PhD position for project on Algorithmic Accountability at Work

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD position for project on Algorithmic Accountability at Work
  • University Graduate
Do you have research experience and are you interested in studying Artificial Intelligence and its impact in organizations with a leading team of researchers?
Then please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

FTE: 1

Job description

KIN is currently hiring a full time PhD for the research project ‘Algorithmic Accountability: Designing Governance for Responsible Digital Transformation’. This research project is a collaboration with the Nordic Centre for Internet and Society of BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is one of the leading institutions for higher education in Europe and aims to be inspiring, innovative, and committed to societal welfare. KIN Center for Digital Innovation (KIN) ( is one of the departments of the School of Business and Economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. KIN conducts research on the development, use and business value of innovative organizational technologies and processes. Our research contributes to a cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary international field. We work closely together with faculty and researchers from other universities, and co-operate with an extensive network of business partners. KIN is responsible for several courses in the Business Administration curriculum and runs the Master in Digital Business and Innovation.

This project is concerned with the increased use of black-boxed algorithmic technologies in organizational decision making (for example, in the selection of new employees; or in the matching of provider to client in platform business models). Not knowing how inputs lead to outputs is becoming an urgent concern - claiming that 'it was the algorithm' is unlikely to be accepted as a response to growing calls for accountability.

This project therefore sets out to create a framework that organizations, regulators and communities can use to take concrete steps towards accountable decision-making processes. To contribute to the project aim, the PhD researcher will use primarily qualitative research methods (longitudinal field studies involving observations and interviews) to study how algorithmic systems are developed, deployed, and used in organizational settings, and what role 'explanations' play. An aim is to understand how people interact with algorithmic technologies and where and how the need for explanations arises, to arrive at eventual insights on how technologists can make their autonomous systems more transparent to users and their stakeholders.

The project is a collaborative effort of dr. Mark Boons, dr. Ella Hafermalz, prof. dr. Marleen Huysman (KIN Center for Digital Innovation at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and prof.dr. Christian Fieseler (BI Norwegian Business School).

Your duties

The PhD student will conduct and write up theoretical and empirical research on themes such as:
  • the sociotechnical construction of AI
  • how algorithms are 'held to account' to ensure they are 'responsible'
  • the impact and unintended consequences of deploying AI systems in case organizations
  • the political, ethical, and social sides of data and data analytics
  • the governance of artificial intelligence systems
  • the role of explainability in the design and use of algorithms in organizational contexts
Other duties:
  • the PhD student will give a modest contribution to the Department’s teaching programme, with the opportunity to obtain a basic qualification teaching certificate (shortened BKO).
  • the PhD student will contribute to the scholarly and collegial environment of KIN by participating in and contributing to departmental events


Candidates who would like to apply must have the following requirements/skills:
  • Research Master (preferred) or MSc in business administration (or equivalent degree in fields related to the topic of algorithmic accountability) with excellent grades
  • A demonstrated interest in the theme of (algorithmic) technologies in organizational contexts
  • Motivated to do high quality research with the aim of publishing top level articles for both an organizational science/information systems and practitioner audience
  • Ability to combine creative and analytical thinking
  • Ability to work in a group and to carry out individual work
  • Communication skills required to collaborate with industry partner(s)
  • Strong academic writing skills
  • High proficiency in written and spoken English language; Dutch proficiency (or willingness to learn) preferred
  • Training and experience in empirical research (qualitative research methods preferred but quantitative research skills are also valued)
  • Motivated to teach at Bachelor and Masters level (e.g. taking tutorials, supervising Bachelor theses)

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

School of Business and Economics
The School of Business and Economics (SBE) provides high-quality education and excellent research in business administration and economics with a focus on contributing to the social, economic and ecological challenges of our time. Whether it is the use of robots in society or big data, labour market participation or flexibility in the labour market, traffic jams or the housing market, flash crashes in the stock market or choice behaviour in gambling, leadership or change management: we believe in goal-oriented scientific research and understand that progress in academics, the business community and society is achieved through cooperation, openness and social responsibility.

At SBE, all of our highly-motivated colleagues work together closely in a stimulating, dynamic and international environment to achieve our collective goal of encouraging society to make informed choices. Approximately 4,200 Bachelor’s and Master’s students and 1,700 executive students are enrolled at the School, and employs roughly 500 people.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload a short letter (maximum one page) in which you describe your abilities, experience, and motivation, accompanied by a curriculum vitae and two references (names and e-mail addresses) before 6 May 2020. The initial job interviews may be conducted virtually, given the current situation. More information will be shared with successful applicants.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: dr. E. W. Hafermalz
Position: Assistant Professor

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