PhD positions in social science, law, and computer science at Digital Democracy Centre

About the job:

The Digital Democracy Center invites applications for one or more positions as PhD student. The position is located in the newly launched Digital Democracy Centre DDC at SDU ( The position is vacant from September 2022 (or as soon as possible hereafter). 
The DDC stands for a socio-technical, interdisciplinary approach combining theory and methods from social sciences and computer science, to study the impact of digital technology and AI on media, politics, and democracy. One of the largest challenges in this area is that research and new solutions are developed in single disciplines, which neglect the fact that current challenges are technological and social, legal, and ethical in nature. Through its research DDC will bridge this gap.

Job description

We seek applications for the following 4 projects. (It is possible to apply for more than one project. If you wish to be considered for more than one project position, please see information under “Application”). 

I. Buying you (or your data): legal challenges from a user perspective. 
Data buyers operate, among other things, by paying for code space to embed a script in a commercial service or commercial IoT device, such as a watch or a refrigerator. The script acts as a subscription to the user’s data, by providing access to the respective metrics, which can then be resold to the highest bidder. The data sets are used for precise (micro-) targeting. This targeting can be commercial, but politically motivated. This project will study the “user conditions” that allow subscriptions to user data, mainly in relation to IoT devices, including the extent to which subscription traps exist. Is the redistribution of your data to third parties a precondition for (fully) using the device? Are such terms of use at all compatible with data protection law and the fundamental right to privacy. What are the variations and commonalities in the applied terms of use, and how do the retail price of the service/IoT-device reflect the hidden “data price”. The successful candidate will work on an interdisciplinary PhD project in the intersection of law and empirical social science.

II. New Demands on On-Demand News
In collaboration with a Danish media company, this project will develop new ways of formatting, packaging and presenting news on streaming platforms. With inspiration from non-news genres, we will develop news formats that are narrated to provide an immediate pay-off by instantly arousing audiences and providing them with a clear idea of why they should keep watching. Through experimental research we test the ability of such formats to provide immediate pay-offs, both in the lab and at the actual on-demand platform. In our lab we measure emotional response (EDA) to selected news items, and through eye tracking we measure the attention paid to news items on the platform. 

The project further explores how news organizations may integrate new news formats into daily news production. When it aims to change established ways of working, organizational adaptation is especially challenged. Staff form work habits and routines that typically hinder and slow down change. The project will focus on how inertia in team habits (routines) may be overcome in order to order to introduce new ways of as formatting, packaging and presenting news.
The PhD Student will, in cooperation with the research team and the media company, design, conduct and analyze the experimental studies.

III. Explainable AI and the Law
Most existing systems that are based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) are “black-box” systems that do not allow humans to inspect how they arrive at their decisions, affecting humans’ ability to use, learn from, or correct the AI system.
In this project, we want to develop an expert recommendation system based on explainable AI for the legal domain and understand its impact on human behavior. The system should “understand” the laws it works with (they are explicitly encoded in the program) so that it can explain how it reaches conclusions. Thus, humans can use its output to make better informed decisions, and test alternative scenarios by adding hypotheses or asking how a different outcome could be reached.
Once a prototype is available, it will be tested on a repertoire of existing case data and used by human test subjects in a laboratory setting. In this way, we can study how humans adapt their behavior in response to recommendations from the system, and use this information in further developing the system.

IV. AI in the public administration
We invite applicants to address the legal implications of using AI-systems in the public administration for individual decision-making. Such research could include, for example, the legal theory of delegation, exploring whether and to what extent the delegation theory restricts the use of privately designed AI-systems for individual decision-making. The applicant could also explore the use of AI decision-making systems through the lens of the administrative duty to give reasons for its decisions, as enshrined in the EU-charters article 41(2)(c). 

Application, salary, etc.

Your employment as a Salaried PhD Research Fellow is governed by the agreement of 10 November 2015 on Graduate Employees in government appendix 5 – protocol on PhD Research Fellows. The scholarship runs for three or four years.

An application must include:

  • Motivation letter outlining your interest in the position and qualifications. Please list the position number and title. If you wish to be considered for more than one project positions, please provide a motivation and study design example (see below) per project.
  • Detailed CV
  • A copy of your master’s degree certificate (or planned finishing date) including all examination results.
    • A master’s degree in these fields is preferable:
      • Project I: Law
      • Project II: Preferred candidates have a degree within psychology, social science or related areas and have a strong methodological understanding. Experience with either cognitive neuroscience, narrative theory or organization theory would be welcome, but not necessary.
      • Project III: Computer Science
      • Project IV: Law
    • An example of a design for a first study (max 2 pages of 2400 characters each, including spaces, notes, appendices, bibliography etc.)
    • List of publications (if applicable)
    • Description of teaching experience (if applicable)
    • Description of research coordination experience (if applicable)
    • List of 3 references

When applying for a PhD scholarship, please fill in the application form available on our web page

All non-Danish documents must be translated into English.

Applications will be assessed by a committee. When the evaluation committee has submitted its report, the applicant will receive the part of the evaluation that concerns him/her.

Applications that are incomplete with regard to the above requirements will not be assessed by the committee.

Shortlisting and tests may be used in the assessment process.

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.

As part of the overall assessment of the applicant’s qualifications, an interview may be applied.

Applications must be submitted electronically using the link “Apply online”. Uploaded files must be in Adobe PDF (unlocked) or Word format.

Read the guideline for applicants

Each field can only contain a single file of max. 10 Mb.