Open Early Stage Researcher/PhD Position Agencia Estatal del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain for the NL4XAI project

Reference number: NL4XAI- ESR7

PhD research topic: Argumentation-based multi-agent recommender system

Objectives: This PhD thesis will explore an interactive distributed model in which recommenders become active software agents that accompany the recommendations with arguments. This approach is radically different with previous recommender system approaches (content-based or not) where the experiences of users are represented as passive data in a database. These recommender agents will be able then to engage in argumentative dialogues with other recommenders to agree (or not) on a recommendation to the user. A mediator may pair recommenders according to different criteria (e.g., similarity of profiles with the user, dissimilarity of their experiences) and then aggregate the outcomes of the different dialogues into a meaningful recommendation to the user that will be duly justified by arguments.

Expected Results:

  1. Initially, publicly available data sets will be used for validation of the approach, in particular, the Sushi data set73, which offers a well-designed source of preference data that can be used to form arguments for supporting recommendations.
  2. The approach will address two main issues still remaining in the recommender systems – the sensitivity of the precision of preference estimation with respect to the measurement error in the profile data; and the effect of central tendency effect (the tendency to select neutral positions on rating scales).
  3. A comparison with current implementations of content-based recommender systems will be done.
  4. At least two use cases will be identified where the results of the PhD work will be applied and evaluated.

Host institution: Agencia Estatal del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas- CSIC (Spain)

PhD Enrolment: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona-UAB (Spain)

The UAB is the first Spanish university in the QS Ranking of World Universities, and it holds leading global positions in the most prestigious and influential university rankings. The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona debutes this year in the Global University Employability Ranking and occupies position 136 worldwide and is first among all public universities in Spain. More information at

Secondments: The ESR will enjoy three secondments of 3 months each at the premises of three project’s members as detailed in the following table.


  • Main Supervisor:
    • Prof. Dr. Carles Sierra, Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIACSIC) – Agencia Estatal del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), 
    • Prof. Dr. R. López de Mántaras, Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIACSIC) – Agencia Estatal del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
  • PhD Co-Supervisor: Dr Katarzyna Budzynska, Warsaw University of Technology (WUT)

Inter-sectoral Secondment Supervisor:

  • Mr. R. Diñeiro, Accenture Technology

General requirements:

  • Mobility: At the time of recruitment, the researcher must not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than 12 months in the 3 years prior to recruitment date. Time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention is not taken into account.
  • Career: When starting their contract (expected in April 2020), selected researchers should be within the first four years of his/her research careers and not have been awarded a doctoral degree prior to the application.
  • The candidate must be working exclusively for the action

Specific requirements:

  • Degree: Degree in Computer Science (or similar), Master degree in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science or equivalent providing access to a PhD program.
  • Experience in Artificial Intelligence
  • Programming skills: Python
  • Language: Excellent command of English, together with good academic writing and presentation skills.

Desirable skills:

  • Background in Natural Language Processing and Mathematical Modelling
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Strong motivation to pursue a PhD degree.
  • Strong interest in interdisciplinary scientific work

Estimated starting date: 1st April 2020

Contract: Full-time contract

Duration: 36 months, including 3 secondments of 3 months each, at other consortium members’ premises (see the Secondments section above).

Salary: Gross salary of 37.434 €/Year, if the researcher has no family or 40.434 €/Year if the researcher is married or has dependent children for the purposes of the MSCA (For more information, click here).

Salary includes medical care coverage and work accident insurance through the Spanish Health Care System, providing access to the Spanish public health care system for candidates, as well as pension and unemployment benefits.

Application Documents:

  • Detailed CV in Europass format (template available in the following link) in English, highlighting the merits that are established as evaluation criteria;
  • Scans of BSc and/or MSc transcripts, with certified translation in English (if the degree qualification is not in English or in the language of the hosting country); 
  • A motivation letter in English, highlighting the consistency between the candidate profile and the chosen ESR position/s for which she/he is applying and describing why you wishes to be an NL4XAI ESR to carry out a PhD;
  • Contact details or recommendation letters of two referees in English or in certified translation;
  • Scanned copy of valid identification document;
  • Proof of excellent command of English (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge or equivalent). This is not required in case of native English speakers (i.e., English is your mother tongue).

In addition, you can add any other documents which you find relevant for the applications such as Master thesis, publications or project reports.

Evaluation criteria:

  • Academic background (up to 40 points)
  • Knowledge and specific achievements (up to 35 points)
  • Personal interview, only for candidates achieving a minimum of 55 points (up to 25 points)

Deadline: February 14, 2020, at 23h59 CET (UCT + 01:00)

Enquiries about research content must be sent to the main PhD supervisor via email (see contact details in Supervisors section).