*This call is not a postdoctoral job offer*

The Pathways Postdoctoral Grant supports postdoctoral researchers, however, the selection, hiring and supervision of postdoctoral researchers will be the responsibility of the Scientific Co-leads if a project is selected.

Call for Expressions of Interest: 

Pathways Postdoctoral Grants


Future Earth is an international research program with a mission to accelerate transformations to global sustainability through research and innovation. To this end, it supports a global network that harnesses the experience and capacity of thousands of scientists and innovators to facilitate research, catalyze innovation, and synthesise knowledge. 

To address the multifaceted challenges involved in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Future Earth’s Science-Based Pathways for Sustainability Initiative seeks to support the production of knowledge and enhance the understanding of systemic interactions, competing development agendas, and transformations in concrete contexts across diverse temporal and spatial scales. The Pathways Initiative aims to promote pathways research and develop and support agenda-setting, synthesis, and capacity building activities around pathways for sustainability. Governing these actions is the overall objective of fostering an active international research community making a strong contribution to pathways for sustainability in practice.

This Call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) aims to encourage and enhance collaboration between various research communities working on pathways for sustainability within and beyond the Future Earth community. The call particularly – but not exclusively – targets Future Earth’s Global Research Projects (GRPs), Knowledge Action Networks (KANs) and researchers who have been involved in the Belmont Forum Pathways and/or Transformations 2 Sustainability (T2S) Collaborative Research Actions (CRAs) (*see eligibility section for more details).

Scope of Pathways Projects

Pathways, as a concept, is gaining attention across sustainability-related fields in response to rapidly intensifying socio-environmental problems. However, with its increased ubiquity comes a diversity of associated concepts (e.g., transition, adaptation, transformation, scenarios, etc.) covering different scales, founded in diverse disciplines, focusing on various systems, and with distinct methodologies and objectives. Four broad categories of pathways approaches are often distinguished: (1) Quantitative Systems Modelling and Target-based Scenarios, which aim to analyse and compare specific sets of policies (or scenarios) through target-based backcasting and forecasting projections through quantitative modelling approaches (Turnheim et al., 2015); (2) Socio-technical Transitions look at shifts in socio-technical regimes based on interactions (e.g., external pressure, internal conflict, innovation) with the socio-technical landscape and niche innovations (Geels & Schot 2007; Scoones et al., 2020); (3) Adaptation Pathways are characterised by the adaptive nature of the decision process in the face of high uncertainty and inter-temporal complexity in the context of climate change (Werners et al., 2020; Rosenbloom 2017). and; (4) STEPS – Social, Technical and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability are founded in social and political sciences and describe approaches that enable fundamental change in power structures, institutions, and social dimensions (Leach et al., 2010; Scoones et al., 2020). 

The diversity of pathways approaches share a number of complementarities, united by a common understanding of the need for drastic action and alternative modes of existing on earth that are more sustainable and desirable. The difficulty of classifying these approaches according to their scale, discipline, system of focus, methodologies and objectives is a reflection of greater cross-pollination occurring between them. Traditionally ‘top-down’ approaches are becoming more inclusive, engaging in processes of co-design and co-development of pathways at the local and regional level. At the same time, the pathways research arena is still dominated by high-level technocratic pathways, whereas local and regional level pathways continue to receive less attention.

This Pathways Initiative call encourages the development of new interdisciplinary and international collaborations between scientists to carry out synthesis of knowledge to support a critical reflection and analysis about the development of pathways for sustainability in practice. Each submitted proposal will focus on one research theme related to pathways for sustainability. Examples of research themes include, but are not limited to, climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, land use management, urban transition, water management, sustainable fisheries, etc. 

The Pathways Postdoctoral Grant will support a Pathways Project aimed at synthesising existing knowledge about the approaches for developing pathways within a specific theme. Special attention should be paid to the processes involved in developing these pathways rather than only the outcome. A Pathways Project will be developed by a Working Group which will include a Postdoctoral Researcher funded through the Grant (see Eligibility section for more details). Overall, the Grants will support three Working Groups on three different themes and their Postdoctoral Researchers over a 24-month period.

Pathways Project Objectives

The objectives of a funded Pathways Project are twofold and will be carried out in two phases:

Phase I (16 months): Synthesis of Pathways research (individual projects) on a specific theme 

Objective: To enhance the knowledge and understanding of pathways approaches, methods and tools across different contexts, spatial and temporal scales on a specific theme

During Phase I, each Postdoctoral Researcher will collaborate with their Working Group to synthesize existing knowledge on pathways for sustainability on a specific theme.  

Phase II (8 months): Comparative Analysis and Agenda-Setting (cross-projects)

Objective: Comparing different pathways approaches and identifying research gaps and opportunities for synergies among various pathways approaches (across themes)

During phase II, the three Postdoctoral Researchers will engage with each other in cross-project learning, where they will share insights and knowledge to jointly develop a comparative analysis of their respective findings from Phase I.

At the beginning of Phase II, the Pathways Initiative will fund an in-person workshop gathering members from all Working Groups from the three projects with the aim of providing the Postdoctoral Researchers with preliminary directions for their joint work on the development of the comparative analysis and the identification of research gaps and opportunities for synergies among pathways approaches.


Pathways Projects

A Pathways Project will focus on synthesising and reflecting upon the development of pathways for sustainability on a specific theme (e.g. biodiversity, fisheries, land use, etc.). 

Each project consists of a Working Group forming an international and interdisciplinary team (with diversity in terms of geography, discipline, gender, and career stage) including two Scientific Co-leads and one Postdoctoral Researcher.

Working Groups

A Working Group can include a variety of members but must include at least three researchers affiliated with three separate entities, which include Future Earth GRNs (GRPs and KANs) and individual projects from the Pathways and Transformations 2 Sustainability Belmont Forum CRAs.

Scientific Co-leads

In addition to the Working Group, each Pathways Project will have two Scientific Co-leads. At least one of the co-leads must be a member of a Future Earth GRN (GRPs and KANs). One must be from a social sciences/humanities background, and the other, from a natural sciences background.

Both Scientific Co-leads will act as the supervisors to the Postdoctoral Researcher and work to co-chair the Working Group. One of the co-leads (the Principal Scientific Co-lead) will be responsible for submitting the EOI, the final project proposal and the annual reports, and for ensuring the completion of deliverables.

Postdoctoral Researcher

The Postdoctoral Researcher will be funded by the Grant for a duration of 24 months (to a maximum of 60,000 euros per year including 25% for running costs and overhead). Postdoctoral researchers will be selected, hired, and supervised by the Scientific Co-leads.

Submission of EOI

Applicants who have any questions regarding the EOI should submit their questions by email to: natalie.chong@futureearth.org

Expressions of Interest must be submitted by the Principal Scientific Co-lead.

The deadline to submit the EOI is 11 September 2022, 23:59 CEST

Application Form for Expressions of Interest

Evaluation Criteria

Projects will be selected according to the following criteria:

  • the scientific excellence of the project,
  • the relevance of the project to the objectives of the Pathways Postdoctoral Grant
  • the quality (i.e. expertise matching the topic addressed) and diversity (e.g., geography, discipline, gender, career stage) of the working group


Publication Date: 15 June 2022

Closing Date for Submission of Expressions of Interest: 11 September 2022

Notification of Short-listed Projects: 7 October 2022 

Deadline for Final Project Submissions (Short-listed Projects): 18 December 2022

Award notification: March 2023

Duration of postdoc contract: 24 months (12-month contract renewable upon satisfactory review) from mid 2023 to mid 2025

An information & networking webinar was held on 3 August 2022 to provide background information, answer questions and provide an opportunity to find potential collaborators. Below is a recording of the informational portion of the webinar including questions and answers.


Geels, F. W., & Schot, J. (2007). Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research Policy, 36(3), 399–417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2007.01.003

Leach, M., Scoones, I., Stirling, A. (2010) Dynamic Sustainabilities – Technology, Environment, Social Justice. EarthScan: New York. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775069

Rosenbloom, D. (2017). Pathways : An emerging concept for the theory and governance of low-carbon transitions. Global Environmental Change, 43, 37–50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.12.011

Scoones, I., Stirling, A., Abrol, D., Atela, J., Charli-joseph, L., Eakin, H., Ely, A., Olsson, P., Pereira, L., Priya, R., & Zwanenberg, P. Van. (2020). Transformations to sustainability : combining structural , systemic and enabling approaches. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 42, 65–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2019.12.004

​​Turnheim, B., Berkhout, F., Geels, F.W., Hof, A., McMeekin, A., Nykvist, B., van Vuuren, D.P. (2015). Evaluating sustainability transitions pathways: Bridging analytical approaches to address governance challenges. Global Environmental Change, 35, 239-253. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.08.010

Werners, S. E., Wise, R. M., Butler, J. R. A., Totin, E., & Vincent, K. (2021). Adaptation pathways: A review of approaches and a learning framework. Environmental Science and Policy, 116(January), 266–275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.11.003

Interested in applying but need help finding collaborators?

Those who would like to form or join a Working Group for a Pathways Project and find people to collaborate with can fill out the form below.

Networking & Collaboration Request

You can also connect with others in the Future Earth community through the dedicated Member Portal by joining the Pathways circle and starting a discussion or posting a request for collaboration.