PhD Position: Analyzing value trade-offs of interoperable Big Data in public safety

Fully-funded 4-year PhD position on “analyzing value trade-offs of interoperable Big Data in public safety contexts”. Intended starting date: 1 January 2017


The goal of the Ph.D project is to develop a framework for analyzing the value trade-offs associated with rendering cloud-based big data sets interoperable for the sake of public safety. This framework will help stakeholders identify the specific technical and ethical (particularly privacy and security) challenges and constraints to anticipate during system design and implementation, and will help identify different types of values (such as: social values, e.g. health outcomes, racial justice, gender equality, and decreases in crime, incarceration, and recidivism rates) and the variety of adverse social and ethical consequences (especially related to fairness and justice) that may result from implementing interoperability in public safety contexts. The framework produced will provide input for interoperable information system design and specification.

Main research question: How can stakeholders systematically assess what value can be gained from data interoperability in public safety contexts, whether a given effort to attain interoperability will produce the hoped-for value for public safety, and what other value-related consequences to anticipate? How should assessments of value-related consequences be incorporated into interoperability decision-making and system design?

Background: 

Interoperability, in a broad sense, refers to the ability of two heterogeneous and geographically distributed systems to exchange information and make use of the information exchanged. There has been substantial debate about the potential adverse consequences of increasing interoperability in public safety contexts. The public safety sector involves diverse actors such as government agencies, non-profits, and companies that are separated by the distinct problems, populations, regions, and methods. In recent years, there has been a push for greater collaboration and exchange of data between public safety actors, with the hope that harnessing big data for public safety will have substantial social benefits. For instance, some have proposed that combining information from emergency services and social media reports across jurisdictions in real time might improve prediction of and responses to emergency situations. Other public safety trends that may involve increased interoperability include predictive sentencing and predictive policing. However, increasing interoperability to advance public safety goals brings with it the potential for discrimination, injustice, privacy and civil rights violations, security risks, adverse consequences for vulnerable groups, exploitation, and a host of other ethical concerns.

Currently, most of the focus on interoperability is on technical aspects (e.g., communication protocols). As data relevant for public safety comes from heterogeneous domains, and a standard for interoperability has not yet been adopted across public safety sectors, there is a window of opportunity during which ethical analysis could have substantial influence on public safety interoperability design requirements. Concurrently, there has been inadequate analysis of the specific ethical challenges that interoperability is liable to produce, as well as of the variety of social value that could be obtained via interoperability in public safety. To adequately grasp both the potential social value and the variety of potential hazards in harnessing big data for public safety ends, and to incorporate such analysis into system design, specification and implementation, a more holistic approach is needed, which is the focus of this project.

Your profile:

The ideal candidate will have a masters (or equivalent) degree and will have experience and interest in both ethics and data science. This background could consist of a masters degree in philosophy/ethics and extensive coursework or experience related to data science, or it could consist of a masters degree in a field related to data science (for example: computer science, information systems, industrial engineering), and extensive coursework in philosophy/ethics. Other masters degrees will also be considered, if the candidate demonstrates a strong interest in and aptitude for the project. The candidate must be fluent in English, both written and spoken. Knowledge of Dutch is not a requirement.

The TU/e is an equal opportunity employee. Members of underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

The successful applicant will perform the research project outlined above. You will report research finding at international conferences and workshops and in research journals, and will have the opportunity to obtain teaching experience (no more than 10% of hours). This research will be concluded with a Ph.D. thesis.

The advisory team will be interdisciplinary, from the Philosophy & Ethics (dr. O’Neill, prof.dr. Meijers) and Information Systems (dr. eng.ec. Chituc) groups at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences at Eindhoven University of Technology. The PhD student will be situated within the Philosophy & Ethics group, but is expected to collaborate with the researchers from the Information Systems group.

The offer:

A four-year Ph.D. appointment, with target start date January 2017 (though a later start date may be possible);
The gross monthly salary is €2191 in the first year up to €2801 (gross) per month in the fourth year (on a full-time basis).
Additionally, Eindhoven University of Technology provides excellent facilities for professional and personal development, a holiday allowance (amounts to 8% of the annual salary), an end-of-year bonus (amounts to 8,3%), and a number of additional benefits (including an excellent technical infrastructure, moving expenses, savings schemas, excellent sport facilities).
Information and application

Application: 

  • A letter of application which explains your interest in this vacancy, your qualifications for it, and why you would be a good fit for this project
  • One-page motivation statement, elaborating on your ideas for a research focus in line with the project;
  • A detailed curriculum vitae
  • Names and contact information of two persons willing to provide references
  • Transcript from each university from which you received a degree (including grades)
    results of a recent English language test, or other evidence of your English language capabilities.

Select candidates will be invited for an interview via Skype or in Eindhoven.

If you are interested, we invite you to apply before November 25, 2016. To apply please click HERE and use the “apply now” button. Please note that a maximum of 5 documents can be uploaded, so if you have more than 5 documents you will have to combine them. We do not accept applications sent by e-mail. 

About the organization: 

Eindhoven University of Technology is one of the world’s leading research universities (ranked by the Times Higher Education Supplement). It is in particular well known for its joint research with industry (ranked number one worldwide by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies). The research will be conducted at Eindhoven University of Technology, at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences (IE&IS), embedded within the Research Group of Philosophy & Ethics and the Research Group of Information Systems (IS).

The Philosophy & Ethics Group in the School of Innovation Sciences conducts philosophical research at the interface between fundamental philosophical issues and real-world problems that arise from the design and use of innovative technologies. We aim to do this in genuine interaction with the engineering, natural and social sciences. Research areas within the group include ethics, metaethics, philosophy of science, epistemology, and metaphysics.

The Information Systems Group in the School of Industrial Engineering performs advanced research in the area of business process engineering, focusing on business process management and business process intelligence. The group has a strong national and international reputation for both basic research in the academic community and applied research with industry. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to profit from the benefits that such an environment has to offer and to contribute to the ongoing research.

Further information:

For more information on the Philosophy and Ethics group please see the website http://p-e.ieis.tue.nl/ and for more information on the Information Science group please see the website http://is.ieis.tue.nl/

For further information, please contact dr. Elizabeth O’Neill (Philosophy & Ethics), e.r.h.oneill@tue.nl, or dr.eng.ec. Claudia-Melania Chituc (Information Systems), C.M.Chituc@tue.nl.

More information about the Department of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences can be found at www.tue.nl/en/university/departments/industrial-engineering-innovation-sciences/research/

Information about the terms of employment can be obtained from Mrs. Ellen van der Mierden, HR advisor (pz.ieis@tue.nl). Further information about Eindhoven University of Technology can be found at www.tue.nl.