Doctoral Researcher NORM

Doctoral Researcher on the project Shaping the Digital World Order: Norms and Agency along the Digital Silk Road in Southeast Asia (NORM)

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) invites applications for a three-year, full-time position as Doctoral Researcher. The position provides the opportunity to work in a leading international research institution with high academic standards and an interdisciplinary environment.

This position is financed as part of a grant from the Research Council of Norway to PRIO for the project Shaping the Digital World Order: Norms and Agency along the Digital Silk Road in Southeast Asia (NORM), led by Senior Researcher Ilaria Carrozza.

Working within the field of socio-legal studies, the Doctoral Researcher to be employed in this project will conduct theoretical and empirical research on how digital technology and cyberspace are regulated. The work conducted here will result in a PhD dissertation/a compilation of articles in English.

About the NORM project

The Digital Silk Road (DSR) is the component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims to establish China as the global technological superpower. While the US remains the most important global digital innovator, China has the world’s highest number of Internet users, and thanks to companies such as Huawei, ZTE, and Hikvision, it is at the forefront of developing new technologies. The DSR was announced in 2015 as a way to enhance global digital connectivity, and provides investments in high-tech developments, including recipients’ AI capabilities, telecommunications networks, surveillance technology, cloud computing, e-commerce, and Smart City programmes.

The DSR may enhance global digital connectivity; however, it can also spread authoritarianism and undermine democracy and fundamental human rights, as well as increase digital inequalities. Many in the West also worry that investments by China’s government and companies in digital technologies threaten international norms governing cyberspace. Yet, despite the intrinsic political significance of China’s Digital Silk Road, we lack fundamental insights into its political and social consequences for partner developing countries; furthermore, to date research has not provided a comprehensive understanding of what the DSR entails and how it will affect regional and global geopolitics, nor has it considered the dramatic shifts the DSR is likely to cause in cyberspace governance.

Recognising the imperative to fill this knowledge gap, NORM takes a comparative approach to examining how relevant stakeholders in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines navigate the opportunities and risks presented by China’s digital technology investments. In this interdisciplinary project, we focus our empirical analysis and theoretical development on the political and social consequences of DSR projects in partner developing countries, as well as for the digital world order.

Hosted at PRIO, the research project brings together international experts on this topic, and it is expected that the PhD candidate will work closely with the team.

The doctoral project

The three-year PhD Project will study international regulations and norms for cyberspace and digital technology. The PhD project should have the Digital Silk Road as a case study of wider challenges on technology integration, including surveillance software, Smart/Safe City programmes, and 5G and other telecommunication networks. The theoretical and conceptual work developed in the PhD project will constitute an important part of the whole NORM project and especially Work Package 1.

WP1 will develop a theoretical framework suitable to analyse international norms governing cyberspace, and how these are interpreted by actors along the Digital Silk Road. Norms do not provide fully specified rules for every situation, but instead need to be translated into specific actions. We will draw on approaches that consider the dynamic aspects of norm change and recent constructivist theory and cyberspace governance, which understand interpretation as a central component of norm evolution.

Recent regulations have emerged in the different normative camps, including the EU (i.e., GDPR) and China (i.e., Personal Information Security Specification). The candidate’s work will explore and problematise these and other regulations as benchmarks for the Western and Chinese normative systems against which to compare existing and new regulations in the case-study countries as they navigate the tensions between the various normative and regulatory models.

A successful application will demonstrate how the PhD Project will build upon—and advance beyond—the existing research frontier on digital technology and cyber norms while also making innovative and substantive contributions to the NORM project. A NORM project description will be made available upon request.

The candidate will be expected to live in Oslo and will have a workplace at PRIO. The PhD degree, however, must be awarded by a degree-granting institution in Scandinavia. Hence, the Doctoral Researcher will be responsible for applying to, and enrolling in a compatible PhD program. Different institutions may have different requirements, and candidates are encouraged to make enquiries about their eligibility for enrolling in a given programme in advance. Tuition fees are not covered by the project.

The Doctoral Researcher will report to a principal supervisor at the PhD-granting institution and a co-supervisor at PRIO. The Doctoral Researcher will be encouraged to apply to PRIO’s Research School in Peace and Conflict. Progress on the doctorate will be supported through regular presentations at internal seminars and involvement in appropriate research groups at PRIO, including the Security Research Group, as well as opportunities to present work at international academic conferences and workshops. The PhD progress plan will be closely tied to the overall NORM project plan.

Required and desired qualifications

Applicants must have the following qualifications:

  • Hold a M.A./LLM
  • Excellent communication and writing skills (English)

In addition, the following qualifications are desirable:

  • Experience with teamwork in international environments
  • Academic publications, policy-oriented work, and/or experience in conference presentations:
  • Previous work with the social and/or legal dimensions of technology (e.g. advocacy, litigation, advisory, etc)
  • Working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese and/or familiarity with the Chinese regulatory environment.

Application procedure

The application is to be submitted online no later than 4 January 2022. The application must include the following attachments (as PDF files; all written in English):

  1. A 1-page cover letter that explains your motivation for applying for the position, with a confirmation that all formal requirements, as described above, are fulfilled;
  2. A curriculum vitae, including a list of any publications you might have;
  3. An academic writing sample (e.g. M.A. thesis or conference paper)
  4. Scanned copies of original academic transcripts;
  5. A Doctoral Project description of max. 6 pages (including references), outlining:
    • Main research questions;
    • A theoretical framework highlighting how the proposed research questions advance the research frontier and how they relate to the NORM project
    • Tentative outline of the PhD dissertation;
    • A progress plan for the three-year Doctoral Project, including start and end dates and key milestones;
  6. Name and contact details of two references

Shortlisted candidates after evaluation of the submitted applications will be invited to interview(s) in order to discuss the research plan in more detail and to provide further details about the position. Interviews will take place in the period 12-14 January 2022. The starting date for the position is planned for 1 May or as soon as possible afterwards.

Additional information

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 and various social events. PRIO is an equal opportunity employer and values staff diversity. The working language at PRIO is English.

The starting salary for a Doctoral Researcher at PRIO in 2021 is NOK 507.200 (equivalent to step 56 in the Norwegian State salary system). Employees are offered membership in the Norwegian Public Service Pension fund.

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 vision and research, see

Requests to receive the NORM project description should be directed to Department Manager Henrik Buljo Anstorp:

Other questions about the Doctoral Researcher position can be addressed to Senior Researcher Ilaria Carrozza


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