instance, there is a theoretical line of individual ethical questions as well as a line of political ethics, and theoretics can be divided accordingly. Thus, Eva Feder Kittay, Herta Nagl-Docekal, Herlinde Pauer-Studer, but also Axel Honneth and Emmanuel Levinas focus upon care and the individual, and on the other hand Joan Tronto, Selma Sevenhuijsen, Susan Moller Okin have their focal point upon the political and ethical aspects of care.

7. What works in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?

It is widely acknowledged that Carol Gilligan’s „In A Different Voice“ , which appeared in the early eighties, is the initial igniter of the entire care ethics debate. Her theoretical impulses have started different philosophical and ethical debates and further developments.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

My book „Gerecht sorgen. Grundlagen einer sozialethischen Fürsorge“ is my most exhaustive work on the connection of the debates of care and justice, considered from a social-ethical point of view. A publication list with German articles can be found on:

9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?

The question of how care can be implemented within social theory and societal considerations is a real challenge. How can the care area be politically embedded? What models and possibilities are being given, that may help changing the recognition and distribution of care work?

10. Our ambition is to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

My wish would be, that a platform or network is established, which is not only accessible for researchers and the academic world, but also integrates people who are politically and practically involved. That would be a step towards „politicizing“ the subject.