Postdoctoral Researcher in Machine Learning for Ecological Macroeconomic Models – University of Barcelona

Deadline: 20 March 2024
Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Machine Learning for Ecological Macroeconomic Models*
Location: University of Barcelona, Spain
Salary: 36,250 euros, gross per year

*Note: This is one of several ecological economics research positions available at the University of Barcelona. You can find the other openings on the Jobs page of this website.


The University of Barcelona is looking for an outstanding postdoctoral researcher with expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning methods to contribute to a new Horizon Europe research project entitled Models, Assessment, and Policies for Sustainability (MAPS). This is a 2-year position, with an expected start date of June–September 2024.

Position Description

This position will explore the ways in which machine learning methods could be applied to better model environmental and social outcomes within an ecological macroeconomic model. Ecological macroeconomic models are simulation tools that allow for the exploration of the dynamic feedbacks between technological development, economic activity, environmental impacts, and social outcomes. They allow for multiple non-substitutable goals to be explored (e.g. sustainability, equity, and human well-being). To date, there has been very little work exploring how machine learning techniques could be applied within an ecological macroeconomic model.

The successful candidate will join an international team of researchers developing a new model that includes a wide range of indicators of human well-being and environmental sustainability (such as those in the “Doughnut” of social and planetary boundaries). This model will be used to assess different policy packages aimed at achieving a sustainable economy, in particular “post-growth” approaches that move beyond GDP as a measure of progress. The motivation for this research is the observation that the pursuit of GDP growth is no longer improving people’s lives in wealthy nations, and yet it is contributing to a worsening ecological crisis. A new economic paradigm is needed.

In addition to applying machine learning methods in a modelling context, the position may also explore broader questions related to the impact of AI on society such as: (1) What impacts would different AI scenarios have on environmental sustainability and human well-being? (2) What policies would help steer AI development towards the achievement of a good life for all within planetary boundaries? (3) Can AI be aligned with the goals of a “post-growth” economy?

The position will be based in the Faculty of Economics, at the University of Barcelona (Spain), under the primary supervision of Dr Daniel O’Neill.


Essential — The successful candidate will have:

  • A PhD in computer science, engineering, natural sciences, sustainability science, ecological economics, or a related field. Completion of a PhD by the start date of the contract is a requirement for the position
  • A track record of relevant research publications in internationally recognised journals
  • Expertise in machine learning methods
  • Strong programming skills in open-source languages (e.g. Python, C, Julia)
  • An interest in the environmental and social impacts of artificial intelligence
  • Motivation and initiative to work both independently and as part of an interdisciplinary team
  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills
  • Excellent organisational and time management skills
  • Fluency in English

Desirable — The successful candidate may have:

  • Knowledge of post-growth research topics
  • Expertise in explainable AI methods
  • Expertise in other relevant quantitative research methods (e.g. system dynamics, input–output analysis, time-use analysis, scenario modelling, material flow analysis, etc.)
  • Proficiency in Spanish and/or Catalan
How to Apply

Please submit your CV and a motivation letter (max 2 pages) to Dr Daniel O’Neill at by 20 March 2024, 23:59 CET. The subject of your email should be: “Application for Postdoc in Modelling with Machine Learning”.

Within your motivation letter, please indicate how your skills and experience match the essential/desirable specifications listed above, and discuss how you would use machine learning to improve the modelling of environmental and social indicators.

Please ask two referees to submit reference letters for you to by 20 March 2024, 23:59 CET. The subject of their emails should be: “Reference for YOUR NAME”.

Deadline to apply: Wednesday, 20 March 2024, 23:59 CET

Start date of position: June–September 2024

Salary: €36,250 per year

Online interviews are expected to be held 8–12 April.

The MAPS Project

There is an urgent need for a new economic paradigm that reconciles human well-being with environmental sustainability — one based on a “post-growth” approach. High-income countries must move beyond the pursuit of GDP growth as a policy goal, and instead pursue policies that improve human well-being while reducing resource use.     

The aim of the MAPS project is to broaden the range of policies, models, and assessments to help achieve sustainability, equity, and human well-being. It is a 4-year Horizon Europe research project coordinated by the University of Barcelona, with nine other partners across Europe. 

The successful candidate will join one of the top groups of post-growth researchers in the world. We work closely as a team, and the successful candidate is expected to live and work in the Barcelona area.  Barcelona is a dynamic city on the Mediterranean, with a very high quality of life. The University of Barcelona is generally regarded as the top university in Spain, and one of the best in Europe.

We are committed to advancing the careers of junior women researchers, and researchers from under-represented backgrounds, who are encouraged to apply.