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PhD in Foundations of Knowledge and Opinion Formation in Social Networks 1.0 FTE (220427)

Job description

How do social networks affect knowledge and opinion formation in groups? The flow of information (as well as misinformation and disinformation) and social influence are two key factors in how agents form their opinions in social networks. Formal tools to model knowledge, beliefs, and social influence in multi-agent systems abound in recent literature. Yet, only little is known about how social networks affect knowledge and belief formation. For example, the impact that social networks have on various “groupthink” phenomena is typically taken for granted, while rarely formally analysed.

The goal of this project is to provide foundational analytical results answering, for instance, some of the following questions: how do social networks constrain opinion flow? Which communication protocols and/or network structures perform better than others in terms of truth-tracking? Are there non-trivial network structures that necessarily increase/decrease specific herding effects? Are there ways to make a population of agents provably less vulnerable to disinformation campaigns?

In this project we will:

  • investigate the foundations of opinion formation processes in groups of agents
  • lay the theoretical groundwork for modelling and analysing how opinions are exchanged and evolve in groups of agents
  • develop principled methods for evaluating which communication procedures provably improves a group truth-tracking performances.

The objective of the temporary position is the production of a number of research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and conference proceedings, which together will form the basis of a thesis leading to a PhD degree (Dr) at the University of Groningen.


The successful candidate should:

  • have a keen interest in pursuing fundamental and interdisciplinary research at the interface of logic, formal and social epistemology, social network analysis, multi-agent systems, and social psychology, and collective artificial intelligence
  • have a master’s degree or equivalent in logic, theoretical philosophy, artificial intelligence or another relevant field
  • good analytical skills and a positive attitude towards interdisciplinary work.


Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative institution of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 35,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global centre of knowledge.

Within the Faculty of Science and Engineering, a 4-years PhD position is available at the Bernoulli Institute for Mathematics, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence with the topic of foundations of knowledge and opinion formation in social networks. The candidate would become a member of the Multi-Agent Systems Group of the Artificial Intelligence Department and will work under the supervision of Dr Zoé Christoff.

Conditions of employment

We offer you, following the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month in the fourth and final year for a full-time working week
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
• a full-time position (1.0 FTE). The successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering.


Application should include:

• letter of motivation
• CV (including contact information for at least two academic references)
• transcripts from your bachelor’s and master’s degree.

You can submit your application until 31 January 11:59pm / before 1 February 2021 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Applications received before 1 February 2021 will be given full consideration; however, the position will remain open until it is filled.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

  • Dr Zoé Christoff, z.l.christoff

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.