Open Early Stage Researcher/PhD Position at Universidade de Santiago de Compostela (USC), Spain, for the NL4XAI project

Reference number: NL4XAI- ESR1

PhD research topic: Explaining black-box models in terms of grey-box twin models

Objectives: To define, design and develop a new methodology to explain black-box models in Natural Language. Taking as inspiration the paradigm of digital twins that is applied to industry 4.0, the ESR will generate explainable models as digital twins of black-box models. The target will be explaining neural networks, including deep architectures. The explainable twin model will be supported by a pool of grey-box models such as Bayesian networks, interpretable fuzzy systems and decision trees; endowed with a linguistic layer for providing expert and non-expert users with explanations in Natural Language.

Theoretical contributions will be validated in two use cases:

  • explaining the outcomes of models for automatic description of human faces, for example in security applications (defined in a secondment at Università ta’ Malta); and
  • a real use case (“Experiences, offering, demand and classification in semantic-search processes applied to business processes”) defined in an inter-sectoral secondment (Indra, Spain).

Expected Results: 

  1. Theoretical understanding of the state of the art in relevant aspects of machine learning methods (paying special attention to Neural Networks / Deep Learning approaches) and the paradigm of digital twins.
  2. SWOT analysis of existing methods for explaining black-box models and study of methods for explaining grey-box models in Natural Language.
  3. Definition and implementation of a new methodology for explaining black-box models in Natural Language.
  4. Validation of this methodology in two use cases where the goodness of the generated explanations will be evaluated by humans.
  5. A fully functional web service coming from (3) and (4).

Host institution: Centro Singular de Investigación en Tecnoloxías Intelixentes- CiTIUS, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela- USC (Spain)

PhD Enrolment: Universidade de Santiago de Compostela-USC (Spain)

The USC hosts more than 3,000 PhD students and has been awarded the “HR Excellence in Research” by the EC under the HRS4R process. Currently, the CiTIUS hosts 31 senior researchers, which have been selected by an external scientific advisory board, and a total of about 100 researchers. During the period 2016-2019, CiTIUS researchers have published more than 160 SJR journal papers and got more than 10,5 M€ from competitive R&D funds, being one third of them in collaboration with the industry sector. CiTIUS researchers have also promoted 3 new spin-offs.

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


Inter-sectoral Secondment Supervisor:

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: a University Degree and a Master Degree in Computer Science, Telecommunication Engineering, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence or in another related area within the European Higher Education System (minimum 300 ECTS) or an equivalent University Degree that allows to start a PhD Program at the University of Santiago de Compostela.
  • Programming skills: Java, Python
  • Language: Excellent command of English, together with good academic writing and presentation skills.

Desirable skills:

  • Background in theory and applications of Artificial Intelligence (neural networks, fuzzy logic, etc.), Machine Learning, Web services/Web technologies and Natural Language Processing and Generation.
  • Good communication and computational skills.
  • Ability to communicate in Spanish for daily lives.
  • 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 2346.50 €/month (14 payments per year) if the researcher has no family or 2661.70 €/month (14 payments per 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).