Senior Research Fellow (Postdoc), ethnographic research on migration in West Africa

Please note: The deadline for applying to this position has passed.

Application Deadline: Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) invites applications for a three-year, full-time position within the project Future Migration as Present Fact (FUMI), funded by the European Research Council. The position provides the opportunity to work in a leading international research institution with an interdisciplinary environment. It is classified as a Senior Researcher position within PRIO’s seniority and salary system.

The research fellow will carry out extensive ethnographic research in West Africa and must have specific regional and linguistic expertise in addition to excellent analytical and writing skills. A second research fellow position within the same project, for a survey research specialist, will be announced in 2020.

About the project

Future Migration as Present Fact (FUMI) is funded by a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), a grant to support ground-breaking research with scientific excellence as the sole selection criterion. The principal investigator is Research Professor Jørgen Carling.

The project is motivated by the stark discrepancy between widespread migration desires and limited migration opportunities. In many countries, the majority of young adults say that the wish to leave their own country and settle elsewhere. Yet, the vast majority never depart. This situation raises a fundamental question: if migration is desired, but never materializes, what are the consequences? Some researchers seek to use information about migration desires, intentions or plans to predict migration; others dismiss migration desires as uninteresting because they rarely result in actual migration. The FUMI project, by contrast, takes the perspective that even if the imagined future migration never occurs, it affects thoughts, feelings, communication, and behaviour at present. Young people's priorities are informed by the futures they imagine, and their lives can thus be formed by migration that is imagined but never achieved. Framing the issue in this way renews research on the precursors of migration and opens a new chapter about the links between migration and development.

The project is guided by the following research question: How does migration that has not yet taken place shape the lives of individuals and the development of societies?

This question is addressed through a research design that weaves together three streams: theory development, ethnographic fieldwork, and a survey. In this way, the project aims for deep mixed-methods integration. The work sets out with the perspective that we lack both the theoretical and methodological tools for understanding how individuals relate to the prospect of migrating. Addressing the research question therefore requires investment in conceptual and methodological innovations.

The project's empirical focus is West Africa, where migration desires are particularly widespread. The research will take place in three countries at different levels of socio-economic development: Cape Verde (high), Ghana (middle) and Gambia or Guinea (low). In each country, data collection will include ethnographic fieldwork with a small number of young adults, as well as a survey among the same population group.

Additional information about the project is available at

The research fellow’s role in the project

The core project team consists of the Principal Investigator (PI), Jørgen Carling, Senior Research Fellow 1 (ethnographer, this vacancy), and Senior Research Fellow 2 (survey researcher, to be hired in 2020). The research design involves a detailed plan for how the three researchers will work together over time and across methodologies. The ethnographic fieldwork will be split between the PI and Senior Research Fellow1, while survey management will be split between the PI and Senior Research Fellow 2.

The responsibilities of Senior research fellow 1 include the following:

  • Conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Gambia or Guinea, approximately 4 months. (The choice of country depends on the selected candidate’s experience, language skills and preferences.)
  • Conducting most of the project’s ethnographic fieldwork in Ghana, approximately 3 months. (This fieldwork is planned so that English can be the primary fieldwork language).
  • Collaborating with the PI and Senior research fellow 2 in the development of survey questions and pilot-testing of the survey.
  • Analysing ethnographic data, refining the project’s theoretical framework, and writing journal articles, in collaboration with the PI.

Required and desired qualifications

The following are required qualifications:

  1. A PhD in a relevant field in social sciences or humanities (e.g. geography, anthropology, sociology, psychology or African Studies).
  2. Qualifications for conducting fieldwork in Gambia or Guinea, including relevant language skills (e.g. familiarity with Mandinka, Wolof, Pulaar, or Susu).
  3. Substantial experience with ethnographic fieldwork, in-depth interviews and/or related qualitative research methods.
  4. Excellent analytical and writing skills, including the ability to perceive and write about the theoretical significance of observations and experiences during fieldwork.

In addition, the following qualifications are desirable:

  1. Familiarity with migration studies, youth studies, or other thematic research areas of relevance to the project.
  2. An interest in mixed-methods research and/or familiarity with diverse social-science research methods.
  3. Strong computing skills, including general software (e.g. Microsoft Office) as well as specialized  software for research (e.g. NVivo, ATLAS.ti, Scrivener, EndNote)
  4. Experience with publishing articles in international peer-reviewed journals.
  5. An interest in, and experience with, research communication beyond academic audiences.
  6. Proven ability to work both independently (e.g. during fieldwork) and in a team (e.g. through joint analysis and writing).
  7. Experience, networks or language skills that can facilitate fieldwork in Ghana.

The PhD dissertation must have been submitted before the application deadline and the degree must have been awarded before the position is taken up. The candidate will be expected to live in Oslo and be present at PRIO except during fieldwork.

Work environment and conditions

PRIO has an international research staff of approximately 85 members in full and part-time positions, and in addition 15 in administrative and support functions. The working language at the institute is English. PRIO is an equal opportunity employer and values staff diversity.

The institute is located in spacious and attractive premises in central Oslo, Europe’s fastest-growing capital city. Employee benefits include access to the PRIO cabin in the mountains, a subsidized canteen, weekly physiotherapy exercise, weekly running group, subsidized gym membership and various social events.

The starting salary for a Senior Researcher at PRIO is NOK 655,000 (equivalent to step 71 in the Norwegian State salary system), approximately € 66,900. Employees are offered membership in the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The term ‘postdoc’ in the announcement is used with reference to common terminology elsewhere and does not have specific implications for employment at PRIO.

The candidate should have an interest in PRIO’s broader mission of conducting high-quality academic research on questions relevant to the promotion of a more peaceful world. For more information about PRIO’s research, see The FUMI project is part of PRIO’s migration research group, which is well-established in the international field of migration research.

Application procedure

Interested candidates are invited to request the complete project description for a full background to preparing their application and research statement (contact details below).

Applications must be submitted by way of an online form (link below) and include the following attachments as PDF files:

  1. An application letter in English that addresses each of the 11 required and desired qualifications for the position as described above.
  2. A curriculum vitae in English, including a list of publications.
  3. A research statement of up to three pages that outlines (a) which aspects of the project particularly appeal to you, (b) how you will contribute to making the project achieve its objectives, and (c) what you foresee as the greatest challenges.
  4. Up to three academic writing samples.
  5. Scanned copies of original transcripts/certificates from higher education, in one PDF file.

In addition, name and contact details of two or more references must be provided in the online form.

Application deadline: 12 September 2019.

Submission of applications: Online application form.

The form must be completed and submitted in a single session. Please review the form and prepare all attachments as specified before starting to complete it.

The starting date for the position is 1 March 2020 or as early as possible thereafter. The tentative recruitment schedule is as follows: notification of shortlisted applicants by early October; interviews 21–25 October; offer of employment by early November.

Requests for the complete project description, as well as any questions, can be addressed to Department Manager Covadonga Morales Bertrand (e-mail or phone: (+47) 22 54 77 50 or (+47) 22 54 77 00 or Research Professor Jørgen Carling (e-mail