PhD candidate, Compliance by Design: Technical Challenges of EU AI Act Requirements and Their Ethica – Leiden University – Leiden

  • Leiden

Leiden University

The Faculty of Science and the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) are looking for a:

PhD candidate, Compliance by Design: Technical Challenges of EU AI Act Requirements and Their Ethical Implications

AI Compliance by Design: Technical Challenges of EU AI Act’s Requirements and Their Ethical Implications. As artificial intelligence technologies are increasingly subject to regulation, complex questions are arising regarding both technical feasibility of assessing compliance and the wider ethical implications thereof. This PhD project aims to critically evaluate the European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act as an instance of this. The project will approach the technical challenges of promoting and monitoring compliance from several standpoints, focusing on the feasibility of translating its requirements into tangible technological solutions for assessing AI compliance. The project integrates ethical and technical dimensions, aiming to understand both how the AI Act’s ethical requirements can be translated into technical specifications and how the corresponding design choices (and their implications) can be evaluated in light of broader ethical principles. The project explores the design, development, and assessment of algorithms and systems that embody the Act’s mandates, thus ensuring that AI applications meet both ethical guidelines and technical standards. In addition, the project will explore more general principles that flow for this case for other attempts at “compliance by design” in the domain of rapidly developing AI technologies.

This PhD position is a part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (ESDiT) programme, a new ten-year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that has started in January 2020. This programme has a combined budget of € 27 million and is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research in the Gravitation funding scheme for excellent research, with the matching funds from the participating institutions. The programme has the aim of achieving breakthrough research in at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology / engineering and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. The programme includes four research lines, “Nature, life and human intervention”, “The future of a free and fair society”, “The human condition” and “Synthesis: Ethics of Technology, Practical Philosophy, and Modern Technology-Driven Societies”. This position belongs to research track STEM. A fuller description of the project as a whole, can be pointed to through the ESDiT website:

Please note that there are other vacancies in the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme at different participating universities. Applicants are encouraged to apply for more than one ESDiT position simultaneously in case of several positions are of interest to the applicant.

Key responsibilities

  • assess technical feasibility of implementing the EU AI Act’s requirements in practical AI systems, identifying technical methodologies for compliance assessment, against the background of critical review of existing efforts;
  • examine how the AI Act’s guidelines can be translated into technically feasible implementations, focusing on the integration of considerations into technical research and development processes, from the early stages, in a transdisciplinary fashion;
  • identify insights from relevant previous attempts to integrate considerations regarding the feasibility of compliance into the design specification of the new technology;
  • design and implement algorithms that meet the EU AI Act’s requirements, demonstrating technical possibilities and limitations, with an eye to developing ‘best practices’ of algorithmic design in accordance with the AI Act;
  • develop methodologies for evaluating the risk levels of AI applications, aligned with the Act’s classifications and assessing systems’ adherence to ethical and legal standards;
  • formulate more general recommendations regarding how regulatory guidelines can be designed in a way that optimises the technical feasibility of compliance (and compliance monitoring);
  • be actively involved in the project including following courses in ethics of technology (20 ECTS);
  • assist in relevant teaching activities within LIACS;
  • Selection Criteria
    The successful applicant should be a motivated university graduate who is a top performer among his/her peers and has an excellent education and/or research track record proven by relevant experience, publications, etc. The applicant is expected to have:

  • MSc degree in Artificial Intelligence, Data science, Applied Mathematics, Computer science, or related field;
  • Strong interest in ethics;
  • Good programming skills in, e.g., Python;
  • Credible experience with Machine Learning and/or Data science;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English, Dutch proficiency or willingness to learn is a plus;
  • Ability to work with diverse stakeholders, along with an affinity for connecting work in Computer Science to other relevant disciplines and societal challenges.
  • Research at our faculty
    The Faculty of Science is a world-class faculty where staff and students work together in a dynamic international environment. It is a faculty where personal and academic development are top priorities. Our people are committed to expand fundamental knowledge by curiosity and to look beyond the borders of their own discipline; their aim is to benefit science, and to contribute to addressing the major societal challenges of the future.

    The research carried out at the Faculty of Science is very diverse, ranging from mathematics, information science, astronomy, physics, chemistry and bio-pharmaceutical sciences to biology and environmental sciences. The research activities are organised in eight institutes. These institutes offer eight bachelor’s and twelve master’s programmes. The faculty has grown strongly in recent years and now has more than 2.300 staff and almost 5,000 students. We are located at the heart of Leiden’s Bio Science Park, one of Europe’s biggest science parks, where university and business life come together.

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