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Postdoc ERC project: The International Right to Housing and Data Science (221058)

Job description

European Research Council project
This position is part of the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant project “The Impact of the International Right to Housing on National Legal Discourse: Using Data Science Techniques to Analyse Eviction Litigation (EVICT)”. The project is led by Prof. Michel Vols, and positioned within the Department of Legal Methods.

This ERC project aims to:

A. conceptualise the international right to housing by analysing this right as a loosely associated network of housing rights, as codified in or implied by international and European treaties, case law, and the decisions of international and European official bodies and committees
B. determine and explain the impact, or lack thereof, of the international right to housing on national legal and judicial discourses by collecting and analysing data on citations of international case law used in national case law, extracting and assessing data on arguments used by parties/courts in case law, and examining the power of particular normative arguments used in the data
C. identify and explain the predictors of judicial decision-making in national eviction litigation by applying Machine Learning techniques, and assess whether these predictors can be linked to the right to housing discourse
D. explore how data science methods used in EVICT can be used in other areas of the legal discipline
E. share the collected corpora of legal data on an open access data hub (

The postdoc researcher will focus on (re)conceptualising the international right to housing.

Legal research and data science
The position concerns research identifying and analysing the corpus of relevant European and international legal documents on the right to housing. The researcher will – in an interdisciplinary research team – systematically collect, assess, and juxtapose (1) General Comments (GC) and documents relating to reporting cycles and decisions of the CESCR; (2) Resolutions of the Human Rights Council; (3) Communications and Reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing; (4) GC and documents relating to reporting cycles and decisions of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; (5) ECtHR case law and Decisions of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe; (6) Reports of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights; (7) Decisions, Conclusions and Follow-up Decisions of the ECSR; and (8) ECJ/CJEU case law.

The researcher will combine results of doctrinal legal analysis, citation network analysis, and an empirical-normative analysis to identify interactions between the various European and international texts on the right to housing. We aim to discover convergences or divergences on the scope and interpretation of the right to housing in the context of eviction. By calculating network statistics, the researcher will discover and visualise the emergence and establishment of patterns, identify the content and importance of the judgments, decisions, and reports, and measure and compare their persuasive power. The research will reveal whether and how the international and European courts and bodies have dealt with various normative positions laid down in theories concerning the divide between public/private law, property/contract paradigms and debates concerning national sovereignty versus international law.

The researcher is expected to successfully undertake research on the project; publish and edit peer-reviewed journal articles, and book chapters; as well as attend, present at, and organise conferences and workshops; and undertake (limited) teaching activities related to the ERC project. The researcher will assist the Principal Investigator with daily supervisory duties pertaining to the project.

Department of Legal Methods & Computational linguistics research group
The researcher will become a member of the Department of Legal Methods, a lively legal multidisciplinary department at the Faculty of Law. The researcher will also participate in the computational linguistics research group at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Groningen (located in the same building as the Faculty of Law).

A project synopsis can be found online ( For the full version contact Prof. Michel Vols by email.


● PhD in law (or being in the final phase of submitting a PhD thesis)
● interested in and experience with legal scientific research and methodology, including comparative legal research; an interest in data science would be an advantage
● interested in and experience with human rights and the interaction between private and public law, and international and national law
● highly proficient in spoken and written English (a writing sample will be requested)
● a working knowledge of Dutch, Spanish and/or other languages will be considered an advantage, but is not essential
● willingness to co-supervise PhD and (researcher) master students
● ability to work both individually and as part of a team
● demonstrable competences: planning and organising, conceptual capacity, presenting, monitoring, flexibility, independent, analytical skills.


Since its founding in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. We encourage the 35.000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Among the best research universities in Europe, we join forces with prestigious partner universities and networks around the world, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge.

The Faculty of Law in Groningen
The Faculty of Law ( is building on a longstanding tradition of four centuries. Its mission is to be an ambitious top-ranking faculty of law with both high-quality education and research, with a strong international orientation, firmly rooted in the North of The Netherlands.

Modern, broad and international faculty
The faculty creates and shares knowledge through outstanding education and research, benefitting society. With more than 4.900 students, the faculty is heavily involved in educating students, both Dutch and international. The faculty is a modern, broad and international institution, educating students to become forward-looking, articulate and independent lawyers.

Conditions of employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

● a postdoc salary between € 3,217 and € 3,886 (salary scale 10) gross per month on a full-time basis, depending on qualifications and work experience
● a position of 0.8 FTE (80%)
● a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
● 186 holiday hours per calendar year (with the position of 80%)
● participation in a pension scheme for employees
● a temporary position of one year (12 months) with the option of renewal for another year (12 months). Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year.

The faculty offers the opportunity to attend international conferences and to participate in workshops and seminars.

The research project also has its own funds for travel and accommodation.

The starting date of the position is 1 September 2021, or as soon as possible before or after that date


If you are interested and you meet our qualification criteria, please include within your application:

• a cover letter
• curriculum vitae
• a scanned version of your PhD degree, or a letter attesting to the fact that you are in the final stages of completion of your PhD
• a list of grades from your master’s degree (and list of publications if applicable) and the names and contact details of three referees, who may be contacted
• a writing sample of up to 10.000 words, including footnotes (on a topic related to the EVICT project).

You may apply for this position until 1 March 11:59 pm / before 2 March 2021 (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Short-listed candidates will be invited for an interview which will take place in March 2021. In such a case, it will also be possible to interview remotely.

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:

  • Prof. Michel Vols, m.vols

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