Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Geography

Durham, United Kingdom
£33,797 - £35,845 per annum
Mar 03, 2021
End of advertisement period
Mar 31, 2021
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Geography

Grade 7: - £33,797 - £35,845 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 36 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 31-Mar-2021, 6:59:00 AM 

Durham University 

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breath-taking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

Durham’s Department of Geography is known internationally for its innovative and interdisciplinary research. The Department of Geography seeks to appoint two postdoctoral research associates (PDRAs) for a period of 36 months. The PDRAs will undertake research as part of Prof. Louise Amoore’s ERC Advanced Grant ‘Algorithmic Societies: Ethical Life in the Machine Learning Age’.

The ERC Algorithmic Societies Project

The European Research Council funded project, Algorithmic Societies (ALGOSOC), aims to better understand and respond to the consequences of machine learning algorithms for contemporary societies. Rapid advancements in machine learning technologies are transforming social and political life in ways that uniquely challenge how we live in relation to others. The life chances of a person are now intimately connected to the data attributes that an algorithm has learned from the data patterns of unknown others. The ALGOSOC project will examine how 21st century machine learning algorithms are learning to recognizeattribute, and infer the characteristics of entities (people, objects, and scenes). In order to do this, the project will conduct a series of path-breaking studies of societal domains of machine learning, including but not limited to: behavioural biometrics, biomedicine, consumer recommendation systems, criminal justice scoring, immigration and border control systems, oncology treatment pathways, and anomaly detection for security. The ALGOSOC team will conduct qualitative data gathering and analysis across societal domains where machine learning algorithms are transforming social and political life. Methodologically, the project also aims to develop new techniques for how the arts and social sciences engage computer science practices.

The project has three central guiding objectives: (1) to understand how machine learning algorithms are generating a societal ethics of recognition; (2) to analyse how societal differences are generated and negotiated through machine learning processes; and (3) to investigate how machine learning generates inferential models of the future, and to understand the consequences of new forms of inference for ethics and politics.

The Role

The role of PDRA is to actively participate in the ongoing processes of collective learning, thinking, and researching in order to pursue the objectives of the project. The PDRAs will collaborate on the research design of the overall project, with a specific focus on two of the core case studies. They will carry out interdisciplinary qualitative field research, including non-participant observations, semi-structured interviews, and digital ethnography.

The successful applicants will have a PhD in a relevant research field such as Human Geography, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology, Media and Communication, or Anthropology. They will have experience of qualitative research and a knowledge of the study of digital technologies, algorithms, or data-driven systems.


  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and the creation of a collaborative research environment across the project.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and in collaboration with the research team.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To gather data through theoretical and empirical research, and to store, manage and analyse that data under the direction of the grant holder.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and to assist with the assessment of the knowledge of research students.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To attend and contribute to workshops and regular meetings as set out by the grant holder.
  • To assist in the planning and management of research events under the direction of the grant holder.

The posts are fixed term for 36 months and it is not anticipated that they will be extended beyond the fixed term.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will ideally be in post by 1 May 2021, or as soon as possible thereafter.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries, please contact Prof. Louise Amoore at Louise.Amoore@durham.ac.uk. All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of three (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University. We are committed to equality: if for any reason you have taken a career break or periods of leave that may have impacted on your career path, such as maternity, adoption or parental leave, you may wish to disclose this in your application. The selection committee will recognise that this may have reduced the quantity of your research accordingly.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and cover letter that details your experience, strengths and potential according to the requirements set out below;
  • A representative writing sample (publication or thesis chapter) of no more than 10,000 words.

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include an interview and a short research presentation. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment on a date to be confirmed.

The Requirements



  • A good first degree in Human Geography, Science and Technology Studies, or a related discipline.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in in Human Geography, Science and Technology Studies or a related subject.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience working with, and sustaining, collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects.


  • Demonstrable skills in qualitative fieldwork.
  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience in conducting research on a subject related to algorithms, digital systems, machine learning, and/or data


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.