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PhD candidate “Modelling violent conflict”

Vacancy number
Function type
PhD positions
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Den Haag
Placed on
03 February 2021
Closing date
01 March 2021

Vacancy closed

The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies and LIACS is looking for a

PhD candidate “Modelling violent conflict”

Project description
The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) is developing advanced real-world policy applications to help solve urgent societal challenges. With our team of interdisciplinary analysts from the world’s leading universities, we develop a portfolio of top-notch, data-intensive, quantitative, and causal political risk models. Our data lab hosts and hones our capability for the analysis, modelling, and computation of relevant political, security and conflict risk metrics, as well as our competencies for formulating and implementing appropriate risk measures.

In collaboration with the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS), HCSS is offering a paid PhD position. As part of his/her PhD research, the PhD candidate will work on the development, validation and deployment of a set of predictive models of violent conflict that enable the optimization of the efficacy of causal interventions under a range of causal, strategic, and political constraints using real world data. Alongside the PhD research, the PhD candidate will apply these models to help solve real world problems confronted by Dutch foreign and security policymakers, including climate security. Following the successful completion of the four-year project, the candidate will have earned a PhD and gained valuable professional experience in solving urgent public policy challenges.

The PhD candidate will be supervised by Professor Dr. Thomas Bäck, head of the Natural Computing Research Group at LIACS, Assistant Professor Dr. Anna Kononova (LIACS), and Dr. Ninoslav Malekovic, Chief Data Scientist at HCSS.

Key responsibilities

  • Work on the development, validation and deployment of a set of predictive models of violent conflict.;
  • Application of these models to help solve real world problems;
  • Completion of PhD.

Selection criteria
Candidates should have a MSc degree in computer science, mathematics or statistics and demonstrated affinity for solving quantitative problems. They should also demonstrate strong transferable, programming skills, as well as a keen interest in public policy research. Our candidate meets the following criteria:

  • MSc degree in one of the following disciplines: computer science, mathematics, statistics;
  • Strong experience in data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and/or optimization;
  • Fluency in at least two of the languages: R, Python, Scala, Julia, Java, C#, and/or C++;
  • Prior experience with dashboarding, visualization, and/or web design and development;
  • Prior experience in software development and engineering is a strong plus;
  • Data management and engineering skills;
  • Very good communication skills in English, both orally and in writing;
  • Ability to work independently in a fast-paced environment;
  • Strong work ethic and willingness to learn;
  • An affinity for international policy research;
  • The ability to interpret data;
  • First-principles thinking.

Successful applicants will be asked to provide a certificate of good conduct (‘Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag’), which is available from The Netherlands Ministry of Justice.

Our organisation
The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies is an independent think tank that provides strategic advice to governments, non-governmental organizations and corporations. We provide practical solutions for challenges in a fast-changing world. Our multidisciplinary research agenda covers international and national security, defense planning, cybersecurity, resource and energy issues, and broader geopolitical and geo-economic developments. We conduct our research guided through innovative and data-driven approaches. HCSS works independently and in collaboration with its network of affiliated experts. HCSS is based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the international city of peace and justice, where the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are located. The Hague has a large expat community, as the city is home to many international organizations, NGOs, and academic institutes. It is also the seat of the Dutch government and Ministries of Justice and Security, Foreign Affairs, and Defence, which are important clients of HCSS.

The Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science is the Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science Institute in the Faculty of Science of Leiden University. We offer courses at the Bachelor and Master of Science level in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, ICT in Business, Media Technology, and Bioinformatics. According to an independent research visitation, we are one of the foremost computer science departments of the Netherlands. We strive for excellence in a caring institute, where excellence, fun, and diversity go hand in hand. We offer a clear and inviting career path to young and talented scientists with the ambition to grow. For more information, see the website of LIACS.

Terms and conditions 
We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE) for four years. The full-time gross salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience - ranges between € 2,395..- and € 3,061.- per month in the fourth year. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8%, a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year and funding to attend international conferences and workshops.

Additional information about the PhD position can be obtained from Ninoslav Malekovic, email ninoslavmalekovic@hcss.nl and Anna Kononova, email a.kononova@leidenuniv.nl.


Your application should be in English. We will only consider complete applications. To apply, send the following items to info@hcss.nl, using ‘PhD Role 1/2021’ as the subject line:

  • A cover letter, succinctly explaining why you are the best candidate for the PhD role
  • A portfolio of previous data projects, including the code (or a GitHub address)
  • A summary of the initial research proposal (1 page maximum)
  • A resume, including a list of references
  • Official academic transcripts
  • One writing sample

Eligible applicants will be invited for an interview. 
Applicants are invited to submit their application no later than 1 March 2021. 

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