Senior researcher and Phd Candidate in Digital Transformation of Decision-Making

4 days left

Amsterdam, Netherlands
09 Aug 2019
End of advertisement period
23 Sep 2019
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Closing date     23 September 2019
Level of education     Master's degree
Hours     38 hours per week
Salary indication     €2,325 to €5.656 gross per month

The University of Amsterdam’s Law School prides itself on its international orientation and strong social commitment. This is reflected by both its research and educational activities. The Amsterdam Law School offers three Bachelor’s programmes and a variety of Master's, some of which are taught exclusively in English (i.e. International and European Law, European Private Law, International Criminal Law, and Law & Finance). The Amsterdam Law School prepares students for a wide variety of legal careers including law firms, government, business and industry, the national and international judiciary, public service, human rights advocacy, and academia. With 3,700 students and over 400 staff members, it is one of the largest law faculties in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Law School is located in the centre of Amsterdam.

The Institute for Information Law (IViR) is the faculty’s worldwide leading research center in Information Law. IViR is host to an international team of more than 35 researchers that conduct research for national and European funding organisations (NWO, DFG, ERC), European institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, Council of Europe), international organisations and national governments and regulatory authorities.

We are inviting applications for the position of Senior researcher (1.0 fte) and PhD candidate (1.0 fte) to kick-start the new research initiative of the Amsterdam Law School on the Digital Transformation of Decision-Making. The initiative will focus on the normative implications of the shift toward automated decision-making, looking particularly at questions related to data governance and online platforms. The initiative is led by Prof. Natali Helberger, Prof. Joris van Hoboken and Prof. Mireille van Eechoud, at the Institute for Information Law (IViR). It is part of the larger national legal research agenda on Digital Legal Studies (2019-2025). Successful candidates will become part of a thriving international research community with excellent facilities and support for academic career development.

The Senior researcher’s main responsibility will be to help develop the initiative’s strategic agenda and bring together researchers from across the Amsterdam Law School and other university departments. The Senior researcher will be responsible for daily management of the initiative, will initiate, facilitate and carry out research projects, and ensure research has visibility and societal impact. Some additional funding is already in place to hire additional staff (PhD, assistant professors), but to help grow the initiative, the senior researcher will be tasked with acquisition of external funding.

The PhD candidate will carry out foundational and cutting-edge legal research into a selected specific research question relevant to the research initiative, under the supervision of one of the initiative leaders.

The candidate is expected to pursue an excellent academic track record through publications in international journals and related academic activities. She/he will also contribute to the broader activities of the research initiative, including the organization of academic workshops and outreach events.

Job and Project description

The Digital transformation of Decision-Making refers to the way in which algorithms, data, and artificial intelligence (AI) affect markets and society, changing democratic processes, commercial value chains, public administration, and how public values are being realized – or challenged. We will focus on automated decision-making (ADM) systems, which are set to replace human decision makers in a range of areas, from justice, to media, commerce, health and labor. ADM shifts decision-making power and infrastructure to entities that produce, collect and aggregate data, build models and optimize algorithms. This creates new dependencies on (commercial) technology companies that harbor the unique expertise, innovation and control over data needed for ADM, and new challenges for the governance of decision-making.

The overarching research question for the research initiative is: What are the normative implications of the shift from human to automated decision-making, focusing particularly on the role of platforms and data as key actors and commodity in this process?

The initiative consists of three interrelated research clusters:

Realization of fundamental rights and public values. These are normative underpinnings of the initiative. The digitalization of decision-making affects democratic values and the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms. A key challenge is to ensure these values are upheld in the online environment.

Private platform ordering. Platforms are key actors in the evolving ADM landscape and shape the way in which rights and values are conceptualized and realized. This challenges existing legal safeguards (such as freedom of expression, transparency and due process) and raises new questions about responsibilities.

Data Governance: Platforms play a central role in ADM because of the wealth of data they capture from users. Data is at the heart of monetization and governance processes. Since data is both input, and output for ADM, the way in which control over, and access to data is regulated forms a critical element of the question how to govern platforms, and how to realize rights and values in an ADM context.

Research questions the initiative seeks to address include:

  • How can public values and fundamental freedoms be reinterpreted and formalized into algorithmic design?
  • How is automation affecting the way public values and fundamental rights are conceptualized and safeguarded in practice?
  • How is law furthering the concept and power of online platforms, shaping the future trajectory of platform ordering in our societies?
  • How should law respond to ADM in the context of platform ordering in order to safeguard democratic values, the rule of law, and fundamental rights,
  • How should law, and regulatory frameworks for online platforms in particular, deal with the emergence of platforms as private transnational regulatory agents?
  • What mechanisms, rights and/or duties are suitable to ensure access to platform data for public interest objectives?
  • What access to platform data is needed and appropriate to ensure platform accountability and regulatory oversight?


The Senior researcher:

  • has a proven track record in legal research in (parts of) the research area;
  • has a PhD in a relevant discipline, preferably law, or in ethics/philosophy, communication studies, technology policy or political science;
  • has an excellent academic publication record as evident from journal publications;
  • has a broad national and international network in the field;
  • has proven organizational, communication and team leading skills;
  • has a track-record in grant applications (science foundation programmes and otherwise);
  • has experience working in interdisciplinary environments, and in working with societal actors;
  • has excellent language skills in English and preferably Dutch.

The PhD candidate:

  • has a completed* (research) LLM degree in law, or equivalent degree;
  • has demonstrable affinity with the focus of the research initiative;
  • has good knowledge of current regulatory developments in online platforms, digitization and the collection and use of data;
  • excels academically, as demonstrated by grades and curriculum vitae;
  • has a creative mind, strong analytical skills
  • has an interest in working across legal disciplines and with other relevant disciplines;
  • has strong communication skills;
  • has excellent language skills in English and preferably Dutch.

* Candidates who are due to graduate in 2019 are also welcome to apply.

Further information

Enquiries may be directed to:

professor Joris van Hoboken

Please quote 'Inquiry position Digital transformation' in the subject line.


The positions preferably start between October and January 2020.

Senior researcher, 4 years full-time

The position concerns a temporary appointment of 38 hours per week for an initial term of 2 year, extended to 4 years following a positive assessment. The intention is to subsequently offer a permanent position. Full-time gross monthly salary ranges from €3,637 to €5.656 gross per month (salary scale 11-12, full time equivalent), depending on relevant experience. A part-time position at 80% is an option.

PhD candidate, 4 years full-time

The position concerns a temporary appointment of 38 hours per week for a term of 4 years, conditional on a positive assessment after one year. Full-time gross monthly salary ranges from €2.325 to max. €2.972 gross per month (scale P, full time equivalent).

The University of Amsterdam offers a broad range of facilities allowing staff members to engage in personal development and effectively combine their work and personal life. The UvA also offers attractive financial incentives and a good pension scheme. Annual salaries will be supplemented with 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% end-of-year bonus. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities applies.

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity

Senior researcher

  • A motivation letter, including a discussion about how the candidate sees her/his fit with the focus and objectives of the Digital Transformation research initiative;
  • a curriculum vitae, including publication list and overview of academic activities and achievements thus far;
  • three academic writing samples in English or Dutch (e.g., journal article, chapter of PhD dissertation);
  • names and contact details of two academic referees (no reference letters required).

PhD candidate

  • A motivation letter, also showing how the candidate sees her/his fit with the focus and research questions of the Digital Transformation research initiative;
  • a full CV, including any publications and overview of activities and achievements thus far;
  • a list of grades obtained for Bachelor and Master (or equivalent) programmes;
  • one academic writing sample in English or Dutch (e.g., journal article, Master thesis) and
  • names and contact details of two academic referees (no reference letters required at initial stage).

Applications should be sent online in one document, preferably in a pdf-file, by clicking on the link below.

The closing date is 23 September 2019, subsequent applications may be evaluated on a rolling basis.

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