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Senior Research Officer in Social Media Modelling
Premium Job From University of Essex
Recruiter: University of Essex
Listed on: 14th August
Location: Colchester
Salary/Rate: £33,199 - £35,211
Type: Contract
Start Date: ASAP
Reference: REQ02900
Contact Name: University of Essex

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University of Essex has been awarded the prestigious title of "University of the Year" by the Times Higher Education for "transforming the lives of a growing student body" and "putting  both staff and students first."

The School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CSEE) at the University of Essex has an outstanding reputation for teaching and high-quality research in artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, brain-computer interfaces, computer games, evolutionary computation, human language technology, robotics, networks and optoelectronics. 

This postdoctoral position is part of the research project "COURAGE: A Social Media Companion Safeguarding and Educating Students". This project is an international collaboration funded by VolkswagenStiftung (Volkswagen Foundation) as part of the Artificial Intelligence and the Society of the Future funding initiative. The project partners include the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain), the Istituto per le Tecnologie Didattiche of the National Council of Research ITD-CNR (Italy), Hochschule Ruhr West (Germany) and the Rhine-Ruhr Institute for System Innovation (Germany).

This project brings together a multi-disciplinary consortium to develop novel approaches aimed at addressing some of the major challenges posed by social media to society and to young members of society in particular. The project aims to develop a  Virtual Social Media Companion that educates and supports teenage school students facing the threats of social media such as discrimination and biases as well as hate speech, bullying, fake news and other toxic content. The companion will raise awareness of potential threats in social media among students without being intrusive. It will apply gamification strategies and educative information selection algorithms. The project involves a substantial experimentation aspect in collaboration with multiple schools around Europe. It will thus provide a unique chance to perform interventions to test the validity of social interaction theories and governance methods.

Duties of the Role

The Essex team will drive two strands of this work, the machine-learning-based user modelling aspect and the process of analysing textual data drawing from our expertise in natural language processing (NLP). More specifically, we aim at developing Bayesian computational models of beliefs dynamics of social media users to support governance and educational strategies. These models will also be applied to evaluate socially relevant variables, such as trust and inclusion. We will build on and implement state-of-the-art NLP & AI methods to provide measurements of sentiment, bias, hatefulness, veracity, polarization, and sensationalism of social media content. In addition, we will drive forward the state of the art in detecting hate speech and biased content. The companion will actively counteract this kind of content, balancing it with opposite perspectives and proposing specifically themed challenges adopting ideas used in games. 

The main duties of the role include delivering the research objectives defined by the COURAGE grant and research project; producing high-quality research papers and presenting the work at conferences; implementing and advancing state-of-the-art natural language processing algorithms to provide measurements of sentiment, bias, hatefulness, veracity, polarization, and sensationalism of social media content and integrate them with contextual information retrieval and feeds selection mechanisms and researching and developing Bayesian computational models of emotions and beliefs dynamics of social media users integrating content and connectivity information; developing reinforcement learning-based social media governance and intelligent feed selection mechanisms, providing APIs to integrate such algorithms and models in the Companion architecture and liaising with other partners on this project, which includes travelling to other project sites.

This is a fixed-term, full-time post until 30 June 2023.

Appointment will be made as Senior Research Officer.

Skills and qualifications required

Applicants are expected to hold a relevant doctoral level degree in in Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Statistics, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science or a closely related discipline or be close to completion of PhD.

The ideal candidate will have significant experience in computational modelling of social media dynamics, state-of-the art natural language processing methods, reinforcement learning and statistical modelling of multidimensional time series. They will also have a strong publication record (relative to their career stage), a strong theoretical knowledge of state-of-the-art machine learning approaches and experience in working with state-of-the-art machine learning libraries including deep learning packages.  Srong communication skills, both written and verbal are essential.

At the University of Essex internationalism is central to who we are and what we do. We are committed to being a cosmopolitan, internationally-oriented university that is welcoming to staff and students from all countries and a university where you can find the world in one place.

 Please visit our website (http://www.essex.ac.uk/vacancies/) for a full job description, person specification and more information relating to this post. We recommend you read this information carefully before making an application.  Applications should be made on-line, but if you would like advice or help in making an application, or need information in a different format, please telephone the Resourcing Team.

Closing date: 1 September 2019
Interviews are planned for:  TBC