Open Early Stage Researcher/PhD Position Technische University of Delft (TU Delft), Netherlands for the NL4XAI project

Reference number: NL4XAI- ESR10

PhD research topic: Interactions to mitigate human biases.

Objectives: To develop new interaction approaches for recommender systems with the aim to mitigate cognitive biases (e.g., confirmation bias, availability bias, attention heuristic, and backfire effect), which lead to deviation from optimal choices. This will be done through mixed-initiative (automated and human) “conversational” interfaces extending the concept of faceted search while aiding understanding why certain content (even if it is surprising) is being recommended. The interaction will be designed in a way that meaningfully compensates for cognitive bias.

Theoretical contributions will be validated in three use cases for recommender systems:

  1. news;
  2. social media; and
  3. educational search.

Expected Results:

New theory and tools for interactions that mitigate human bias:

  1. new interaction approaches that take into account user needs, values, and goals.
  2. Improve explainability of recommender systems by creating a fundamental link between algorithmic approaches and interaction approaches.
  3. Develop new control mechanisms suitable for individual and situational characteristics.
  4. Develop standards for user interfaces and tools for recommender systems.

Host institution: Technische University of Delft- TU Delft (Netherlands)

PhD Enrolment: Technische University of Delft- TU Delft (Netherlands)

The PhD candidate will form part of the Web Information Systems (WIS) Group; Software Technology (ST) Department; Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS), at Delft University of Technology. Members of WIS are highly research active and have a significant record of success in obtaining national and international research funding.

The lab of Nava Tintarev, the principal supervisor of this ESR, contributes to shaping the field of human-computer interaction in web information systems for decision support such as recommender systems, specifically on automatically generated explanations and explanation interfaces. She is regularly involved in high-level research events in the Intelligent User Interfaces, and Recommender Systems communities. She is on the steering committee of the User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction Journal (UMUAI, IF = 4.131), and is serving as Program co-Chair for the Intelligent User Interfaces conference 2020 in Cagliari.  

The Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) is known worldwide for its high academic quality and the societal relevance of its research programmes. Offering an international working environment, the faculty has more than 1100 employees (including about 500 PhD students) and more than 3000 bachelor’s and master’s students. Together they work on a broad range of technical innovations in the fields of electrical sustainable energy, microelectronics, intelligent systems, software technology, and applied mathematics.

The Software Technology (ST) Department is one of the leading Dutch departments in research and academic education in computer science, employing over 150 people. The ST Department is responsible for a large part of the curriculum of the bachelor’s and master’s programmes in Computer Science as well as the master’s programme Embedded Systems. The inspiration for its research topics is largely derived from technical ICT problems in industry and society related to large-scale distributed processing, embedded systems, programming productivity, and web-based information analysis.

Further information:

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: Dr. Nava Tintarev, Department of Software Technology – Technische University of Delft (TU Delft), 
  • PhD Co-Supervisor: Dr. Mariët Theune, Human Media Interaction Research Group – Universiteit Twente (UTWENTE)

Inter-sectoral Secondment Supervisor:

  • Dr. Thijs Westerveld, R&D department – Wizenoze B.V. 

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 The Netherlands 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. Master degree in Computer Science, Cognitive Science, Robotics, or equivalent providing access to PhD program.
  • Experience in recommender systems/artificial intelligence (required), cognitive science/psychology (desired)
  • Programming skills:  Java (desired), front-end development  (e.g., Python, Javascript)
  • Language: Excellent command of English, together with good academic writing and presentation skills.

Desirable skills:

  • Background in human-computer interaction, recommender systems
  • 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)

Further information: In line with Dutch regulations, the ESR will be appointed for 4 years, with the fourth year being funded by the University of Delft.

Salary: Salary and conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU) and include a salary ranging from €2.261,- gross per month at the start to €2.972,- in the fourth year.

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).