Hybrida Postdoctoral Position

Three-Year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ethics of Organoid Research

The Horizon 2020 SwafS project HYBRIDA, a seven-university consortium which includes the Université catholique de Louvain, is recruiting a three-year postdoctoral fellow in bioethics, to specialize on the project’s topic of the ethics of contemporary organoid research. The UCLouvain team is led by Prof. Mylène Botbol-Baum and Prof. Charles Pence, and the postdoc will be co-supervised, housed in two research centers: Centre de recherche en éthique de la santé (HELESI, our center in ethics of healthcare, of which Pr. Botbol-Baum is director) and Centre de philosophie des sciences et sociétés (CEFISES, our center in philosophy of science, of which Pr. Pence is director).

Application deadline: October 1, 2020
Starting date: As early as January 1, 2021
Ending date: 36 months after official start date

The abstract for the HYBRIDA project as a whole is the following:

Since Roman law, all entities have been categorized and regulated either as persons or as things (subjects or objects). However, this conceptual, epistemological and regulatory dualism is currently being challenged by disruptive research and innovation, among which organoid research is a prominent example. The dualistic normative framework pertaining to health and life science research are disrupted by three different kinds of uncertainty. First, conceptual uncertainty (ontological uncertainty): how should one conceive of entities that cannot be categorized as either persons or things? What are they? Second, epistemological and methodological uncertainty: How do we know the characteristics of these entities called organoids? How do we address forms of uncertainty that cannot be evaluated through the use of statistical methods, i.e. risk? Epistemological uncertainty comes in two kinds, which can be categorized as qualitative, or strict, uncertainty and ignorance or non-knowledge. In order to develop ethically and socially robust ways of assessing the effects of organoid research and related technologies, there is a need to include these additional forms of uncertainty in the Health Technology Assessment (HTA). Third, regulatory uncertainty: this uncertainty emerges because parts of regulatory frameworks concerning the rights and duties of persons have been merged with elements of regulation dealing with the stewardship of objects or things. These forms of uncertainty are of particular importance. This project aims to address how these uncertainties arise in organoid research and develop a conceptual and regulatory framework able to overcome this dualism. From this follows also the need to communicate the potential and possible pitfalls of organoid research in ways that convey realistic, instead of hyped, scenarios.

As noted above, this is a seven-university consortium, with each group taking responsibility for various elements of this large scope. Our group will be primarily involved in the first work package for this grant, which will explore the ontological, moral and legal status of organoids, chimeric entities and hybrids present in different cultures and knowledge traditions, with a view to identifying different forms of conceptual uncertainty both in the general public and within the scientific community itself.

We encourage candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds to apply, as our team integrates work from a variety of different perspectives.

Candidates must have:

  • Experience in bioethics
  • Willingness to engage with contemporary scientific literature, practitioners, and the public
  • Ability to be present in Louvain-la-Neuve at least one week per month
  • Professional fluency in English

Other characteristics that would improve the quality of an application:

  • Experience in both contemporary continental and analytic approaches to bioethics (the team combines these two perspectives)
  • Experience in the history of science and/or medicine
  • Knowledge of current work in molecular or synthetic biology
  • Professional fluency in French

This postdoctoral research fellowship is funded by the European Community’s Horizon 2020 Science with and for Society (SwafS) call H2020-SwafS-28-2020, project number 101006012.

Additional Information


  • Three-year fellowship
  • An exciting, international research environment bridging bioethics and the history and philosophy of science at UCLouvain, with further opportunities for networking with colleagues from six other universities across Europe
  • Highly competitive salaries
  • Access to travel and conference funding
  • No teaching obligations (though teaching possibilities may be available if desired, particularly if the candidate is fluent in French)

Eligibility Criteria

  • PhD in philosophy, ethics, or related fields.
  • PhD earned no earlier than January 1, 2016, following the defense of a thesis. This date may be earlier if the candidate has or has adopted one or more children (contact us for details). (Requirement of granting agency.)
  • Candidates must not have resided or exercised their principal activity (work, study, etc.) in Belgium for more than 24 months within the last 3 years. (Requirement of granting agency.)
  • Strong enthusiasm for interdisciplinary, collaborative work.
  • Written and oral proficiency in English is required, as the project is international and its meetings and publications will be in English. UCLouvain is a French-speaking university, and thus French proficiency would thus be very useful for daily life, but is not mandatory.

Selection Process

Candidates are asked to prepare the following materials:

  • Curriculum vita
  • Sample of written work (published or unpublished)
  • One to two letters of reference
  • Graduate transcript, if available, or list of graduate-level coursework

The candidate is asked to submit all relevant materials using AcademicJobsOnline: https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/16615, prior to October 1, 2020. (AJO is free for applicants, and also includes support for the submission of your confidential letters of recommendation.) All candidates will be notified of final decisions no later than November 1, 2020.

Additional Comments

Prof. Pence has prepared some materials that describe life as a postdoctoral fellow at UCLouvain, which you can find here: https://pencelab.be/people/postdoc/.

The position is also listed on Euraxess.

For more information about the project, please do not hesitate to e-mail either PI: mylene.botbol@uclouvain.be or charles.pence@uclouvain.be