PHD Position on Data Science Methods Detecting Legal Issues in Decentralized Systems

PHD Position on Data Science Methods Detecting Legal Issues in Decentralized Systems

Published Deadline Location
14 Dec 31 Jan Amsterdam

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Job description

The Faculty of Law, Institute for Information Law (IViR), and the Informatics Institute (IvI) at the Faculty of Science is offering an interdisciplinary PhD position to work on the development of data science methods to detect legal issues in decentralized systems.

Decentralised technological infrastructures (e.g. blockchains, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations and Apps (DAOs, DApps)) promise a trustworthy technological environment for a plethora of societal and business applications. However, some features and the faults of their design create significant deviations from the societal expectations embodied in institutions, laws, and ethical frameworks, e.g., DAO malfunctions, breach of data protection or financial regulation, financial fraud, and the lack of accountability of infrastructure, service developers and operators. Those deviations are potential signs of incompatibility with the existing institutional, legal, economic, and social order, which may either hinder the innovation in this space, or if growth continues uninterrupted, may lead to societally undesirable consequences. 'How to effectively detect and overcome legal compliance issues through the technical analysis of complex techno-social systems, including decentralized ones?'

This problem has emerged as an important research challenge for law and policy in general. On the one hand, new insights are needed into how these systems are designed and operated from the perspective of their creators (computer scientists), as well as the known and unknown societal risks they pose. On the other hand, legal scholars usually lack the necessary skills and expertise to conceptualise and study techno-social systems through empirical, quantitative methods. This limits the effectiveness of legal research in the information law and policy domain, despite the recent forceful turn towards evidence-based policymaking and empirical legal studies.

This PhD research will take steps towards creating a shared understanding, vocabulary, methodology at the intersection of law and data science.

What are you going to do?

The PhD candidate will be promoted in the law faculty on the information law discipline.

The PhD position is jointly supervised by dr. Balazs Bodo from the Institute of Information Law (IViR) at the Faculty of Law, and dr. Zhiming Zhao from the Informatics Institute (IvI) in the Faculty of Science.

Dr. Balazs Bodo (Associate professor, Institute for Information Law (IViR), FdR) is a social scientist trained in economics and media studies. He has been a Fulbright fellow at Stanford Law School (2006/7) and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School (2012/13). He is currently leading the Blockchain and Society Policy Research Lab, an ERC Starting Grant-funded research group focusing on the legal and policy issues around decentralised techno-social infrastructures. Dr. Bodo regularly conducts big data-based qualitative studies, and is among the few socio-legal researchers at FdR who publish data sets and software code he develops in his empirical research.

Dr. Zhiming Zhao (Assistant professor, Informatics Institute (IvI), FNWI) focuses on blockchain, data management, cloud computing. He is an IEEE senior member. He has coordinated data management and software engineering efforts in several recent EU H2020 projects; he led the research and innovation on an elastic cloud data flow framework (SWITCH), machine learning-based resource scheduling and performance anomaly detection (ARTICONF), big data search engine (ENVRI-FAIR), and data centric virtual research environment (LifeWatch).

The PhD position is funded by the UvA Data Science Centre to accelerate interdisciplinary, data-driven research that help to tackle challenging problems in the law and policy domain.

The successful candidate will:
  • define a catalogue of potential legal issues related to select decentralized systems;
  • prepare research data which could provide evidence for anomalous behaviour, e.g. ledger and transactions (e.g. bitcoin and Etherum), social media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), and software code (e.g. from GitHub);
  • the existence and severity of legal risks using advanced data sciences methods.
This program aims to develop a candidate who, by the end of the project, is familiar with the research methods of both the data science and the legal/social science disciplines.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


Successful candidates have:
  • a Master's degree (preferably a Research Master's degree) in law, or economics, and familiarity with qualitative research methods, or
  • a Master's degree in data science, computer science, or relevant subjects, and familiar with one of the following regulatory domains: copyright, data protection and privacy, or financial regulation;
  • familiarity with doctrinal research or policy research;
  • strong empirical research skills;
  • familiarity, or interest in blockchains, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, smart contracts, the crypto-economy, or NFTs;
  • good knowledge of current developments in information markets and technology;
  • academic excellence, as shown in the grade transcripts and curriculum vitae.
  • a creative mind and analytical intelligence;
  • an interest in working in a multidisciplinary team;
  • willingness to learn new knowledge, and acquire new skills required by the project;
  • excellent written and spoken command of English, and ideally knowledge of Dutch;
  • interest in working on interdisciplinary topics, in interdisciplinary teams.
Previous experience in the private or public sector is a plus.

We believe that there are several traditionally underrepresented, but incredibly forceful perspectives, that have transformed our respective disciplines. Recent scholarship by persons of colour, feminist, intersectionalist scholars, scholars from the Global South have highlighted fundamental issues with the design, operation, and impact of techno-social systems that remained in the blind spots of mainstream scholarship. Without such contributions, serious problems, such as racial bias in AI systems, would have gone unnoticed and left unaddressed by more careful technical design and better regulation.

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary full-time contract for the period of four years. Preferred starting date is as soon as possible.

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,434 to €3,111 (scale P) gross per month, based on a fulltime contract (38 hours a week). This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the '30% ruling', may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

What else do we offer
  • close working relations with two world class research institutions within UvA;
  • one day a week at the UvA Data Science Center;
  • freedom to develop your own research agenda;
  • welcoming, international, dynamic teams;
  • an inspiring academic and professional environment in the heart of Amsterdam;
  • excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.


Amsterdam Law School

The Institute for Information Law (IViR), officially established in 1989, is one of the largest research centers in the field of information law in the world. The Institute employs over 35 researchers who are active in an entire spectrum of information society related legal areas: intellectual property law, patents, telecommunications and broadcasting regulation, media law, Internet regulation, advertising law, domain names, freedom of expression, privacy, digital consumer issues, commercial speech, AI, blockchain, et cetera. The Institute engages in cutting-edge research into fundamental and topical aspects of information law, and provides a forum for critical debate about the social, cultural and political aspects of regulating information markets.

The Amsterdam 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 programs, including the interdisciplinary English-language Bachelor Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE) in cooperation with two other faculties, as well as a variety of Master's programs, several 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 5000 students and over 500 staff members, it is one of the largest law faculties in the Netherlands.

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000 and 1,600 members of staff working in education, research, or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe, or the functioning of the brain.

The mission of the Informatics Institute is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. The Multiscale Networked System group is part of Systems and Networking Lab (SNE), one of the four research clusters at the Informatics Institute. The group focuses its research on the fundamental architectural problems arising from the interconnection of systems and data flows. We look at the emerging architectures that can support the operations of the future Internet. In particular, we focus on the delivery of secure and sustainable ICT services across multiple domains. Device programmability and virtualization play in this field an ever-increasing role in designing networks and ICT infrastructures. We address the interoperability challenges in supporting discovery, analysis, and interoperation between heterogeneous complex infrastructures. Our vision is to build an effective 'knowledge fiber' to facilitate information discovery, integration, and reuse across distributed infrastructures.


  • PhD
  • Law
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • 10985


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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