PhD Candidate in Science, Technology, and Society Studies, with a focus on researching diversity and bias in artificial intelligence

PhD Candidate in Science, Technology, and Society Studies, with a focus on researching diversity and bias in artificial intelligence

Published Deadline Location
9 Feb 16 Mar Maastricht

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This PhD position is part of the ‘Trustworthy AI for Media Lab’ (TAIM), one of 17 labs connected to the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI) within the Long Term Program (LTP) ‘Trustworthy AI-based Systems for Sustainable Growth’ (ROBUST). The PhD project is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). You will be based at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, working under the supervision of Professor Sally Wyatt and Dr Annika Richterich.

Job description

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Research Group for Science, Technology & Society Studies, Department of Literature & Art) 1.0fte, 4 years

Research project

Can we train artificial intelligence (AI) to be fair and inclusive? This PhD position will allow you to conduct social science research on how diversity in all of its forms – including age, ethnicity, disability, gender, health, sexuality or religion – is considered in the development of Al systems. ln recent years, we have seen how Al systems, e.g. based on historic data, quickly learn to intensify discrimination, exclusion and hate speech: for example in the association of jobs with genders, or crime with ethnic groups. Such biased systems are fundamentally at odds with democratic values of accountability and transparency. Media companies play an important role in such dynamics, and thus have a particular responsibility to develop AI systems that enable people to become informed citizens and fairly represent issues, rather than merely promoting content to keep audiences amused.

This PhD position is one of five PhD projects in the ‘Trustworthy AI for Media Lab’ (TAIM). TAIM is a collaboration between social scientists and computer scientists at Maastricht University and the University of Amsterdam as well as the media company RTL. The lab is part of the NWO-funded “Trustworthy AI-based Systems for Sustainable Growth” program, comprising 17 universities, 19 industry partners, and 15 collaborating partners representing diverse stakeholder groups. You will conduct social science research with the scientists and industry researchers working in this project, notably in collaboration with the scientists at TAIM and our industry partner RTL. You will gain valuable experience working with an industry partner, and will be able to tap into a wealth of networking, career development, and training opportunities in conjunction with ICAI, at the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

As one of the 17 new ICAI labs, TAIM will develop methods, metrics and tools to evaluate and improve diversity and inclusion in AI and media. TAIM brings together two of the strongest groups on personalization and recommender systems in the Netherlands (UM and UvA), with a leading media organization (RTL), to reflect and work on trustworthy and personalized media developments. Based at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, you will join its renowned interdisciplinary research program in Science, Technology and Society Studies (MUSTS). 

For more information, see:


Job description

You will conduct social science research with computer and data scientists as well as information technology (IT) professionals developing artificial intelligence systems, using qualitative, notably ethnographic and digital methods. You will study and reflect on their practices, motivations, discussions, and output in designing ‘trustworthy AI’. As outlined above, this PhD position is embedded in a collaboration between social scientists and computer scientists at Maastricht University and the University of Amsterdam as well as the industry partner and media company RTL.

Next to general thematic and theoretical research on the issues outlined above, you will conduct qualitative research on how scientists and IT professionals contribute to and reflect on contemporary AI developments. Main field sites will be in Maastricht, Amsterdam, and at RTL in Hilversum – where you will be expected to work on site and conduct ethnographic research for 1-2 days a week. To study and support scientific and corporate efforts in avoiding bias in Al systems, you will closely collaborate with four other TAIM PhDs and you will study their work as empirical cases for understanding how values such as diversity and inclusion are considered in data scientific research, what kind of issues may emerge, and how these could be tackled.

This project will be conducted at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), under the supervision of Professor Sally Wyatt and Dr Annika Richterich. You will work closely with the other PhDs and with the RTL team in order to help identify sources of bias and how they can be ameliorated. Since different notions of fairness and bias coexist, sometimes in conflict with each other, this project will identify - based on academic literature - how these relate to values held by RTL and other relevant stakeholders. At the same time, it will empirically (notably ethnographically) investigate what values, implicitly and explicitly, drive the research conducted as part of the four PhD positions.

The position will allow you to gain experience in teaching within FASoS’ problem-based learning setting, and potentially acquire the University Teaching Qualification (UTQ). This will be discussed with the successful candidate.


Maastricht University (UM)



  •  You hold a MA/MSc degree in science and technology studies, media studies, sociology, anthropology, gender and diversity studies or a related discipline (or are expected to obtain such a degree in the very near future);
  • You have received excellent grades and you have a strong interest in academic research on digital technologies and media, developments and debates in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the interplay between technology, diversity, and inclusion, and digital transformations more generally;
  • You have previously conducted qualitative, ideally ethnographic, research – for example for your MA thesis;
  • You are capable of independently conducting original research as well as working in a team;
  • You are fluent in English (Cambridge English Proficiency, level C2, oral and written).


  • Experience with interdisciplinary collaboration, e.g. having worked in a computer science or professional IT setting, is a plus;
  • Knowledge of Dutch is an asset, since this will support your ethnographic research in work settings where Dutch is used for informal conversations and will facilitate your understanding of Dutch-language (meta-)data.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1+3 years.

  • You will be part of an international network of top universities and renowned scholars within the field;
  • Initially, you are employed on a 1-year contract as PhD-candidate (teacher level 4).  The first year will be a probation period. After a positive assessment the position will be extended for the remaining 3 years;
  • Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD-candidates starting with a salary of € 2.541, with a yearly growth to € 3.247, gross a month (based on a full-time appointment;
  • Each year the standard salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%;
  • You have the opportunity to develop your teaching skills and obtain the University Teaching Qualification (UTQ) by participating in one or more of the bachelor and master programmes offered by FASoS;
  • The university’s relocation policy stipulates that you need to move to (the vicinity of) Maastricht. If not already living in Maastricht (or its direct surroundings), you will be eligible for an allowance for moving costs or an allowance for alternative housing;
  • Other secondary conditions include, for example, a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, shared office space and a PC.   

Maastricht University’s Terms of Employment are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). In addition, local university provisions apply. For more information please see the website: For more information, please, see the website: Working at UM - About UM - Maastricht University.


Maastricht University

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 22,000 students and about 5,000 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. 

UM is a European university with an international orientation, operating at the heart of society and firmly rooted in the region. Since its foundation in 1976, the university has worked across borders, with a particular focus on the Euregion. Here, we connect education and research internationally, analyse societal issues in their full breadth and reinforce the labour market through the triple-helix collaboration. We have an open and inclusive academic culture, an international community and a strong focus on innovative and interdisciplinary education and research. Our community is composed of students, lecturers, researchers, support staff, and alumni.

As the pre-eminent European university in the Netherlands, our core values are diversity and inclusion, sustainability, mutual respect, integrity, democratic principles, and transparency. We take our social responsibility seriously by forging links between the university and society, from the local to the global level. Moreover, as a solid and resilient international community, we hold ourselves accountable for the future of our world. This entails paying special attention to the urgent challenges of the 21st century, such as securing a sustainable future for our society.

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position regardless of your background or identity.

For more information, visit


Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

In the teaching and research at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), we highlight major developments in societies and cultures as they have unfolded during the modern and contemporary eras. We seek to gain understanding of the interrelationships of Europeanization, globalization, scientific and technological development, political change, and cultural innovation. We are interested in how today’s societies cope with these challenges through, amongst others, practices of remembrance, governance techniques, strategies for managing knowledge, technologies, and risks and ways of dealing with diversity and inequality. Yet, understanding our present world is impossible without insight into its past. This is why historical research serves as a key element of our scholarly and educational identity.

FASoS has a very international student body and 42% of our staff comes from abroad. All programmes are offered in English. FASoS offers four 3-year BA programs: Arts and Culture, European Studies, Digital Society, and Global Studies. It also offers eight different 1-year MA programmes and two 2-year Research Master programmes. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is housed in the historic city centre of Maastricht.

More information on FASoS is available on our website:

FASoS Graduate School

Our Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences offers the opportunity to pursue a PhD in the interdisciplinary field of arts and social sciences. You receive a coherent program of introductory courses, intensive supervision and frequent discussion with the senior researchers inside and outside the Faculty. The Program is characterised by its international and interdisciplinary nature and the emphasis on cultural and societal issues of the modern world.

The School focuses on the four themes of the FASoS research programmes:

  • Maastricht University Science, Technology and Society Studies (MUSTS).
  • Politics and Culture in Europe.
  • Globalisation, Transnationalism and Development.
  • Arts, Media and Culture.

This position is located in theme 1 (MUSTS) which organises regular research colloquia. You will also have the opportunity to join the activities of the Centre for Gender and Diversity, and an appropriate national research training school.

Further information on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and its Graduate School may be accessed on:

Being based at FASoS, you will join a unique, inter- and multidisciplinary team – also formed of: 

DACS: The Department of Advanced Computing Sciences is Maastricht University’s largest and oldest department broadly covering the fields of artificial intelligence, data science, computer science, mathematics and robotics. It launched as the joint identity of two Maastricht University research groups: the Institute of Data Science (IDS) and the former Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering (DKE)   

RTL: RTL Nederland is the leading commercial media and entertainment company in the Netherlands. We are on a mission to make a meaningful difference in people's lives with unforgettable stories that touch the heart and mind. With our five free-to-air TV channels and our popular digital brands - including our video-on-demand platform Videoland, catchup platform RTL XL, weather app Buienradar and news platform RTL Nieuws - we reach millions of customers every month. RTL aims to be an inclusive media company that tells diverse local stories and shows role models that everyone in the Netherlands can recognize and be inspired by. To achieve this, we are increasing diversity both in front of and behind the scenes. RTL is based in Hilversum, The Netherlands, just a short train ride from Amsterdam and Utrecht.  

UvA: The University of Amsterdam is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity. The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 8,000, as well as 1,800 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 (IvI) is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. Our research involves complex information systems at large, with a focus on collaborative, data driven, computational and intelligent systems, all with a strong interactive component. 


  • PhD
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • AT2023.74


Maastricht University (UM)

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