Research Associate in Global Justice and Global Catastrophic Risk

Cambridge, United Kingdom
Closing date: 26 May 2019

DEADLINE: 26 May 2019

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) invites applications for a Research Associate in Global Justice and Global Catastrophic Risk.

This postdoctoral position has four years of funding. The Research Associate will work on some of the most important topics in the world today, will produce ground-breaking and fascinating research, be part of a supportive and collaborative team, and will achieve real impact with their insights.

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

CSER is an interdisciplinary research centre within the University of Cambridge dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction or civilisational collapse.

The Centre  was founded by Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal; Jaan Tallinn, the co-founder of Skype; and Huw Price, the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, to “steer a small fraction of Cambridge's great intellectual resources to the task of ensuring that our own species has a long-term future.” As Lord Rees says, “our century is special, because for the first time in 45 million centuries, one species holds the future of the planet in its hands – us.”

Our research focuses on how to manage extreme risks, including biological risks, environmental risks, and risks from artificial intelligence. We have a strong focus on delivering social impact and policy change. Our expertise has been sought by European, Asian and American governments, leading technology companies and the United Nations. Through our publications, expert workshops, and international conferences we have fostered a global community of academics, policy-makers and industry-leaders working to reduce existential risk.

The Role

Global injustice can increase vulnerability to, and hamper recovery from, global catastrophic risks. As the case of climate change highlights, global injustice can shield those most responsible for creating catastrophic risks from their immediate consequences, and deny those who will be most affected by these risks the resources required for mitigation and adaptation. Furthermore, global injustice may be supporting a system of economic and political institutions that are ill-equipped to solve these challenges, and that, for example, contribute to unsustainable population growth and resource depletion. Global injustice and inequality can be precipitating causes, stress factors and early warning signs of global catastrophic risk. We need to include justice and equity in our approach to risk management.

Our research programme seeks to: 

(i) study ways in which global inequality and injustice increase vulnerability to global catastrophic and existential risks;

(ii) work in collaboration with our partners to incorporate population and economic growth, resource scarcity and global equity into the overall evaluation of global policy and existential risk; and

(iii) develop a practical framework for global catastrophe justice, designed to complement existing guidance such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Research Associate will be encouraged to develop their own lines of enquiry within the role, and will work with a high degree of independence. We aim to build a passionate and engaging culture. Our approach encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, leading to creativity, new research insights, and real social change.

Fixed term: Funding for this post is available until 30 September 2023 in the first instance. 


  • Conduct high-quality research, to be published as papers in leading academic journals.
  • Collaborate with other staff at CSER, contributing to our work across specific risk areas such as bio-risk, environmental risk and risks from transformative artificial intelligence, and to our research-led approaches to policy development.
  • Act as an ambassador for the Centre's research, engaging with scientific and technological communities, civil society, academics, policy-makers, industry collaborators and the public.

About you

Candidates will have:

  • Expertise relevant to the focus area, such as a PhD in a relevant field, or professional experience in a relevant area commensurate with the requirements of the role. We are open to applications from any disciplinary or professional background relevant to the management of global risk. We particularly encourage applications from those with:
    • A background in a field that produces empirical insights into the relation between global justice and environmental, technological, epidemiological or economic risks - and a strong interest in policy development; or
    • A background in a policy relevant field - and a demonstrable understanding of global justice and its relation to risk.
  • Evidence of ability to work in collaborative environments, and the ability to engage with diverse communities of experts including academics across disciplines, industry partners, and policymakers.
  • Excellent written and oral communication and presentation skills.
  • Evidence of a serious research interest in the research focus areas of the Centre.
  • The inclination and the intellectual versatility to engage with a range of 'big-picture' questions, and the ability to pursue such questions in a rigorous way, integrating findings from different academic disciplines using a variety of analytic methods.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying, please click on the 'Apply online' button on this webpage (or at the button below). This will route you to the University's Web Recruitment System. Our hiring panel can only consider applications made through this system.

Interviews will be held in the week commencing 10 June 2019 to start as soon as possible.

The full job description can be found here.

If you would like to discuss the role, please email Haydn Belfield on  

Find out more & apply

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