Postdoctoral research fellow (Marie Curie Experienced Researcher): Faculty of Science – Institute for Logic, Language and Computation. The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is a research institute at the University of Amsterdam, in which researchers from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Humanities collaborate. Its central research area is the study of fundamental principles of encoding, transmission and comprehension of information.

Research at ILLC is interdisciplinary, and aims at bringing together insights from various disciplines concerned with information and information processing, such as computational linguistics, logic, mathematics, computer science, linguistics, musicology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence and philosophy.

The ILLC has an opening for a 2-year Research Fellow (Experienced Researcher) position as part of the ESSENCE (Evolution of Shared SEmaNtics in Computational Environments) Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN), a four-year international collaborative research training project coordinated by the University of Edinburgh. This is a high-profile position that offers exceptional benefits ideally suited for top candidates.

ESSENCE conducts research and provides research training in various aspects of the evolution and negotiation of meaning within communities and computer networks. The research project supports 15 pre- and post-doctoral fellows that will work toward a set of different research projects within this overall theme, ranging from symbol grounding and ontological reasoning to game-theoretic models of communication and crowdsourcing.

Project description

Since its birth in the 1950’s, advances in Artificial Intelligence have led to speculation by the general public and have triggered changes on our opinion regarding the meaning of certain AI-related concepts. For instance, playing excellent chess has traditionally been associated with high intelligence, but since Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov in the 1990’s, the connotations of `intelligence’ have changed significantly. In parallel to this concept meaning changes, public opinion regarding the prospects and threads of AI has also evolved over time. The ethical consequences of advances in AI have recently made the headlines regarding, for instance, the development of Google’s driverless cars. What is the current public opinion about these prospects and threats of artificial intelligence, and how did they arise and evolve?

The automatic detection of shared and negotiated meanings and the theoretical understanding of its evolution in communities and computer networks is a central goal of the ESSENCE project. The main scientific goal of the advertised position within this project is to investigate, using state-of-the-art data analysis and inference techniques whether, and if so, how, word-meanings and opinions have changed due to developments in Artificial Intelligence. Assuming that meanings and public opinions did evolve, a further goal will be to increase our understanding of these changes by investigating what triggered them and to provide a more general theoretical model of these changes.

In parallel with this scientific objective, which will involve a heavy element of semantic data analysis based on natural language corpora and other information sources, the advertised project involves the development of an integrated framework for other projects in the network to collect, share, and integrate data relevant to each individual research topic. This engineering task overlaps in many aspects with the scientific work, as the techniques required to provide such a framework will be also applied to solving the more fundamental, scientific problems. In this sense, the specific example of modelling meaning and opinions towards AI-related concepts will act as a vehicle to provide tools for the integration of the heterogeneous contributions within the network (which can also be viewed as different conceptualisations of sub-problems of the broader ESSENCE landscape).The position also has a strong career development focus, as the Experienced Researcher will be trained in research management and coordination, and will have the opportunity to spend extended periods of time with (non-)academic consortium partners. The researcher will be expected to work with other investigators of the ESSENCE network, both at the ILLC and at the other network nodes.


  • A PhD in Computer Science or a related discipline, or equivalent research experience;
  • a strong interest in Artificial Intelligence, and its impact on society at large;
  • early-career track record of high-quality publications in areas relevant to the research project;
  • proven ability to use data-mining techniques to detect changes of meaning and/or public opinion;
  • strong software engineering and programming skills, especially in areas related to ‘data science’;
  • excellent communication and teamwork skills;
  • an interest in corpus linguistics, theoretical semantics (investigating meaning) or theories of opinion dynamics;
  • willingness to travel abroad for secondments, meetings and training events is essential.

NB: Marie Curie eligibility rules require Experience Researchers to have at least four and at most five years’ research experience. Marie Curie eligibility rules also require that candidates must not have resided, or carried out their main acivity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months over the past 3 years.

Further information

Informal enquiries may be directed to:


The full-time appointment (38 hours / week) will be on a temporary basis for two years. The gross monthly salary will range from €2,476 to €3,908 (scale 10), depending on previous experience, excl. 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% annual bonus. The  Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable.

The successful applicant will work under the daily supervision of Professor Robert van Rooij.

The latest starting date is 1 November 2015.

Job application

Applications should consist of a single PDF file (not zipped) using your surname & initials as filename, and should contain:

  • a brief letter of motivation;
  • a detailed curriculum vitae;
  • a list of publications;
  • the names and contact details of three academic referees,  and
  • a link to a website with an online version of PhD thesis and relevant publications (e.g. your professional homepage).

Do not include articles or thesis in your application.

Applications must be sent to, and should state vacancy number 15-264 and your surname and initials clearly in the subject line.

Incomplete or unclear applications will not be taken into consideration.

Deadline – 1 September 2015.

Publication date: 8 July 2015
Level of education: PhD
Salary indication: €2,476 to €3,908 gross per month
Closing date: 1 September 2015
Hours: 38 hours per week
Vacancy number: 15-264

Apply now