PhD: Accountable Geo-Intelligence

University of Twente

Enschede, , NL

The department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo Information Management (PGM) of ITC works on the linkage of geospatial technologies with diverse societal fields, and takes the role of people as stakeholder in all processes central, and looks both at understanding the past and the present, as well as predicting and supporting governance decisions. The key focus of the work is on developments in the global South and is highly related to global challenges as recently described in the SDGs aiming at leaving no-one behind. In close cooperation with the department of Earth Observation Systems (EOS) and the department of Philosophy (of the faculty BMS) PGM is undertaking the NWO-sponsored project ‘Disastrous Information: Embedding “Do No Harm” principles into innovative geo-intelligence workflows for effective humanitarian action’.

Humanitarian organizations currently use three geo-intelligence workflows: (1) human geo-intelligence through ground surveys and (2) through manual identification of objects of interest in satellite or drone imagery by digital humanitarians; (3) artificial geo-intelligence algorithms to automatically create maps of e.g. buildings and their construction materials, or to identify complex patterns between physical, environmental, and socio-economic geospatial data. Speed and scalability, but also complexity and abstraction from the scrutinized community and its territory, increase when moving from workflow (1) to (3). Increased complexity increases the risk of unwittingly introducing bias, which has led to a number of proposals for the development of FAT algorithms (Fair, Accountable and Transparent), but none so far for geo-intelligence. You will work on developing FAT geo-intelligence for effective humanitarian action, combining sophisticated data collection and algorithmic design techniques, while at the same time protecting individual and group privacy. Empirically, the focus is primarily on Malawi but also on other African countries of direct interest to Dutch government partners and valorisers of the NWO-sponsored project.

You will:

  • conduct research, undertake experiments and interact with stakeholders to come to accountable geo-intelligence in the context of the humanitarian work in Malawi, among other countries
  • present (preliminary) results at appropriate meetings and conferences
  • publish results in scientific journals
  • follow topic-related and more generic courses and trainings within the graduate school
  • contribute to teaching on topics related to your work
  • represent and promote the NWO project in collaboration with your supervisory team and the later to be appointed post doc
  • prepare a full PhD thesis on your work within four years

Your profile

  • You possess a Master’s in computing, geo-computing, data sciences or similar, with high marks for research oriented courses, esp. the thesis.
  • You have a proven interest in the ethical consequences of technological developments a/o big data analytics.
  • You are interested, if not yet active, in the humanitarian (data) field.
  • Affinity with a multi-cultural and interdisciplinary environment is key.
  • You have a willingness to travel and stay in less developed countries.
  • An excellent command of English.


Additional information about this position can be obtained from prof. dr. Yola Georgiadou (e-mail: [email protected]). You are also invited to visit our homepage.

Please submit your application before 2 February 2020 (choose “apply now” below). Your application must include (i) a motivation letter clearly stating how you meet the selection criteria and (ii) a detailed CV with references. 12 February 2020 has been set aside to conduct the interviews.

Our offer

We offer you an inspiring multidisciplinary and challenging international and academic environment. The university offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues in which internationalization is an important part of the strategic agenda.

You will be fulltime employed for four years. Salary and conditions will be in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement (CAO-NU) of the Dutch Universities.

  • A starting salary of € 2,325.00 in the first year and a salary of € 2,972.00 in the fourth year gross per month;
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A solid pension scheme;
  • Minimum of 41 holiday days in case of full-time employment;
  • Professional and personal development programs;
  • Costs for moving to Enschede may be reimbursed.

The organization

The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

The Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente provides international postgraduate education, research and project services in the field of geo-information science and earth observation using remote sensing and GIS. The aim of ITC’s activities is the international exchange of knowledge, focusing on capacity building and institutional development in developing countries and emerging economies.