Postdoctoral Research Assistant
Equipping Religious Leadership in an Age of Science and Media
Location Durham City
Department St John’s College
Grade 7 St Johns College Graded Pay Structure
Position Type Full-time
Contract Type Fixed Term (three years)
Closing Date: 13th February 2015 at 5pm.
Interviews: 24th February 2015
Starting date: April 1st 2015
A three year postdoctoral position is available to work with Revd Professor David Wilkinson, Professor Tom McLeish, and Rt Revd Professor Richard Cheetham at Durham University, in their Templeton World Charitable Foundation funded project ‘Equipping Religious Leadership in an Age of Science’.
This project seeks to transform the quality and increase the quantity of serious engagement with science amongst Christians in England, by focusing attention on the role of senior church leaders in shaping church leadership in an age of science.
We will target strategic leaders in conferences, provide training resources for a much larger number of trainee leaders, and develop a range of flagship local engagement projects to demonstrate where leadership in this area can take people. All of this will be underpinned by original research, which will itself be a significant contribution to public understanding of the relationship between religion and science.
This project will research the attitudes towards science of current strategic leaders both within the main denominations but also in new churches and parachurch movements, and explore how their leadership and thinking shapes the assumptions, priorities, practice and theological beliefs of leaders and laity within their organizations. It then will provide an already trialled form of conference where strategic church leaders are brought into transformative dialogue with senior scientists and theologians, so that they can own science as a key partner of theology and thereby of the Church’s ministry.
This work with senior leaders then gives added importance to the creation and use of resources in science and theology for the Church of England’s Common Awards programme. This began in September 2014 as a partnership with Durham University and structures the vast majority of training for church leadership in the UK involving 1500 students in the first year. It also gives a natural network and structure for a new “Scientists in Congregations” programme for England; and for ongoing support of senior church leaders in their thinking, media work and preaching.
A postdoctoral researcher will be based in Durham for the three years of the project and will be responsible for:
1. The research project on the attitudes towards and knowledge of science among key groups of religious leaders through a combination of questionnaires, face to face interviews and on-line survey methods.
2. Assisting in the administration of conferences for key religious leaders here in Durham
3. Assisting in the administration of the overall project with specific involvement in planning, communication and reporting
4. Management of the content of the project website
5. Presentation of the research in papers and conferences for both academic and ecclesial settings
The research project builds on a pilot survey focused exclusively on a group of senior church leaders. We will now carry out a quantitative survey of 1000 religious leaders, using the insights we have already gained, that would be able to probe the influence on confidence in engaging in the science and religion engagement of issues such as:
§Level of leadership with the religious organisation
This will complement the work of Ecklund on attitudes among scientists, and more focused than other surveys of public opinions on science and religion and the more specific surveys on young people. It will be distinguished by its focus on key religious leaders and their influence on their communities.
In pursuing our big question, this work will need to explore further questions that go beyond our original work which investigate the influence of senior church leaders on other leaders. For example in what ways do senior church leaders influence the science and theology dialogue as role models, theological commentators, ‘permission’ givers, vocational encouragers, and influencers of theological training priorities.
It would use a combination of questionnaires, face to face interviews and on-line survey methods. Respondents would be recruited through our own networks within the denominations and para-church organisations (national communications e.g. EA Idea magazine; diocesan, district and geographical structures; theological colleges); through web presence and social media; and through staff presence at national events such as Spring Harvest, Greenbelt, Soul Survivor.
The methodology will be a combination of statistical analysis with narrative analysis of the face to face interviews.
The intended audience for the research will be both popular and academic. There will be considerable interest among the academic community of the science religion dialogue, and those responsible for training church leaders. However, we expect a great deal of general media interest. We will be able to show that the oft quoted views of new atheism that ‘church leaders oppose science’ or are all six day creationists are misleading.
Publication will be in journals such as Science and Christian Belief, Theology and Science in Society. In addition we will make the data available to other scholars via our already existing website http://community.dur.ac.uk/christianleadership.science/
The successful candidate will be highly
motivated and able to work independently. This post is fixed term and is
available from April 1st 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter for
a period of 3 years.
Interested candidates should submit a CV and a cover letter detailing his/her interest in the research and qualifications for the position.
Survey work will mainly be carried out at Durham University. However, travel off-site for interviewing may be required.
·Develop detailed programmes of work and assess progress against the work plan.
·Keep comprehensive, accessible and secure records of survey and interview responses, data and analyses.
·Liaise effectively with and assist other members of the research team.
·Prepare monthly and quarterly reports; participate in scheduled electronic and face-to-face meetings including presentation of research results.
·Present research at national and international conferences.
·Write or assist with the writing of papers for publication in international journals and conference proceedings
·Management of content on project website
Masters level qualification in science, social sciences or humanities
Excellent English language skills, both written and verbal
Excellent team-working and interpersonal skills
Ability to work independently and exercise personal initiative
Good time management skills and ability to focus on the objectives of the project
Doctoral level qualification in science, social science or humanities
Expertise in questionnaire design and
Expertise in producing web resources and on-line survey methods
Expertise in face to face interviewing
Knowledge and understanding of church leadership structures and networks
Knowledge and understanding of theological issues in relation to science
Please apply via CV and covering letter to David Wilkinson, St John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham DH1 3RJ (email@example.com) including the names of three referees
Interviews will be held on 24th February 2015 at St John’s College, Durham.
Shortlisted candidates will be asked to give a ten minute presentation on what might be the key questions within an on-line survey to explore attitudes to science among the clergy.
 Elaine Howard Ecklund, Science Vs. Religion : What Scientists Really Think (New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010).
Pew Research Center: "Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media", Section 4: Scientists, Politics and Religion. July 9, 2009; Neil Gross and Solon Simmons (2009). The religiosity of American college and university professors. Sociology of Religion, v70 n2, pp101-129
 Jeff Astley, 'The Science and Religion Interface within Young People's Attitudes and Beliefs', in Leslie J. Francis, Mandy Robbins and Jeff Astley (eds), Religion, Education and Adolescence: International Empirical Perspectives (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005), 39-54; Jeff Astley and Leslie J. Francis, 'Promoting Positive Attitudes towards Science and Religion among Sixth Form Pupils: Dealing with Scientism and Creationism', British Journal of Religious Education, 32, 3, 2010, 189-200