Research Associate in the Department of English Language & Literature

Location
London (Greater) (GB)
Salary
£40,386 - £41,474 per annum, including London Weighting Allowance
Posted
12 Aug 2022
End of advertisement period
18 Sep 2022
Ref
052425
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Hours
Full Time

Job description

 King’s College London (KCL) is seeking to appoint a full time Postdoctoral Research Associate for two years to work on the CHANSE (Collaboration of Humanities and Social Sciences in Europe)-funded research project REDACT (Researching Europe, Digitalisation, and Conspiracy Theories). The project aims to understand the impact of digitalisation on the production, consumption, circulation and regulation of conspiracy theories across Europe. It will examine how both the conditions of digitised mediation and political, social and historical contexts shape the content, communities, consequences of and responses to online conspiracy theories today. REDACT will employ a comparative and interdisciplinary framework that combines digital methods, ethnography, and granular cultural and political discourse analysis to examine the actors, tactics, cultural forms, technologies and audiences involved in the online spread of conspiracy theories in different European regions as well as the tactics that have been developed to combat them. The project will run from November 2022 to October 2025, and involves collaboration between researchers in the UK, Germany, Slovakia, Estonia and Croatia. The team will be led by Prof. Clare Birchall (KCL), and, in addition to this digital methods postdoc position, it includes five co-investigators, three postdocs, one PhD and two research assistants. 

 

We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher with expertise in digital methods to ascertain the most engaged with conspiracy platforms, websites, blogs and accounts in each case study region (Western Europe, German-speaking countries, Central Europe, the Baltics and the Balkans), with the aim of producing focussed and manageable datasets for each subproject. Using a variety of digital methods techniques, the postdoc will also map, analyse and produce data visualisations of the viral flows between countries and regions for the project as a whole.

 

The postholder will also spend a month embedded in ISD Global in London, one of the project’s partner organisations. The postholder will be mentored by Prof. Birchall, the Project Leader, in the Department of English at KCL.

 

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities actively supports the development of a respectful, positive, and supportive culture, which sustains excellence and fosters growth, both for individuals and for the Faculty as a whole. We are committed to supporting our staff in a range of ways from considering flexible working and job share arrangements, to facilitating and encouraging continuing professional development activities. The department is committed to building an equitable and diverse academic environment. We therefore welcome applicants from underrepresented communities. 

 

This post will be offered on a full-time, fixed term contract until 31/12/2024.

 

Key responsibilities

  • Drawing on the local expertise and subject knowledge of the REDACT team,  collect data to identify the most important sites, platforms and influencers of online conspiracy culture in each case study country;
  • Mapping and visualising the circulations and interactions of conspiracy theories between the case study languages and regions;
  • Analysing and interpreting data through a combination of quantitative and qualitative digital methods, including API-based data capture and analysis toolkits such as CrowdTangle and 4CAT; machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) techniques, such as topic modelling, sentiment analysis and  named-entity recognition;
  • Employing social network analysis and visualisation tools such as Gephi to create data visualisations;
  • Managing data collections in compliance with the project’s Data Management Plan;
  • Participating in team meetings and collaborating with each subproject;
  • Spending time embedded with the project partner ISD Global, and collaborate on research subprojects;
  • Disseminating research findings in a peer-reviewed journal, a chapter for the project’s jointly authored book, and data visualisations;
  • Present research results at national and international workshops and conferences.

The above list of responsibilities may not be exhaustive, and the post holder will be required to undertake such tasks and responsibilities as may reasonably be expected within the scope and grading of the post.

Skills, knowledge, and experience

Essential criteria

1.      A completed PhD in social science with expertise in digital methods, digital humanities, computational linguistics, data science, or a closely related discipline.

2.      Experience in planning and conducting data collections for research projects.

3.      A track record in quantitative research into online media (including data collection and management, machine learning, network analysis and automated content analysis), primarily for textual but also for audiovisual material.

4.      Experience with data visualisation.

5.      Experience with API-based data capture and analysis, and knowledge of Deep Learning architectures such as PyTorch, Keras and BERT.

6.      A track record of, or coherent plans for, high-quality research publications.

7. Proven organisational and administrative skills.

8.      Excellent written and communication skills.

9.      A professional and flexible approach to work.

10.   Ability to work independently, efficiently organise time, and competently execute delegated tasks to deadlines.

11.   Ability to work as an effective member of a team, including liaising effectively with the PI and Co-Is, and external stakeholders.

12.   Willingness to spend a month on a placement with one of the project’s partner organisations in London.

 

Desirable criteria

1.     Experience in conducting research into popular culture, especially conspiracy theories.

2.     Ability to adapt or create software tools to carry out the needed research.

3.     Programming experience in Python/R.

4.     Experience with automated translation APIs/software and/or  conducting data collections in different languages and national contexts

5.     Experience of working with a large project team.

6.     Experience of disseminating research and working with stakeholders.

 

Please note that this is a PhD level role but candidates who have submitted their thesis and are awaiting award of their PhDs will be considered. In these circumstances the appointment will be made at Grade 5, spine point 30 with the title of Research Assistant. Upon confirmation of the award of the PhD, the job title will become Research Associate and the salary will increase to Grade 6.  

 

Further information

Applications should include the following information:

  • A cover letter that includes your reasons for applying and why you are an excellent candidate for the position (no more than 1,000 words).
  • A full academic CV, including a list of publications and an indication of language proficiencies.
  • One relevant writing sample (no more than 10,000 words).
  • The names and contact details of two references who may be approached by the selection committee.
  • A research statement of 1500 words in which you outline your intended approach to a potential case study/example of a particular conspiracy theory or conspiracist platform/group/account in one of REDACT’s chosen countries. Explain:

a)    why/how your chosen case is relevant to the project;

b)    which data you would collect, and how;

c)     how you would analyse your case study, using which methodologies;

d)    how you would present your findings, using which data visualisation techniques.

 

For informal enquiries, please feel free to contact Professor Clare Birchall and Professor Peter Knight. Please address your enquiry to both – clare.birchall@kcl.ac.uk & peter.knight@manchester.ac.uk

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