JOB OFFER : Postdoctoral position about the epistemology of nanotechnologies

Postdoctoral position about the epistemology of nanotechnologies (I-SITE, University of Lorraine, LUE, Impact project “Nano-materials for a new generation of sensors”)


The University of Lorraine is inviting applications for a post-doctoral position (100%, 1 year) in Human and Social Sciences within the projet IMPACT “Nano-materials for a new generation of sensors” (« Nanomatériaux pour le développement de capteurs »).


Context, goals and expectations

Nanoscience and nanotechnologies crosscut traditional epistemological and philosophical questions and raise new ones, both regarding the epistemological nature of this field and its interactions with society. Questions regarding the epistemology of modeling and simulations, observation, experimental science, or relationship between levels or scales are renewed by the development of this scientific field. Further, nanotechnologies raise specific societal issues concerning their environmental impact, their acceptability, or how public decisions about nanotechnologies should be made.

 The purpose of this post-doctoral project is to combine the first-rank expertise in nanoscience and human sciences that is present in Nancy in order to develop high-profile research about the epistemological questions raised by nanoscience. This research will be carried out in the framework of the IMPACT project “Nano-materials for a new generation of sensors”. The IMPACT project is directed by Stéphane Mangin (IJL-UMR 7198) and is part of the I-SITE project LUE (Lorraine Université d’Excellence). The human and social part of the IMPACT project is directed by Joëlle Lighezzolo (INTERPSY-EA 4432). The successful candidate will be supervised by Cyrille Imbert (Archives Poincaré, UMR 7117).

The post-doctoral researcher will present her/his work regularly to the members of the project and will participate in the activities (seminars, workshops, etc.) organized to promote this project (in particular those that are related to the human and social part of the IMPACT project). She/he is also expected to contribute to the writing of applications to local, national or international grants in order to stimulate the development in Lorraine of researches about nanoscience (and possibly to obtain an extension of the post-doctoral position). She/he will also organize a workshop (to be held in 2018) concerning insights brought about by human and social sciences about issues related to the rise of nanotechnologies and nanosciences.

The postdoctoral is expected to present her/his research at international conferences and to publish them in international peer-reviewed journals.

– Linguistic requirements. The candidate must be able to communicate and work easily in English. Ability to communicate and interact in French is welcome but not mandatory.

– The deadline for applications is July 20, 2017. The starting date is September 1, 2017 (but a later starting date in Fall 2017 or early 2018 is possible).

– Procedure for applications.


Applications should be sent to Cyrille Imbert ( and Joëlle Lighezzolo (

They should include a detailed CV including a list and summary of publications, a description of planned research (500-1000 words), and a cover letter.

For further questions please contact Cyrille Imbert ( and Joëlle Lighezzolo (


Candidate profile

The candidates will have a PhD and demonstrable competence in a field of the Human and Social Sciences that is clearly relevant for the pursued research.

The postdoctoral candidate is expected to have contributions in peer-reviewed journals and to show a strong research profile in a relevant field of research.

The possession of a degree in Science (in addition of a PhD in a relevant field of the Human and Social Sciences) will be considered as a significant advantage.


Potential directions of research


Several potential fields of investigations, presently pursued in international research, and strongly connected with the Isite project are presented below. Other directions of inquiries

(e.g. in sociology of science and science studies, law or psychology) are possible for high profile candidates, provided that the connections with the scientific IMPACT project are strong, relationships with the epistemological research pursued in Archives Henri Poincaré clear, and prospects of international publications high.


  1. Risk, nanoscience, governance and the science/society interface


Nanosciences change our physical and social world. In the same time, nanotechnologies come with specific risks. Accordingly, decisions to develop specific nanotechnologies and extension of their social acceptance require appropriate political decisions and public debates. It is also important that nanotechnologies meet social norms, values, or expectations. Thus, there is the need to analyze the interactions between the scientific and technological sphere on the one hand and the social and political sphere on the other so that the integration of useful, accepted, and sufficiently safe nanotechnologies takes place appropriately. This in turn raises general questions concerning the role that nanoscientists and scientific representations can or should play in the development of social representations of nanotechnologies and of knowledge about them, or about how to govern nanoscience and make it match social needs. How to analyze and discuss risks related to nanoscience and in particular how to apply the precautionary principle to nanoscience should also be investigated.


  1. Conceptual issues in nanoscience.

Nanosciences raises specific questions. The usual idealizations that are made in science, in which surface effects can be neglected are no longer valid. Multiscale motley models and simulations, which combine physics at different scales, weave different types of partly incompatible conceptual frameworks, and are semi-empirical in the sense that they combine experimental and theoretical knowledge, need to be developed. Explanatory or predictive patterns of reasoning, which rely on or depart from the usual techniques in the empirical science and modeling (idealizations, intermediate asymptotics, dimensional analysis, etc.) are developed. Finally, the traditional division between science and technology is somewhat blurred by the development of nano- objects and materials. All the above questions are in need of renewed epistemological analyses, rooted in first-hand knowledge of how nanosciences are practiced.


  1. Experimental physics, observations and scientific practices in nanoscience

The IJL hosts a unique 70 meters UHV connection tube to practice experimental nanophysics. This suggests developing epistemological analyses of how observations are carried out with such instruments, and more generally of the specific observational problems met with nanocaptors. The epistemic nature of the data that are thereby produced could also be analyzed. Indeed, experimental data, far from being raw output from interactions between instruments and physical systems, need more and more to be submitted to intense computational treatments. How much this questions the direct, supposedly more reliable, nature of experimental knowledge is worth analyzing.


  1. Collaborative activities in nanoscience

Science is more and more practiced in a collaborative way, which raises problems regarding expertise, reliability and scientific accountability, but also regarding the very possibility of developing efficient scientific activities. In the context of the IMPACT project, two types of collective activities could be investigated. a) The analyses of collaborative science have mainly focused on employer/employee, teacher/apprentice, peer-similar and peer-different collaborations. The idea could be to analyze the collaborative and organizational specificities of scientific centers that provide services to other researchers in need of their expertise. b) Nanosciences, in many cases, are aimed at improving or developing applied technologies that match users’ needs, and a finely-tuned matching between the scientific and industrial spheres need to be developed. The purpose could also be to analyze the obstacles (in terms of distribution of knowledge, practical skills and communicational abilities) that need to be overcome for the whole scientific and social process to be fruitful and to compare the points of view of the scientist, industrials, and mediating institutions.