This position is part of an interdisciplinary research project between Psychology and Environmental Sciences. The levels of plastics in the environment are rising at an alarming pace and plastic pollution is recognized worldwide as a serious global environmental problem (UNEP 2016). This stresses the importance of preventing flows of plastics into the environment. Especially large urban areas are the source of large amounts of mismanaged waste ending up in the environment of which approximately 11% is plastic of which many are single use plastics from the food and beverage industry.

The Sustainable Development Goals also include targets aiming at prevention and reduction of waste in order to move towards a sustainability transition. Such a transition will require collective actions of a large diversity of actors across sectors and scales, and dealing with divergent perspectives and interests. It is therefore important to understand the motivations and assumptions governing behaviour towards waste in general and, more specific, on plastic waste. The city scale is the scale to study this environmental behaviour as it is the largest source of waste, it is also the scale to find solutions.

The main aim of the current project is to get insight in pro-environmental behaviour with regard to plastic in urban environment daily life. In the project we want to:

assess (monitor) daily life pro-environmental behaviour

identify environmental/context-based factors associated with daily life pro-environmental behaviour

identify personal and social factors associated with daily life pro-environmental behaviour.

The project offers a splendid opportunity to do interdisciplinary research with strong valorisation and practical relevance. The project is funded by the OUNL research programme DALI (Digital Accessible Learning Innovation), theme ‘Safety in urban environments’.

In this project we want to study pro-environmental behaviour in general, and more specific pro-environmental behaviour with regard to plastic waste, in daily life. The research will be carried out in two urban areas, one relative clean and one relative dirty area, in both the Netherlands and Indonesia (being the second country on the list of mismanaged waste). In recent years the Open Universiteit and Soegijapranata Catholic University in Indonesia have a successful collaboration in several (research and education) projects on plastic waste.
Complexity science can be used to study the interactions and feedbacks between human behaviour and the environment they observe. Therefore an ecological momentary assessment approach is used in this study. The experience sampling method (ESM) is a high-resolution structured diary technique to assess individuals in their day-to-day environment. This research method has been validated for the use of studying the immediate effects of environmental factors on behaviour and vice versa. During the day, over a period of 7 days, an ESM-based smartphone app prompts participants a number of times a day to fill in a short questionnaire containing questions about context and behaviour, in casu pro-environmental behaviour.

The tasks of the candidate are to coordinate and to carry out the data-collection and data-analysis. He/she publishes the research results and prepares a research proposal for follow-up research, preferably by applying for external funding.


A (finished or nearly finished) Master of Science degree in Psychology or Environmental Sciences

Strong and demonstrable affinity with scientific research

Excellent academic writing and presentation skills

Creativity, self-management skills and cooperation skills

Experience with research on pro environmental behaviour

Experience with Ecological Assessment Methodology serves as a recommendation

The maximum salary for a full-time position is € 2709 gross per month.

The Open University of the Netherlands provides good secondary benefits such as training, mobility, part-time employment and paid parental leave.

Station: Heerlen (Department of Psychology and/or Department of Environmental Sciences).
Start date: preferably starting as from October 1, 2019

Fixed-term contract: for the duration of 1 year.

All additional information can be found here.