PhD Position in Hybrid Intelligence
Utrecht University Faculty of Science

PhD Position in Hybrid Intelligence: Explaining Data-Driven Decisions with Legal, Ethical or Social Impact to End-Users

Job description

Why build AI systems that replace people if we can build AI systems which collaborate with people? Hybrid Intelligence is the combination of human and machine intelligence, expanding human intellect instead of replacing it. It is our goal to design Hybrid Intelligent systems, an approach to Artificial Intelligence that puts humans at the centre, changing the course of the ongoing AI revolution. The project will be recruiting 15 PhD or postdoc positions in total, at six Universities across the Netherlands. More information on the project can be found here.

At Utrecht University we are looking for a PhD candidate who is interested in explaining outcomes of data-driven machine-learning applications that support decision making procedures to end-users of these applications, such as lawyers, business people or ordinary citizens. The techniques should apply in contexts where a human decision maker is informed by data-driven algorithms and where the decisions have ethical, legal or societal implications. They should generate explanations for outputs for specific inputs. The explanations generated should be such that the reasons for the output can be understood and critically examined on their quality.

The project will specifically focus on explaining ‘black-box’ applications in that it will focus on model-agnostic methods, assuming only access to the training data and the possibility to evaluate a model’s output, given the input data. This will make the explanation methods independent of a model’s internal structure. This is important since in many real-life applications the learned models will not be interpretable or accessible, for instance, when the model is learned by deep learning or when the application is proprietary.

The project will explore the use of existing and novel techniques of formal and computational argumentation. It will in particular study techniques for case based argumentation, which model how decision makers draw analogies to past cases (precedents) and discuss their relevant similarities and differences. A case based approach is natural since the training data of (supervised) machine-learning applications can be seen as decided past cases, i.e. as precedents. An argumentation based approach is important, since the focus is not just on understanding outputs but also on critically examining their quality.

As a PhD candidate you will be part of the Department of Information and Computing Sciences (Intelligent Systems group) and you will work in close partnership with the Department of Artificial Intelligence of the Faculty of Science and Engineering of the University of Groningen.

Daily supervision will be performed by Prof Henry Prakken (UU), Prof Davide Grossi (RUG) and Prof Bart Verheij (RUG).


You are an enthusiastic, creative and highly motivated candidate who has:

  • a Master's degree in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Mathematics, Data Science or a related field;
  • a strong interest in interdisciplinary AI research that combines the AI subfields of machine learning, data science, knowledge representation & reasoning and human-computer interaction;
  • the ability to integrate various research methods and tools, such as formal methods, designing and implementing algorithms and experimental evaluation;
  • a commitment to develop computational tools and techniques in order to help people make better decisions;
  • excellent English communication skills (written and spoken);
  • a wish to contribute to the department’s teaching programmes (15% at most);
  • a talent for planning and organizing your work, and for meeting deadlines.


  • a full-time position for 4 years;
  • access to a network of top AI researchers through the Hybrid Intelligence Centre;
  • participation in the education programme of the Graduate School of Natural Sciences, as well as in the Hybrid Intelligence project Graduate School;
  • a full-time gross salary starts at €2,395 and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities);
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave and flexible employment conditions (based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao)).

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This way we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.

About the organization

The digital world is ever expanding. Digital technologies permeate every mundane aspect of our society, from phones to cars, from the internet to washing machines. Within the Department of Information and Computing Sciences new methods for incorporating information technologies in our daily lives are developed. Sometimes these innovations are highly visible, but often they are nearly invisible to the end-user. There is a focus on socially relevant and fundamental subjects. By applying innovative thinking and a strong fundamental knowledge, work is done on practical solutions and approaches within three themes:

  • Interaction
  • Algorithms
  • Intelligent Software Systems

We seek out the boundaries of science, and educate students to become well-equipped, enthusiastic professionals.

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes which work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do attitude of our people. This fundamental connection attracts Researchers, Professors and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

Additional information

Do you have any questions about this position? Please contact Prof Henry Prakken, via

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, please respond via the “Apply now” button, enclosing:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • at least two references.

If you want to be considered for one of the other PhD positions within the Hybrid Intelligence project as well, then also upload your documents to The information will be shared among the researchers in the consortium, and you may be approached for one of the other positions.

If this specific opportunity is not for you, but you know someone who may be interested, please forward the link to them.

Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Corona virus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is

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


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