Leiden University Seeks PhD candidate in ERC StG project


The Faculty of Humanities, Institute for Philosophy at Leiden University, Netherlands is seeking a PhD candidate in the European Research Council Starting Grant Project titled “Democratic Secrecy: A Philosophical Study of the Role of Secrecy in Democratic Governance”.

The successful candidate will work on this research project which aims to explore the legitimacy of secrecy in democratic politics. The project is funded by the European Research Council by means of an ERC Starting Grant and has Dr. Dorota Mokrosinska (Philosophy, Leiden University) as its Principal Investigator.

Transparency in politics is the mantra of democratic governance. However, despite its revered status, many feel that complete transparency would undermine effective functioning of governments. If both complete secrecy and complete transparency are to be rejected, what balance of secrecy and transparency in politics should we seek? Democratic theory leaves this question unanswered. This project seeks to formulate a theory regarding the democratic legitimacy of political secrets in executive and legislative power, develop criteria for political accountability with regard to wielding political secrets and develop criteria for assessing responsibility for unauthorized disclosures by civil servants and the media.

There is also a PhD project titled “Legislative Secrecy” which requires a philosopher or political scientist with specialization in political theory to explore the place of secrecy in the legislative process, and in particular, parliamentary decision-making.

The starting hypothesis of the project is that secrecy is not always inimical to democratic decision-making as conventional wisdom has it. More accountability does not necessarily require more openness. This project explores the idea that secrecy is often related to the strategic dimension of political decision-making and examines the impact of the strategic uses of secrecy in decision-making on political accountability of representatives. In this context, some experience with social choice theory is an advantage. The results of the project are to be subsequently applied to the issue of institutional design of the existing mechanisms of political accountability (preferably in the Dutch political context).


The key responsibilities of successful candidates are:

  • Writing a Ph.D. thesis within 4 years;
  • Submitting research results for publication in international peer-reviewed academic journals (either individually or co-authored);
  • Presenting papers at (international) conferences and workshops;
  • Some assistance in organizing international conferences and workshops with the participating institution and other members of the ERC project;
  • Participating in activities within the remit of the ERC Starting Grant project, the interdepartmental research clusters “Political Legitimacy” as well as the Departmental activities.


The successful candidate will have:

  • A relevant master degree;
  • An outstanding record of undergraduate and Master’s degree work;
  • Some experience with or willingness to familiarize himself/herself with core concepts of social choice theory, and issues related to strategic reasoning in democratic deliberation;
  • Strong oral and written communication skills in English and the ability to publish the results of research in scientific journals are a must;
  • Capacity to collaborate across the academic disciplines;
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of the team with good organizational and social skills.

This position is a full time appointment and the contract will have a duration of 4 years with a preferred starting date of 1 January 2016 or soon thereafter. The successful applicant is initially appointed for a period of 12 months. After positive evaluation of capabilities and compatibility and if progress is satisfactory, the appointment will be extended by another 3 years. The appointment must lead to the completion of a Ph.D. thesis. Appointment will be under the terms of the CAO (collective labor agreement) of the Dutch Universities.

Salary range from € 2.125,- to € 2.717,- gross per month (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities).

An appointment with Leiden University includes a pension build-up and facilitates other benefits such as an annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8,3%. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

To apply, send an email to vacaturesluip@hum.leidenuniv.nl. The following additional documents should be uploaded quoting the vacancy number: 15-342:

  1. A letter stating your motivation for the position
  2. Curriculum vitae (including list of publications, if applicable)
  3. A transcript of the grades you received in your Bachelor and Master
  4. A copy of your MA thesis;
  5. A 500 word research statement explaining how you might approach issues raised by legislative secrecy, paying attention to the project description given above
  6. The names and addresses of three academic referees whom we may contact for further information. One of these should be your MA thesis supervisor.

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in person or over Skype on November 19, 2015 and should be available at this time. Women and minority candidates are especially invited to apply as more women and minority candidates are to be employed in areas where they are underrepresented.

Applications must be received by 2 November 2015.

For more information about the project please contact the project leader Dr. D.M. Mokrosinska at d.m.mokrosinska@phil.leidenuniv.nl.

For practical information and questions please contact Ms. Maarit van Gammeren at m.s.k.van.gammeren@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

Information about The Institute for Philosophy can be found at http://www.hum.leidenuniv.nl/filosofie/ and/or http://hum.leiden.edu/philosophy/ and about Leiden University at http://www.about.leiden.edu/.