Early Stage Researcher in dementia care and technology

Placed on: 
VUB, the End-of-Life Care Research Group

Applications are invited for one Early Stage Researcher post to work with Professor Lieve Van den Block and Dr. Lara Pivodic as part of a European-Commission funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN), “DISTINCT” (http://www.dementiadistinct.com). Starting on or after 01 October 2019, the successful applicant will work within the End-of-Life Care Research Group and register for a PhD at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium. The End-of-Life Care Research Group is an internationally leading research group at the crossroads of palliative care, ageing and dementia, and end-of-life care. It consists of more than 40 researchers with a background in social and medical sciences.

The DISTINCT (Dementia: Intersectorial Strategy for Training and Innovation Network for Current Technology; www.dementiadistinct.com) network comprises of ten world-leading research organisations plus IDES, an enterprise for technology, research and care, as well as nine partner organisations including Alzheimer Europe, Alzheimer’s Disease International, the World Occupational Therapists Federation, two other major universities and three other enterprises. DISTINCT works with INTERDEM (Early detection and timely INTERvention in DEMentia), a large international collaboration enabling training and development opportunities for all grades of researcher from PhD students to senior academics to develop capacity for future research in dementia care.

The overarching research goal of the DISTINCT project is to improve the usability of technology in dementia care by evaluating its effectiveness and implementation issues in relation to social health. A total of 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) will be hosted across the network and will work in research, a network-wide training program, public engagement activities and collaboration with network partners through short-term secondments in European industrial/academic partner laboratories. Candidates interested in more than one position need to apply separately to each centre hosting ESRs and a final decision will be taken together at the interview event (see below for details). Details of all DISTINCT ESR projects can be found at: www.dementiadistinct.com


Project: An interactive website for advance care planning (ACP) for people with dementia and their family

As part of a multidisciplinary research team, the successful candidate will work on a study that aims to develop an online tool to support persons with dementia and their caregivers in holding advance care planning (ACP) conversations. Advance care planning is the continuous, early-initiated process of communication and discussions between health care providers, patients and families about the goals and desired direction of future health care, including end-of-life care. ACP is particularly relevant for people with dementia, given the progressive course of the disease in which people can lose cognitive capacity. Current ACP guidelines are strongly focused on professionals and how they should approach ACP discussions. However, there is a lack of good ACP tools for patients and relatives to conduct ACP conversations in their home environment.


The Early Stage Researcher will be involved in developing an online ACP tool (interactive ACP website) to support communication and discussions between people with dementia and their caregivers. She or he will work closely with patients, with dementia at various stages of their illness, family carers, healthcare professionals and computer scientists. She or he will test the feasibility, usability and effectiveness of the ACP tool in people with dementia and their family carers through qualitative (interviews and focus groups) and quantitative (structured questionnaires / surveys) research methods.

The Early Stage Researcher will also complete two secondments: of three months each.


Requirements for the Post

Candidates will be required to meet the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researcher eligibility criteria: (http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/). Specifically, at the time of appointment candidates:

  • must not have more than four years (full-time equivalent) research experience;

  • must not already hold a PhD degree;

  • must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Belgium for more than 12 months in the three years immediately before the appointment.


  • Master’s degree in the field of psychology, sociology, health sciences, medicine, philosophy, communication sciences, etc. with a strong element of quantitative and qualitative research methods


  • Good IT skills (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, statistics software such as SPSS or SAS or R, etc.);
  • Good knowledge and experience with qualitative and/or quantitative research methods;
  • Good oral and written communication skills;
  • Ability and strong motivation to work closely with different stakeholders in the research process (i.e. patients, family carers health care professionals, other researchers);
  • Ability to manage own workload and meet deadlines while working under supervision;
  • Willingness and ability to act in a proactive and forward-thinking manner and to take initiative


  • Experience in planning and executing projects within a predefined timescale;
  • Experience in conducting research is an advantage.

Additional qualities:

  • Strong motivation to conduct scientific research about the topic of this project and to complete a PhD dissertation;
  • Willingness to travel to attend secondments, trainings and academic events;
  • Ability and motivation to work within an internationally diverse team from different academic disciplines.


What do we offer?

  • Appointment as Doctoral Researcher for a period of three years (36 months; contract renewed annually pending favourable evaluation) with a remuneration package of annual salary (€39,240) including social security, plus mobility (€600) and family (€500) allowances as per rules of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions - Innovative Training Networks (ITN);
  • The opportunity to conduct cutting-edge and innovative research together with European project partners;
  • Supervision in conducting scientific research by experienced researchers in the field of ageing, palliative care and dementia;
  • Work in the context and under supervision of an internationally renowned and influential research group that hosts regular research workshops and seminars;
  • An excellent training programme within the DISTINCT project, next to the possibility to attend courses within the Doctoral Schools of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.


How to apply?

If you are interested in this position, please send the following to Lara Pivodic (lara.pivodic@vub.ac.be):

  • a motivation letter highlighting your motivation for conducting this work and explaining how your skills, experience, and qualities fulfil the requirements of this post;
  • a detailed CV including your academic grades.

FOR APPLICATIONS THROUGH VUB SYSTEM: Please also send your application directly via e-mail.

The deadline for application is 31 May 2019.

Following a first screening of CVs and motivation letters, candidates will be invited to take a test (approx. 1,5 hours) on their knowledge and skills regarding scientific writing and quantitative research methods (conducted through e-mail/skype, between 3rd and 12th of June).

Shortlisted candidates who passed the test will be invited for skype interviews between 13th and 27th June and, afterwards invited to the DISTINCT interview event to be held in London on 1 & 2 July 2019 (travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the project).

Enquiries may be addressed to:  Lara Pivodic (lara.pivodic@vub.ac.be; +32 2 477 47 54) or Lieve Van den Block (lvdblock@vub.ac.be); +32 (0)2 477 43 10).

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