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PhD in Geography, Sociology, Political Sciences (M/W)

This offer is available in the following languages:
Français - Anglais

Date Limite Candidature : vendredi 1 juillet 2022

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General information

Reference : UMR6031-ANNPER-001
Workplace : PAU
Date of publication : Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Scientific Responsible name : Xavier Arnauld de Sartre
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 September 2022
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic

The doctoral thesis will seek to analyse, from a social science point of view, the qualification of induced seismicity, taking the Lacq Basin as a case study. The aim is to understand how, on the basis of the strong invisibility of the subsoil in our societies, the uncertainties concerning the anthropic origin of earthquakes structure the way in which this question emerges as a public problem. By studying specific controversies around induced seismicity, the project will seek to understand how the functioning of the bodies that qualify the anthropic character of earthquakes on the one hand, and the methods of funding research on the other, contribute to the negation of this uncertainty by political actors.

Induced seismicity is being put on the agenda against a background of uncertainty. When it comes to subsoil, and particularly seismicity, uncertainty is not ignorance: it is impossible to attribute causes to an event with certainty. But this uncertainty takes on a political dimension when the consequences of knowledge are translated into authorisations or prohibitions, compensation for damage, etc. The thesis will analyse the mechanisms of qualification of seismicity (induced or natural) in a French region where this seismicity, whatever its origin, is important: the Lacq region, near Pau, where the old and numerous earthquakes have given rise to a limited agenda of induced seismicity despite a large industrial activity in the subsurface. Three areas of study will be addressed: the measurement of seismicity, the qualification of the induced character of earthquakes, and the way in which the various actors (politicians, industrialists, local residents) deal with (or do not deal with) this issue, with particular attention paid to the notion of uncertainty, as opposed to ignorance.
The issues of perception and publicity of induced seismicity are first considered in terms of its monitoring, not so much to be able to establish an 'objective' or 'stabilised' measure, but to emphasise that monitoring poses the problem of who conducts the measurements, the type of data that is collected, and the ways in which it is disseminated to the public. As Grigoli et al (ibid.) point out, access to data is often restricted in the name of industrial secrecy and, while greater 'social acceptability' could emerge from an effort at transparency, little data is made public.
Induced seismicity then raises the question of its qualification as anthropogenic (National Research Council (U.S.) 2013). The problem is no longer the unavailability of the data, but its classification. However, disputes over the qualification of anthropogenic are eminently strategic and political, especially in areas, such as Pau, where natural seismicity pre-exists the industrial activities responsible for induced seismicity.
The third axis of the thesis will focus on the way in which, on these bases, the political actors seize or not these stakes. On the one hand, it is a question of analysing how the methods of financing research have firstly minimised the issues surrounding induced seismicity, and then promoted the promises of technical certainty in measuring, qualifying and predicting earthquakes to the detriment of the uncertainty specific to geology, whose object of study excludes direct experience. On the other hand, it is a question of studying the risk assessment procedures of industrial projects likely to cause seismicity in order to highlight the way in which the uncertainties linked to induced seismicity are dealt with.
The doctoral research will be organised around three pillars. Firstly, the international literature on the subject will be synthesised in order to determine the different points of view, the problems identified and the means mobilised to resolve them; the doctoral student will be accompanied in this by the different specialists who will supervise the thesis. Then, on the basis of the state of the art, the PhD student will develop a case study on France by analysing how induced seismicity has been constructed as a scientific object during the development of the industrial activity and its current reconversion. The interview of the stakeholders involved in the measurement and qualification of these earthquakes will be a key element in the understanding of these phenomena. Finally, through the study of different episodes of induced seismicity linked to different industries, notably in the Lacq region - a study that is very much rooted in the literature on the sociology of science and technology - the aim will be to question the way in which controversies have, on the basis of this uncertainty, developed in specific cases.


Candidates will have either :
- A master's degree or equivalent in geography, sociology, political science.
- Knowledge of geology will be appreciated.

Work Context

The PhD is financed by CNRS with 80 PRIME.

The thesis will be a geography thesis, but it will involve the association of multidisciplinary knowledge involving geography, political science and earth sciences. It is under the responsibility of Xavier Arnauld de Sartre, geographer, research director at the CNRS.
Knowledge of the functioning of seismicity is the basis for the proper functioning of this project - this is why it associates a specialist in seismicity, whether of natural or anthropic origin (Guy Sénéchal) and a specialist in structural geology (Jean-Paul Callot).
The study of the agenda of the problem will be directed by a political scientist, specialist in controversies around the subsoil and the politicisation of this environment (Sébastien Chailleux). The integration of these geological and industrial political dimensions will be carried out by the head of the thesis, Xavier Arnauld de Sartre, who will propose to apply the political ecology approach, of which he is a specialist, to this specific object.
The thesis steering committee, composed of these four people, will meet every quarter to discuss the direction of the thesis and its results. The links between these people will be favoured by the inter-knowledge between the researchers, and possible disagreements will be managed according to the interest of the doctoral student, ultimately decided by the latter in collaboration with his official director.

Constraints and risks

The PhD student will be located in Pau

No specific risk other than those of fieldwork in the OECD area.

Additional Information

Applicants should send :
- a complete curriculum vitae,
- a letter of motivation explaining their motivation for a doctoral thesis in general, and this thesis in particular,
- a copy of their final dissertation
Only applications submitted via the CNRS job portal will be considered.

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