Radboud University

Phd Position on Interdisciplinary Research Project on Persuasion and Manipulation in Digital Contexts

2023-10-04 (Europe/Amsterdam)
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Radboud University is a denominational university originally established in 1923 as the Catholic University of Nijmegen.

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How do smart technologies influence us in online settings, and should we worry about this? In this project you are going to analyse dark patterns on the web, and you will do as part of an interdisciplinary research team.

Smart technologies influence and 'nudge' human behaviour in ways that users are unaware of, for example when they use Chat GPT without knowing what sources the information is based on, when they believe these systems have meaning and agency, or when they are not aware of the algorithms that underlie recommender systems used by, for example, YouTube or Amazon. In most cases, smart technologies are developed to make users' life easier, by doing much of the information searching and filtering for the user. Potential downside of the ease of use of these technologies is, however, that citizens increasingly use information without reflecting on its accuracy, representativeness, or authenticity, because they are no longer required to think. This could represent a danger for modern democracy, for example by making citizens vulnerable to filter bubbles, micro-targeting and fake news about societally relevant themes, and by making them lose sight of, and interest in, the distinction between what is real and what is not. They might assume, for example, that if nobody can discern the difference between authentic and non-authentic information, this difference is trivial. 

In the present project you will join forces with iHub and the Centre for Language Studies to explore these, and related, questions in an interdisciplinary team to better understand current information ecosystems and conceive of interventions to counter pernicious persuasion and manipulation in digital contexts.  

Together with your supervisors, you will develop your own research proposal and test it in a series of empirical studies. You will present the research outcomes at national and international conferences, and you will write at least three articles for international high-impact journals, to be included in your dissertation. You will be part of a research school and take academic courses to increase your knowledge and skills. Furthermore, you will contribute to teaching or academic services (approximately 10% of your time). You will write a doctoral dissertation and publicly defend it to obtain the degree of doctor.


  • You preferably have a Research Master's degree in Linguistics and/or Communication Science, Computational Communication Science, or Computer Science, or you have completed a regular Master's degree in one of these areas and have proven experience in conducting research.
  • You have proven expertise in a relevant research domain, such as algorithmic persuasion, misinformation, online influence, recommender systems, or filter bubbles, as evidenced by relevant courses and/or research projects.
  • You have good writing skills in English and preferably also in Dutch.
  • You preferably have proven affinity with academic research, as evidenced by relevant publications or conference presentations.
  • You have affinity with interdisciplinary research and you are able to communicate with experts from different disciplines.

Wij zijn

You will be a member of an interdisciplinary working group on persuasion and manipulation in digital contexts, a collaboration between the Centre for Language Studies and iHub, which includes junior and senior researchers from both institutes. You will have a workplace at both institutes, to foster collaboration from the bottom up. iHub's mission is to better understand the effects of digitalisation on our society and to help steer digital transformations in ways where public values are central. We seek to do this by 1) bringing the Humanities, Computer Science and Social Sciences together to address challenges raised by digitalisation, 2) by focusing on the core values that are destabilised and need protection in digitalisation processes, and 3) by adopting a critical and constructive approach. The Centre for Language Studies (CLS) aims to achieve a deeper understanding of the cognitive and social processes underlying language systems, language processing and language use. We aspire to optimise human communicative interaction. Our approach is to investigate language from single sounds to discourse, including modalities from speech and text to gestures, signs and images.

Both institutes aim to contribute to a sustainable and inclusive society. We therefore specifically seek candidates with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and skills, to bring added value to our study programmes and research profiles.

Radboud University

We are keen to meet critical thinkers who want to look closer at what really matters. People who, from their expertise, wish to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This ambition unites more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University and requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!

Wij bieden

  • Employment for 0.8 (5 year contract) - 1.0 FTE (4 year contract).
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,541 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,247 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract) or 3.5 years (5 year contract).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.

Aanvullende arbeidsvoorwaarden

Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Meer weten?

For questions about the position, please contact Enny Das, research director CLS at enny.das@ru.nl. Alternatively, you can contact Tamar Sharon, co-director iHub at tamar.sharon@ru.nl.

Praktische informatie en solliciteren

You can apply until 4 October 2023, exclusively using the button below. Kindly address your application to Enny Das. Please fill in the application form and attach the following documents:

  • A motivation letter, explaining why you are interested in this opportunity and how you fit the profile; maximum 2 pages.
  • Your CV, including the names, affiliations and email addresses of two referees (no need to send letters at this stage).
  • A list of courses and grades obtained (at undergraduate and graduate level).
  • A brief research proposal in which you describe your ideas for this PhD. The proposal should be structured as follows: theoretical background, proposed methods, references (max. 500 words excluding references). Please make sure that your proposal is relevant to both CLS and iHub. You do not need to contact potential supervisors at this stage.

The first round of interviews will take place on Monday 18 October. The second round of interviews will take place on Thursday 26 October. You would preferably begin employment on 1 January 2024.

We can imagine you're curious about our application procedure. It offers a rough outline of what you can expect during the application process, how we handle your personal data and how we deal with internal and external candidates.

Solliciteer direct 

Reageer uiterlijk op 04 oktober 2023

Job details

Phd Position on Interdisciplinary Research Project on Persuasion and Manipulation in Digital Contexts
Houtlaan 4 Nijmegen, Netherlands
Application deadline
2023-10-04 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam)
2023-10-04 23:59 (CET)
Job type
Save job

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About the employer

Radboud University is a denominational university originally established in 1923 as the Catholic University of Nijmegen.

Visit the employer page