Universiteit Leiden

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PhD candidate on Understanding AI in Decision Making

Omvang (fte)
Den Haag, Leiden
Geplaatst op
02 februari 2021
14 februari 2021

Vacature gesloten

SAILS, the Leiden University wide initiative aiming to facilitate collaboration across disciplines on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), is looking for a

PhD candidate on Understanding AI in Decision Making
Vacancy number 20-044 8357 

Project description
PhD Position on Understanding AI in Decision Making: How do professionals from different fields interact in relation to AI systems and human decision making?

Various forms of AI are developing rapidly and are increasingly being used in domain-specific contexts, such as by medical professionals, businesses executives, administrative decision-makers, and policy makers. There is much enthusiasm as to the functional benefits that AI might bring to human decision makers. However, it is notoriously hard to understand and explain how algorithms work and thus fully assess how they contribute to the intelligence and insights that can be used in or underly decision-making. Consequently, various choices (including methodological or technical), limitations and trade-offs reflected in various steps in the chain towards intelligence may be lost on the user. On the other hand, the developers of the AI-system may not be aware of specific sensitivities of the context of use that could inform choices in the trade-offs. If the human decision-maker doesn’t understand the choices, limitations and caveats behind the intelligence, this may adversely affect the outcome. This may have profound effects on the uptake and actual use of AI by professionals, be it in government, in law, in the hospital, or in the boardroom.

Experts in the domains mentioned above use AI as part of making (small or big) decisions on a topic they have great professional expertise on. They are professionals. Those working on the supply side of AI, are also professionals, although with a completely different expertise; technical, analytical and methodological rather than domain-specific, medical or political. 

In this research we propose to study the interaction between these two worlds: the world of AI and that of human decision making. Explainable AI algorithms, the chain of development choices (data, algorithmic) of the AI, and the impact of the AI decisions and suggestions go hand in hand. Professionals in both worlds have different logics. Understanding how these worlds interact is essential to providing a meaningful debate on the use of AI in professional decision making.

The two main questions of this research are:

  1. Understanding: What decisions are made along the chain of development and use of algorithmic decision systems, how and by whom, how are they reported on, and how do they affect an eventual policy or decision?
  2. Improving: which interventions (technical, organisational, regulatory) can and should be developed to enable optimal use of AI in decision making by professionals?

Key responsibilities 

  • Conduct original and novel research in the intersection of the fields of public administration, law, human decision making and AI;
  • Publish and present scientific articles at international journals and conferences;
  • Contribute to educational activities;
  • Write a dissertation;
  • Engage in collaborations with colleagues across domains.

Selection criteria

  • An MSc/LLM/MA degree in a relevant field (see above);
  • Highly motivated both to perform interdisciplinary and foundational research, and to apply the developed methods to real-world problems;
  • Creative, making things work mentality, independent, and communicative team player;
  • Experienced with writing scientific manuscripts and good academic writing skills;
  • Demonstrated affinity with both AI techniques and decision making in public administration and/or law;
  • Interested in participating in interdisciplinary educational activities;
  • Excellent proficiency in English (oral and written);
  • Active programming skills are considered a plus.

We are looking for candidates with a background in Public Administration or Law, with affinity with AI applications, or in Computer Science/AI with affinity with Public administration and Law. 

The successful applicant should be a very motivated university graduate who is a top performer among her/his peers, has excellent education and/or research skills as can be proven by relevant experience, publications and the like. You are expected to conduct original competitive scientific research, resulting in publications in top conferences and scientific journals, and participating in teaching duties. 

Applicants are expected to have a university degree (MSc/LLM/MA) in a relevant field. This position is part of the interdisciplinary SAILS programme of Leiden University in which collaborative research across domains is of key importance. You are expected to team up with your colleagues and have an open mind in discovering new and innovative relations between the different fields involved. The successful candidate is expected to be able to start by March 1, 2021. 

Our organisation 
As part of the university-wide collaboration on AI research SAILS, the position will be located between three Faculties, and take place under shared supervision of:

  • Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs: Public Administration – Bram Klievin;
  • Faculty of Law: eLaw Center for Law and Digital Technologies – Francien Dechesne;
  • Faculty of Science: LIACS Joost Broekens.

SAILS: The future of AI is human
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technologies are playing an increasingly important role in our society. At Leiden University we are convinced that the future of AI is human: to create AI for Good we need to combine the expertise from researchers in AI techniques with the human aspects of AI, involving law, language, psychology, and many other fields. To this end Leiden University has started a new, university wide initiative called SAILS (Social Sciences, Humanities, Law, Artificial Intelligence and Life Sciences) to enable collaboration on the development and application of AI. By building on and expanding the already existing expertise of AI, we advance science and improve the quality of life for all. All the disciplines of the University of Leiden are involved in the program: Archaeology, Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Public Administration, Sciences, and also the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), to collaborate and appoint new staff (full professors, assistant professors, postdocs, and PhD students to perform groundbreaking AI research across domain boundaries.

Within the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, the Institute of Public Administration is one of the largest and oldest institutes of academic research and teaching in the field of public administration in the Netherlands and is located in The Hague. The institute combines a solid international academic reputation with a central positioning among the international, national, regional and local governance institutions of The Hague. It employs around 80 people and provides education to 1200 students. More information about the Institute of Public Administration and about the faculty may be found at the website.

Terms and
We offer a full-time appointment of initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the  research, teaching evaluations, personal capabilities and compatibility, the appointment will be extended for another three years. Salary range from 2.325,-  to 2.972,- gross per month (pay scale P in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses(8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information, see the website.

All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Science. Our graduate school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training and personal effectiveness. In addition, advanced courses to deepen scientific knowledge are offered by the research school.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.
 Leiden University is a highly diverse institute, in culture, background, and gender. We stand for excellence in a caring Institute. We wish to reflect society in all aspects, as we believe that this improves the dynamics in our organization. Therefore, we support and understand the need for a work/life/family balance and consequent varying working hours and places. We believe that doing good science is fun, and goes hand in hand with a friendly culture. In the Netherlands, a maternity allowance is standard for 16 weeks. Child care is available at and near the Bio Science Park.

Inquiries about the research area can be made to about the content of the research can be made to Bram Klievink, email a.j.klievink@fgga.leidenuniv.nl and  Francien Dechesne, email f.dechesne@law.leidenuniv.nl.

Please submit online your application no later than 14 February, 2021 via the blue button in our application system. Applicants should submit the following additional documents, quoting the vacancy number:

  • Curriculum vitae (CV);
  • Motivation letter (1 page maximum);
  • Grade list of Master degree;
  • (Draft of) Master thesis;
  • Two reference letters (at least one from your Master thesis supervisor).

Applicants may be contacted with requests for additional information and/or exploratory conversations before the closing date. The selection procedure will take place in February 2021, and selected candidates may be invited for an online interview in this period, during which you are kindly requested to be available.

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