Umeå University, Department of Computing Science

Umeå University is one of Sweden’s largest institutions of higher education with over 34,000 students and 4,000 faculty and staff. We are characterised by world-leading research in several scientific fields and a multitude of educations ranked highly in international comparison. Umeå University is also the site of the pioneering discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors - a revolution in genetic engineering that has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

At Umeå University, everything is nearby. Our cohesive campus environment makes it easy to meet, collaborate and exchange knowledge, which promotes a dynamic and open culture where we rejoice in each other's successes.

Research topic: Modeling Social Reality for Social Simulations

Umeå University, the Department of Computing Science, is seeking outstanding candidates for a PhD student position in Computer Science with focus on socially aware AI. Deadline for application is November 18, 2019.

The Department of Computing Science is a dynamic environment with around 120 employees representing more than 20 countries worldwide. The Socially Aware Artificial Intelligence group (led by prof. Frank Dignum) conducts research into AI systems that start from the premise that AI is used in social contexts and should be aware of the social consequences of its behaviour. For this purpose the group investigates (formal) models of social concepts and their implementation in AI systems ranging from social robots to social simulations and multi-agent systems. The group collaborates with several national and international research groups, and has active links with industry and policy organisations For more information on Frank Dignum see

The project is financed by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation (KAW). The intention is that the student will be associated to the WASP-HS graduate program, focusing on humanities and societal impact of AI (see The graduate school within WASP-HS provides foundations, perspectives, and state-of-the-art knowledge in the different disciplines taught by leading researchers in the field. It thus provides added value on top of the existing PhD programs at the partner universities, providing unique opportunities for students who are dedicated to achieving international research excellence with industrial relevance.

Research project
Social simulations are often seen as modern tools that can provide predictions on how people will react in changing circumstances. However, although social simulations already are capable to create more realistic scenarios, predicting the behaviour of groups of people is not their main aim. Social simulations can provide new insights into key factors that determine the behaviour of people in certain contexts. Therefore they can be very well used as tools to support policy makers and other stakeholders in a domain. However, current social simulation platforms do not provide the right interfaces nor the interactivity necessary to support all the parties in policy making. Especially they do not allow to change definitions or interpretations of values, norms, practices, etc. which often makes it difficult to explore scenarios from different points of view. (Industry might have a different interpretation of sustainability than Greenpeace, leading to different scenarios that should be compared and possibly combined).

Within the wider project of creating an agent-based social simulation platform for socially aware AI, this project will focus on how such a platform can represent social concepts appropriately for real use cases. It means combining theoretical work on how social concepts can be modelled best and implemented best for social simulations, and empirical work on finding out which support from social simulation tools is needed most and how this can be provided in a social simulation platform.

About the position
The successful applicant will receive a competitive salary for a period of four years of full time PhD studies, provided that the studies are progressing reasonably well. PhD students are typically offered the opportunity to gain teaching experience on suitable undergraduate courses. If so, the employment period is extended to cover the time spent on teaching (at most 20 %). Expected starting date is 1st of February 2020 or as otherwise agreed.

Admission requirements
The applicant is required to have completed a second-cycle level degree, or completed course requirements of at least 240 ECTS credits, of which at least 60 ECTS credits are at second-cycle level, or have an equivalent education from abroad, or equivalent qualifications. To fulfil the specific entry requirements for doctoral studies in computing science, the applicant is required to have completed courses at second-cycle level degree equivalent to 60 ECTS credits in computing science, or in a subject considered to be directly relevant for the specialisation in question.

Candidates are expected to have very good knowledge of computational linguistics and AI techniques. Demonstrable knowledge of dialogue systems, intelligent virtual agents and social robotics is an advantage. In particular, candidates should be well acquainted with modelling and implementing dialogue systems and/or chatbots. Note that machine learning techniques in NLP is not the focus of this project.

We particularly invite female candidates to apply to ensure gender balance.

Since research is conducted in an international research environment, the ability to collaborate and contribute to teamwork, and a very good command of the English language, both written and spoken, are key requirements.

A complete application should contain the following documents:

  • A cover letter including a description of your research interests, your reasons to apply for the position, and your contact information
  • A curriculum vitae
  • If applicable, copy of completed BSc and/or MSc thesis and other original research publications
  • Copies of degree certificates, including documentation of completed academic courses and obtained grades
  • Contact information for two persons willing to act as reference

The application must be written in English or Swedish, and attached documents must be written in or translated to English or Swedish. Documents must be in Word or pdf format. Applications must be submitted electronically using the e-recruitment system of Umeå University, and be received no later than November 18, 2019. Reference number: AN 2.2.1-1460-19. 

Interested applicants are also encouraged to apply for the position with the reference number: AN 2.2.1-1378-19.

The procedure for recruitment for the position is in accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance (chapter 12, 2§) and the decision regarding the position cannot be appealed.

The recruitment aims at a balanced gender distribution, and in particular women are encouraged to apply.

For additional information, please contact Prof. Frank Dignum

We look forward to receiving your application!

Type of employment Temporary position longer than 6 months
Contract type Full time
First day of employment 1st of February 2020 or as otherwise agreed
Salary Monthly
Number of positions 1
Working hours 100%
City Umeå
County Västerbottens län
Country Sweden
Reference number AN 2.2.1-1460-19
  • Frank Dignum, Professor, 090-786 91 01
Union representative
  • SACO, 090-786 53 65
  • SEKO, 090-786 52 96
  • ST, 090-786 54 31
Published 15.Oct.2019
Last application date 18.Nov.2019 11:59 PM CET

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