Doctoral positions – Campaign 2015: Profile n° 2

Contrat Doctoral n° 2
“Which models should be used for the analysis and support of degrowth in technical networks?”.

Work-Package: Networks and Territories

The deadline for the submission of applications is 26 April 2015 (inclusive).
Recruitment procedure and schedule

Description of the Position

Research proposal:

The urban and interurban technical networks (transport, energy, water distribution etc.) in the old industrialized countries began to emerge from the 19th century and were established under the banner of growth. Energy and environmental resources, populations and economic activity combined to support network forms that were expected, at the time, to be almost infinite in their deployment, for example on the basis of centralized (tree) and meshed models. However, a large number of researchers question this growth context today. Without going as far catastrophism, it would appear that the stagnation or scarcity of energy resources, fragility of environmental resources, and economic and demographic stagnation or decline have become an important points of reference in the consideration of future developments.

In this new context, the majority of models developed with a view to growth (whether theoretical or quantitative) are becoming obsolete. Thus the technical networks and their connection with the territory should be re-examined in terms of their capacity to age, shrink and resize in accordance with tomorrow’s expectations. The same question regarding their continuation arises for certain neighbourhoods, cities or regions, which are in the process of demographic and/or economic decline. The aim of the proposed thesis is not to put forward a model of degrowth to be applied to a particular network, but to approach the question of degrowth in a more generic way from the perspective of the effectiveness of networks: Is it possible to conceive of and support the degrowth of the networks without running the risk of undermining the general characteristics that ensure their effectiveness at national or international levels for the areas that are best integrated into the global economy? Is it possible to eliminate the links and simultaneously create more effective new ones without affecting the overall functioning of the system?

Several approaches could be adopted and will be selected by the candidate:
Experience gained from the past and classified under the heading of the long-term perspective and geohistory constitutes an initial approach. Certain technical networks have been abandoned entirely or in part and constitute fertile and relatively unexplored territory: How has the degrowth in the rail network unfolded in certain countries? What were the options behind the decisions to close lines and how were they perceived and managed by the actors of the period in question? At urban level, how were public transport networks dismantled in certain cities to facilitate ‘le tout automobile’ (‘all-car policy’)? How did the substitution of cycles in the energy field translate in terms of the replacement of technical networks?

A second possible approach is based on graph theory and complex systems. It requires, first, the consideration of networks as dynamic systems while taking the different temporalities of their components into account (i.e. they can arise, die out, grow or shrink, depending on the level involved) and, second, a focus on the possible modalities of the co-evolution of technical systems and the territorial systems they permeate.

A third approach is located in the area of spatial planning and/or urbanism. What is involved here is the analysis of the conditions for the emergence and implementation of an alternative model to the classical grid model and its adaptation in the context of degrowth. What are the policies and actors behind these transformations? How does the production of these new instruments transform (or not) the production, management and operation of the city, territories and network services? Is it possible to suggest a (partial) withdrawal from the networks or more complex, more diverse, more interactive form of cross-linking (between networks, between networks and management/planning, between service and users)?

Territories: old industrialized countries (Europe, United States, Canada Japan) at urban, regional or national levels, based on the type(s) of technical network(s) studied for the thesis.

The methodology proposed by the candidate will highlight the comparative dimension and analysis of the process of change. The geohistorical approach will be based on the construction and use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) incorporating historical databases, and on the history of the policies and actor games that accompanied the withdrawal from or abandonment of technical networks. For the ‘complex systems’ approach, the methods will also draw on historical GIS and will refer more broadly to the field of graph and modelling theories. Finally, for the ‘planning’ approach, the process will be centred on the actors, technologies and their territorial integration, and may be complemented by field observation.

Planned Collaboration

The members of the Réseaux et Territoires (‘Networks and Territories’) work-package collaborate within their fields with relevant researchers from different laboratories and research institutes:

  • for the geohistorical approach, possible collaboration with the CNAM, Centre d’histoire sociale (CHS), Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and IFFSTAR (French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks);
  • for the complex systems approach, possible collaboration with the Complex Systems Institute of Paris Ile-de-France (ISCPIF);
  • for the planning approach, possible collaboration with the Laboratoire Techniques Territoires et Sociétés (LATTS).

Required Qualifications, Skills and Aptitudes

The candidate must:

  • hold a research masters in geography, planning – or history, economics;
  • have data processing skills that cover the issues and methodology involved in the research.

Additional Information

Commencement of the contract: 01/09/2015 or 01/10/2015 (according to preference)

Duration of the contract: 3 years

Host laboratory: UMR Géographie-Cités (8504) – 13 rue du Four – 75006 Paris

Potential thesis supervisor(s): Natacha AVELINE, Sabine BARLES, Anne BRETAGNOLLE, Xavier DESJARDINS, Jean DEBRIE, Sylvie FOL, André GUILLERME (CNAM)

Net monthly salary: approximately EUR 1350 (possibility of additional teaching assignments, depending on host or home institution)

Contact :

Recruitment procedure and schedule

The application must be submitted electronically by application form ( It must demonstrate that the candidate fulfils the requirements indicated in the position profile (specified tasks and skills).

The application will include:

  • a description of the doctoral project (5 to 8 pages maximum) and an abstract (2000 characters including spaces) indicating the theoretical basis of the research, the tests to be carried out on empirical materials, the methodology to be used, a feasibility report and project schedule;
  • curriculum vitae;
  • transcript of higher education record for first year of masters studies (Master 1) and the first semester of research masters (Master 2);
  • a letter of recommendation from the supervisor of the research master’s thesis;
  • a letter confirming the forthcoming defence of the candidate’s master’s thesis (prior to 31 August 2015).

It is recommended (but not mandatory) for the candidate to establish contact with the potential thesis supervisor in advance.

The deadline for the submission of applications is 26 April 2015 (inclusive).

The application summary sheet which will be transmitted automatically by e-mail on completion of the electronic application must be sent by post (date as per postmark) or presented in person to the office of the LabEx DynamiTe (190-198 avenue de France, bureau 008 or 004 Aile A, 75013 Paris) before the applications deadline.

For your information: When the deadline for applications has passed, the LabEx DynamiTe will contact the potential supervisor and the director(s) of the potential host unit(s) and will add two letters of invitation to the application.

The candidate(s) appointed following the evaluation of the applications and interviews (which will take place during the week of 15 June 2015) will be informed of the results of the application process from 22 June 2015.

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