Berlin: Doctoral Researchers (f/m/div)

Hertie School: Doctoral Researchers (f/m/div) - Contestations of the Liberal Script

Doctoral Researchers (f/m/div) - Contestations of the Liberal Script

The Hertie School in Berlin prepares exceptional students for leadership positions in government, business, and civil society. The school also offers experienced professionals the opportunity to deepen their skills in the field of public management. A renowned international faculty with expertise in economics, business, law, political and social science take an interdisciplinary, policy-orientated approach to the school's teaching and research agenda. The Hertie School is an international centre, with a variety of first-rate academic projects and a diverse student body. The school actively engages in public debate with its wide range of events bringing together experts from academia and the world of practice. The school was founded in 2003 by the Hertie Foundation, which remains the major partner. The Hertie School is accredited by the state and the German Science Council.

The Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” (SCRIPTS) is recruiting two Doctoral Researchers (f/m/div) on full-time (40 hours/week) basis for the project “Leader Types and (Liberal?) Narratives of the COVID-19 Pandemic”.

One Doctoral Researcher will be recruited in the field of political economy and one Doctoral Researcher in the field of natural language processing (NLP). The contract shall start 1 September 2021 and is limited for three years. The successful candidates will be part of the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” and the Berlin Graduate School for Global and Transregional Studies (BGTS) and will be based at the Hertie School.

About the Project

This is a joint project of Prof. Mark Hallerberg, PhD (Hertie School), Prof. Slava Jankin, PhD (Hertie School), and Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar (GIGA). We consider leader types and pandemic performance through the lenses of varying narratives that policymakers use to describe the pandemic and to justify their policy decisions. Here we focus on the structure of policy-makers’ arguments and apparent strength of rhetorical persuasion of their narratives. We investigate both the causal arguments that leaders appealed to as they structured their pandemic narratives, and the emotive appeal of the arguments. We further investigate how priorities were presented to the public: e.g., saving health and economy or saving health versus economy.

Your tasks:

  • Research as part of the project with the aim of the completion of a PhD according to the regulations of the BGTS under the supervision of Prof. Mark Hallerberg (political economy PhD project) and Prof. Slava Jankin (NLP PhD project).
  • Prepare scientific publications and conference presentations, coordinate with the other working packages of the project.
  • [Political Economy PhD] Extend existing cross-sectional dataset of leader types to include relevant policy-makers and experts and cover appropriate subnational units. Assess the relationship between leader types and policy performance.
  • [NLP PhD] Collect the dataset of leaders’ narratives and analyse the structure of the arguments put forward by leaders at scale using machine learning and natural language processing.
    • One component of the analysis will focus on the argument mining approaches to understand the structure and key components of the narrative.
    • The second will focus on one key aspect of the arguments around internal causal structure of the narratives, including causal links between clauses or sentences, causative verbs whose meaning include causal element, resultative constructions, if-then conditionals, and causation adverbs and adjectives.

Your profile:

  • Excellent academic track record and a completed master's degree
  • Enjoy working with real-world problems and large data sets
  • Excellent proficiency in English and good communication skills
  • Strong analytical skills

In addition, for the Political Economy PhD you should have:

  • Training in computational social science and statistics
  • Good programming skills in R and/or Python
  • Willingness to learn machine learning and deep learning

For the NLP PhD you should have:

  • A completed master's degree in a relevant field of study with an emphasis on NLP
  • Experience in machine learning and deep learning
  • Good programming skills in Python

We offer:

A stimulating international and diverse environment in multiple areas of social science, high-quality teaching and public policy. The Hertie School is a vibrant academic community that emphasizes excellence in research and teaching as well as an interdisciplinary perspective. Our school has been certified as a family friendly work environment in higher education and an equal opportunity employer ( for further information). Severely disabled applicants are given preferential consideration in the event of equal qualification.

To apply for the above position, please submit the following documents by using the Apply button below:

  • a cover letter, indicating for which field you apply,
  • detailed curriculum vitae,
  • your BSc/MSc theses as PDF, and
  • two recommendation letters.

All applications received until 21 June 2021 will be considered for the positions. Applications received afterwards will be considered until the position is filled.

For questions about the position, please contact Prof. Mark Hallerberg or Prof. Slava Jankin.


The Cluster of Excellence SCRIPTS assesses contemporary challenges for liberal democracy and market economy from historical, global, and comparative perspectives. It brings together expertise in social sciences and area studies in Berlin, and collaborates with research institutions as well as political, cultural and civil society groups worldwide []. SCRIPTS is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

The successful applicants will be enrolled in the Berlin Graduate School for Global and Transregional Studies (BGTS), one of Hertie School’s joint doctoral programmes, and based at the Cluster. Additionally, they will have a desk (office option) at the Hertie School. It is expected that they participate in relevant activities of the Cluster as well as at the Hertie School.

We value diversity and welcome all applications – independent of gender, nationality, ethnic and social background, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation and identity. Applications from women* and persons with a migration background are especially welcome. Applications from people with a recognized disability status will be considered preferentially.

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