PhD Position in Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects in Artificial Intelligence Systems for Promoting Animal Welfare
Wageningen University

PhD in Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects (ELSA) in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Systems for Promoting Animal Welfare

Published on
April 19, 2022

Location Wageningen

We are looking for

As a Ph.D. student in this project, you will study, develop, and validate an ELSA-compliant data-driven farmer-in-the- loop decision-support system (DSS) to support effective and responsible decision-making on farms. The DSS will be designed and implemented in generic terms, but its validation will rely on a case study concerning the recommendation of suitable treatment procedures, for example, for mastitis disease in dairy cattle. The focus will be on the development of AI-based solutions that embed ELSA aspects in a recommendation system that could be used to counteract, for example, new strains, high infection pressure, or antibiotic resistance of bacteria.

This Ph.D. position is part of the AI for sustainable food systems (AI4SFS) laboratory, an interdisciplinary research project funded by the Dutch Research Council NWO that will start on June 1st, 2022. The AI4SFS project develops responsible and trustworthy AI in sustainable food systems through the development of an Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects (ELSA) lab. We will (a) develop insights into the ELSA challenges and opportunities related to AI applications for sustainable food systems, (b) design an ELSA lab methodology (including tools, (ethical and legal) guidelines, and engagement strategies) for responsible AI for the agri-food sector, and (c) conduct multiple case studies where we will integrate ELSA aspects in AI (re)design. After the project, we will develop the ELSA lab into an independent hub for responsible AI for sustainable food systems.

What you tell at birthday parties: I develop and apply AI systems that recommend suitable treatments for animals. My systems comply with ethical, legal, and social aspects of “good stockmanship,” appropriate use of medicine, and increased welfare of animals.

What we really need: What we are looking for is a Ph.D. student who is eager to investigate state-of-the-art AI methods that are compliant with ELSA aspects and relate them to animal welfare and production data. You should have demonstrable experience with AI methods. Besides a strong technical background, and an affinity for livestock farming is desirable. You need to be able to work independently and collaborate with other PhDs in the Farm Technology Group, Information Technology Group, and the AI4SFS project, as well as with stakeholders (e.g., veterinarians, pharmaceutical representatives, farmers) in the field of livestock farming.

A typical day at the office:  Your days at the office range from frustrating farm data downloads to energy-boosting acceptance letters of your ground-breaking articles, and anything in between!
Today’s challenge is to use AI to foster sustainable ELSA-complaint production. The first check of the day: is your on-farm data correctly collected? You start to think of an experiment to test your recently developed recommendation algorithm. You explore the preliminary results and over a mug of coffee, you discuss your ideas with Ricardo, Bedir, Gert, Tarek, and Rik who have been dealing with these issues each in their specific domains.

At lunchtime, you will join other students and researchers to have lunch and take a relaxing de-tour back to your office. The fresh air makes you consider developing an AI model that provides suitable recommendations more robustly. But first, you start a discussion with a fellow student as your sparring partner, after which you sit back to implement the method.
Good job! You have shown that the method can make suitable recommendations in several practical scenarios. Now you start planning how you can concisely write your results into a scientific paper and how the application can be used by relevant stakeholders.

We ask

  • You (soon will) have an MSc degree in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science, or a closely related area.
  • You have demonstrable experience with AI and machine learning.
  • Ideally, you have expertise in deep learning, but PhD-level courses are available if such expertise is missing.
  • You should be able to work well in teams and have excellent communication skills (oral and writing).
  • Additional responsibilities of a Ph.D. student include a limited amount of teaching and supervision of BSc and MSc students on topics related to the Ph.D. work.
  • A successful candidate is expected to author scientific papers for international peer-reviewed journals, present his/her work in international conferences, and finalize the work in writing a Ph.D. thesis.
  • For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level.
  • You meet all the entry requirements of the  WUR PhD programme.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • study leave and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will of course receive a good salary. The gross salary for the first year is € 2.443,- per month rising to € 3.122,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 12 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 16th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.
Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Communitypage contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

More information

Do you want more information?
For more information about this position, please contact prof.dr. R (Ricardo) da Silva Torres, telephone +31317480063, or by e-mail

For more information about the procedure, please contact

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including 15/05/2022. We hope to schedule the first job interviews on 01/06/2022.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.800 employees and 12.900 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

Read the 5 reasons why your future collaegues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!
We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.

The team
You will be working at Wageningen University in the Farm Technology and Information Technology, the world’s leading research groups on precision livestock farming, information technology, and the application of AI in agriculture in general. You will be supervised by two assistant professors, one with expertise in artificial intelligence and one with specific domain knowledge of the application. It is your job to merge their views and experiences into an excellent Ph.D. thesis in such a way that the total outcomes are beyond the sum of the parts.

Apply now

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Computeroxy


All Jobs


Chinese University of Hong Kong

Harvard University Academic Positions

Kuwait University Current Faculty Openings

Osaka University Academic Opportunities

Purdue University Job Postings for Faculty Positions

Texas Tech University Faculty Openings

Tsinghua University Job Postings

University of Cambridge Job Openings

University of Geneva Faculty Opportunities

University of New South Wales Job Openings

University of Nottingham Research Positions

University of Oslo Academic Jobs

University of Saskatchewan Faculty Positions

University of Southampton Research Vacancies

University of Toronto Open Faculty Positions