University of Twente

PhD Position on Perspectivism and Disagreement in Natural Language Processing

2023-12-04 (Europe/Amsterdam)
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Job description

ML and NLP approaches and the processes surrounding them often focus on finding a single “truth” or gold standard by majority vote and removing any “outliers”. From the curation of data sets (where we use measurements like inter-annotator agreement as a quality attribute) to the presentation of results (where less favorable options are regularly excluded), different perspectives and disagreements are typically excluded in ML. In reality, such a single truth often does not exist. From the legal to the medical domain, experts often have different opinions. Erasing deviating perspectives and disagreement is not only an untruthful representation of reality, but it can also negatively impact the reliability and usefulness of an ML system. In societal and political debates, having and exchanging different opinions is even one of the defining properties of democratic societies.

This PhD project aims to investigate how different opinions of and disagreements between annotators and other sources for “ground truth” can be represented in NLP and leveraged to improve the support that AI systems can provide to their users. The project will consider all steps of the process, from the gathering and annotation of data, the use of the data to train NLP models, to the representation of results.

During the project, the PhD candidate will perform research on some of the following tasks:

  • Design experiments to create annotated text corpora;
  • Develop new NLP models and approaches using Python and train and fine-tune existing open-source models;
  • Perform intrinsic evaluation of ML models;
  • Apply the insights gained to specific domains of application;
  • Develop software prototypes for performing task-based evaluations.

As a doctoral student, your key responsibilities will be to manage and carry out your research project within 48 months and write a PhD thesis. You will participate in research and training activities and disseminate research in the scientific community (international conferences) and non-scientific community by outreach and public engagement. Furthermore, you will write articles for scientific peer-reviewed journals and progress reports and prepare results for publication and dissemination via public lectures, presentations, and the web.

You will also be responsible for taking courses per the research education and liaising with the other research staff, students, and partner institutions working in broad areas relevant to the research project. Participation in other department duties, such as meetings, teaching, etc., is expected to cover a maximum scope of 20%.

Your profile

  • A background in Natural Language Processing;
  • A strong interest in ethical and societal aspects of AI;
  • You hold, or will shortly acquire, a master’s degree in Computer Science, Computational Linguistics, Information Systems, or a related discipline;
  • Demonstrated programming skills in Python, JavaScript or similar languages;
  • First experience with user studies is a plus;
  • Capable of conducting independent research and willing to develop writing and publication skills;
  • Proficient in written and oral English (C1; above IELTS 7 or equivalent);
  • A positive team spirit and enthusiasm for working in an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented environment.

Our offer

We encourage high responsibility and independence, while collaborating with colleagues, researchers, other university staff and partners. We follow the terms of employment by the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Universities (CAO). Our offer contains: a full-time 4-year PhD position with a qualifier in the first year; excellent mentorship in a stimulating research environment with excellent facilities; and a personal development program within the Twente Graduate School. It also includes:

  • Gross monthly salary of € 2.770 in the first year, increasing each year up to € 3.539 in the fourth year;
  • Excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme;
  • 29 holidays per year in case of full-time employment;
  • A training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision;
  • A green campus with free access to sports facilities and an international scientific community;
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid);
  • A full status as an employee at the UT, including pension, health care benefits and good secondary conditions are part of our collective labour agreement CAO-NU for Dutch universities.

Information and application

Are you interested in being part of our team? Please submit your application before the 4th of December and include:

  • A cover letter (maximum 2 pages A4), emphasizing your specific interest, qualifications, and motivations to apply for this position;
  • A Curriculum Vitae, including a list of all courses attended and grades obtained, and, if applicable, a list of publications.

Additional information can be acquired via email from

Selection Process

A first round of speed interviews (max. 30 min, online) is scheduled to take place between the 18th and 22nd of December, invitations will be sent out approximately one week after the application deadline. The final round of interviews will be conducted online in January. The anticipated starting date is from February 2024 onwards, depending on processing times for Visa and administrative processes.

About the department

The HBE department is dedicated to encouraging a supportive and inclusive working culture. Our aim is that all job applicants are given equal opportunities. When we select candidates for employment, it will be on the basis of their competence and ability. To support the workforce diversity, we are open to offer flexible working conditions on an individual basis to support work-life balance, that may include contract of employment, working hours and location, or child care arrangements.

The High Business Entrepreneurship corporate video can be watched via this link.

About the organisation

The Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) aims to play a key role in understanding, jointly developing and evaluating innovations in society. Technological developments are the engine of innovation. As a technical university that puts people first, we tailor them to human needs and behavior and use social engineering to integrate them into society. We also ensure adequate governance at public and private level, and robust, inclusive and fair organizational structures. We do this by developing, sharing and applying high-quality knowledge in Psychology, Business Administration, Public Administration, Communication Sciences, Philosophy, Educational Sciences and Health Sciences. Our research and education in these disciplines revolves around tackling and solving societal challenges. The research programs of BMS are closely linked to the research of the UT institutes Mesa+ Institute for Nanotechnology, TechMed Center and Digital Society Institute.

As an employer, the Faculty of BMS offers work that matters. We equip you to create new possibilities for yourself and for our society. With us, you will become part of a leading technical university with increasing, positive social impact. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial atmosphere, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example through our flexible, adaptable benefits.

Job details

PhD Position on Perspectivism and Disagreement in Natural Language Processing
Drienerlolaan 5 Enschede, Netherlands
Application deadline
2023-12-04 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam)
2023-12-04 23:59 (CET)
Job type
Save job

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Looking for a job that matters? Join the university of technology that puts people first – and shape new opportunities both for yourself and for ou...

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