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Postdoc in the use of predictive algorithms in public administration

The Danish School of Education (DPU), Faculty of Arts at Aarhus University invites applications for a postdoctoral position in the research project “Algorithms, Data and Democracy” (ADD), financed by the Velux and Villum foundations. The ADD project is a large, ten-year project conducted by partners and research groups at six Danish universities.
The project also includes a significant outreach activity organised by Mandag Morgen.

This is a full-time (37 hours/week) position. It is expected to begin on 1 October 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter, and to end 29 months later on 29 February 2024. 23 months are allocated to research and 6 months are allocated to teaching and supervision in subjects such as public administration, organization theory and/or qualitative methods within the Department of Education Studies.

The position is located at DPU, Copenhagen Campus, within the Department of Education Studies as well as with the research programme for Future Technology, Culture and Learning.

The Danish School of Education is committed to diversity and encourages all qualified applicants to apply regardless of their personal background.


Research context
The DPU research group of the ADD project studies the Danish public administration’s development and use of predictive algorithms, with a special interest in the relationship between ensuing data-ethical controversies and public administration responses to these. Applying a range of statistical techniques to citizen data across different public sector registers, predictive analytics typically categorise citizens with respect to their predicted future risky behaviour. The potentials and promises of these AI techniques are obvious: they help public administration sectors tailor and target the citizens most at risk, and maybe even prevent and intercept the risky behaviour. However, as the numerous public and political debates around predictive analytics have shown, public administration’s use of predictive analytics is fraught with data ethical dilemmas. These revolve around issues of privacy, register merging, lack of transparency, the bias inherent in such predictive algorithms, and fundamental questions about which kind of interactions we envision taking place between the state and its citizens. One of the main project aims is to understand the relationship between public-sector use of predictive algorithms, controversies and trust, exploring predictive algorithms as sites of struggle and competing values. Research foci relevant to the position include questions of the development of predictive algorithms, professional disputes (e.g. regarding how public servants’ discretion and judgments are transformed with algorithmic decision-support models), and investigations of how predictive algorithms in public administration become matters of public concern.


The position
The postdoc will work in close collaboration with the project team at DPU, consisting of co-PI Helene Friis Ratner, two postdocs and one PhD student, as well as with other participants in the ADD project. The primary task of the postdoc will be to identify, collect and analyse empirical data about public-sector development and/or use of predictive algorithms and the ensuing organisational and/or public disputes and controversies. Cases could include – but are not limited to – predicting children at risk, students dropping out of their education, citizens at risk of long-term unemployment, social fraud, and predictive policing. The postdoc may use methods such as multi-sited ethnography, qualitative semi-structured interviews and document analysis, depending on their academic background. The postdoc will also participate in interdisciplinary data sprints, mapping controversies in relation to public administration’s use of predictive algorithms, across national and social media.

The ADD project addresses the democratic issues associated with the rapidly increasing use of algorithms in all sectors of society. One frequently voiced concern is that algorithms may lead to biased and untransparent decision making, which in turn may erode the trust in key societal institutions and decision-making processes. The overall aim of the ADD project is to understand the processes and circumstances that give rise to controversies around algorithms, to raise public awareness of algorithms, and to promote a democratically legitimate development of algorithms in Danish society. The ADD project will also do basic computer science research on algorithmic bias and conduct a substantial number of qualitative case studies of algorithm controversies in areas such as privacy & cybersecurity, public administration, finance, health and innovation practices. Further descriptions of the project can be found here: https://algoritmer.org/om-os/projektet/

Applicants are encouraged to contact co-principal investigator Helene Friis Ratner on +45 3082 6019 or at helr@edu.au.dk for further information about the project.
The postdoc is expected to:

  • Be an active collaborative partner in the research project
  • Conduct and complete an independent research project related to the project topic and in collaboration with the group
  • Publish independently and in collaboration with the DPU co-PI and research group in relevant peer-reviewed journals
  • Initiate and organise activities with the project group, affiliated students and the academic world at large (co-organise and participate in research conferences and data sprints, seminars and webinars as well as related activities)
  • Contribute to the popular dissemination of research findings.
The application must include a 2-3-page proposal for a postdoctoral research project about public administration use and/or the development of predictive algorithms, looking into issues of the development of predictive algorithms, trust-building, professional disputes and/or public controversies, with a case focus on a particular public sector or algorithm. It must be possible to complete this project within a 23-month period. The application must also include a teaching portfolio, documenting the teaching experience of the applicant.


Qualifications
Applicants must hold a PhD degree or equivalent qualifications in science and technology studies, organisation studies, anthropology, sociology, ethnography or a related discipline within the humanities or social sciences.

Applicants must be able to document a relevant, international, high-quality research profile, including experience of international publication and research dissemination.
They must also document:
  • Proven skills in qualitative research methods and data analysis
  • Experience of working with ethnographic fieldwork
  • The ability to collaborate in interdisciplinary research teams
  • The ability to initiate relevant activities in an academic environment.
It is an advantage if applicants can also document:
  • Theoretical and conceptual familiarity with science and technology studies, critical software studies, infrastructure studies and/or public administration
  • Knowledge and experience of researching digitalisation, datafication and/or artificial intelligence
  • Experience of ethnographic studies of technology in practice
  • Experience of dissemination and outreach activities.
Given the nature of the project’s empirical work, basic Danish or other Scandinavian language skills will be advantageous but are not required. Applicants must be fluent (or near fluent) in speaking and writing English, and experience of publishing in English is considered an asset.

Please note that applications that do not include uploaded publications (maximum five) will not be considered.

The application must be submitted in English.


Work environment
Active participation in the daily life of the department is a high priority, and we emphasise the importance of good working relationships, both among colleagues and with our students. In order to maintain and develop the department’s excellent teaching and research environment, the successful applicant is expected to be present at the department on a daily, or at least weekly, basis.

We respect the balance between work and private life and strive to create a work environment in which that balance can be maintained. For further information, visit
https://international.au.dk/life/lifeindenmark/familyworklife/.


International applicants
For further information about the benefits of working at Aarhus University and in Denmark, including healthcare, paid holidays and, if relevant, maternity/paternity leave, childcare and schooling, international applicants are encouraged to visit https://international.au.dk/research/researcher-positions/workingconditions/. Aarhus University offers a broad variety of services for international researchers and accompanying families, including a relocation service and career counselling for expat partners. For information about taxation, check the taxation aspects of international researchers’ employment by AU.

Qualification requirementsApplicants should hold a PhD or equivalent academic qualifications.


Formalities
Faculty of Arts refers to the Ministerial Order on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Danish Universities (the Appointment Order).Aarhus University also offers a Junior Researcher Development Programme targeted at career development for postdocs at AU. You can read more about it here: https://talent.au.dk/junior-researcher-development-programme/

If nothing else is noted, applications must be submitted in English. Application deadline is at 11.59 pm Danish time (same as Central European Time) on the deadline day.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal bagground.
Shortlists are prepared with the candidates that have been selected for a detailed academic assessment. A committee set up by the head of school is responsible for selecting the most qualified candidates. See this link for further information about shortlisting at the Faculty of Arts: shortlisting


Faculty of Arts
The Faculty of Arts is one of five main academic areas at Aarhus University.
The faculty contributes to Aarhus University's research, talent development, knowledge exchange and degree programmes.

With its 550 academic staff members, 275 PhD students, 9,500 BA and MA students, and 1,500 students following continuing/further education programmes, the faculty constitutes a strong and diverse research and teaching environment.

The Faculty of Arts consists of the School of Communication and Culture, the School of Culture and Society and the Danish School of Education. Each of these units has strong academic environments and forms the basis for interdisciplinary research and education.

The faculty's academic environments and degree programmes engage in international collaboration and share the common goal of contributing to the development of knowledge, welfare and culture in interaction with society.

Read more at arts.au.dk/en

The application must be submitted via Aarhus University’s recruitment system, which can be accessed under the job advertisement on Aarhus University's website.

Apply online

Deadline: 01 August 2021

Aarhus University Aarhus University is an academically diverse and research-intensive university with a strong commitment to high-quality research and education and the development of society nationally and globally. The university offers an inspiring research and teaching environment to its 38,000 students (FTEs) and 8,000 employees, and has an annual revenues of EUR 885 million. Learn more at www.international.au.dk/

 

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