PhD positions in social science, law, economics and computer science in new interdisciplinary Centre

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 January 15, 2022 (or as soon as possible)
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 5 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. Trust and News Authenticity

Many people find it hard to judge the quality of information online. This contributes to worries and a sense of feeling unsafe in the digital information ecology. Much attention thus far has gone towards flagging problematic (‘fake’) content and providing post-hoc fact checking. This project proposes a new approach: it develops a digital signature to be attached to journalistic content and a recognizable label for users to see if the content is authentic and verified. The project develops, tests, and provides a large scale test of the effectiveness of this system which can help to improve trust and a sense of safety in the online information environment. For the project we are looking for a PhD candidate with a cryptography/computer science profile and a PhD candidate with a (computational) social science/ communication science background.

II. The Social Media News Consumer

How do news consumers navigate social media when it comes to news? What are mechanisms of selection and engagement? Or mechanisms of avoidance? Citizens’ news use on social media platforms has significant democratic implications. In this project we aim at understanding why people select and avoid certain news stories on social media, including the roles played by characteristics of the individual news consumer, the individual news items, and the context of the social media site. The project will mainly be based on experimental studies. A main part of the project will be co-testing and developing a mock social media platform for this purpose in close collaboration with a software developer. The successful candidate will work on an interdisciplinary PhD project in the intersection of social science and computational science.

III. 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.

IV. The AI newsroom

News media organisations are changing in response to processes of digitalization, new (audience) metrics, and AI. News organizations increasingly implement automated production tools, audience metrics and new ways of producing journalism based on AI. This poses challenges for existing practices and conventions in journalistic work. This project has two components: the first will study the effects of the implementation of AI, audience metrics and automated content generation on journalistic practices, routines and the organization of the journalistic production process. The second will focus on the development of automation and AI tools for journalistic practice. This will involve developing (prototype) an AI application which will subsequently be test in-house with partner news organisations. For the first project we are looking for a PhD candidate with a social science/ communication science background. For the second part we are looking for a PhD candidate with a computer science profile, who will work on methods and tools for the real-time collection and aggregation of data from multiple sources (like news sites, social media platforms, and in-house tools) using advanced service-oriented systems (microservices), and data-oriented visualisations.

V. The Evolution of AI-based Organizations

Organizations evolve over time in response to environmental demands, including new digital technologies and AI. How has the ecology of news media organizations developed over time? In what way has the digital transformation of society influenced the evolution of news organizations? Why do some news organizations thrive and adapt, while others do not? And how do the observed demographic changes in the population of news organizations relate to higher-level changes in the news-ecosystem? And in what ways do these developments imply changes in the quality of news provision in society To address these questions, this project will develop an organizational population ecology, as applied to news media organizations as a collection of competing and cooperating organizations. It will examine the life histories of the relevant population(s) of news media organizations, including their composition and diversity as well as their creation, change, and demise over time. The project is highly interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on state-of-the-art methods in demography, organizational adaptation and evolution as well as recent advances in psychology and law. While the project is general in principle, the focus is on Danish (European) news media organizations. For the project we look for a candidate interested in interdisciplinary work with a background in business, economics, or a related discipline, including (preferably) econometric skills.

Further information can be obtained from the Director of the Centre, Prof. dr. Claes de Vreese; email

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 1: a) a candidate with a cryptography/computer science profile and (pending funding) and b) a candidate with a (computational) social science/ communication science background.
    • Project 2: computational / quantitative social science, such as communication science.
    • Project 3: Law (and preferable with knowledge about empirical social science)
    • Project 4: a) a candidate with a social science/ communication science background. Spoken Danish language is a requirement too. B) For the second part (pending funding) we are looking for a candidate with a computer science profile.
    • Project 5: Business/ economics or related, preferably with econometric skills.
  • 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

All non-Danish documents must be translated into English.
Applications will be assessed by a evaluation committee consisting of members within the research focus Social Science and Computer Science..   When the evaluation committee has submitted its report, the applicant will receive the part of the evaluation that concerns her/him.

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.

We welcome applications for both the 3 year program (master fully completed) and the 4+4 program where the final master year is part of the phd program. The 3 year version is the default, please indicate in your application if you wish a 4+4 programme. version  . Information about the 4+4 programme can be found here.  

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.