The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

PhD position 06 – MSCA COFUND, AI4theSciences (PSL, France) - “The politics of coding”

This job offer has expired

    Université PSL
    Political sciencesScience and society
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    26/02/2021 23:00 - Europe/Brussels
    France › Paris
    H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND


“Artificial intelligence for the Sciences” (AI4theSciences) is an innovative, interdisciplinary and intersectoral PhD programme, led by Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) and co-funded by the European Commission. Supported by the European innovation and research programme Horizon 2020-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, AI4theSciences is uniquely shaped to train a new generation of researchers at the highest academic level in their main discipline (Physics, Engineering, Biology, Human and Social Sciences) and master the latest technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning which apply in their own field.

26 doctoral students will join the PSL university's doctoral schools in 2 academic cohorts to carry out work on subjects suggested and defined by PSL's scientific community. The 2020 call will offer up to 15 PhD positions on 24 PhD research projects. The candidates will be recruited through HR processes of high standard, based on transparency, equal opportunities and excellence.


Description of the PhD subject: “The politics of coding”


Context - Motivation

The proposed doctoral research, "The politics of coding", starts from the observation of a double-evolution in late modernity.

On the one hand, the frontier between man and machines is under continuous re-negotiation. The instability of this distinction generates uncertainty and observable unrest in democratic values, social institutions, and personal relations. On the other hand, we live in a moment of continuous advances made in the modification or supplementing of the human body through a variety of technologies, for example the development a range of prosthetic devices, implants, brain-computer interfaces, neural implants, engineered human tissue, and chemical modifications. These interventions all have in common the fact that they take the ‘human’ as a given, then seek to enhance it, improve it, care for it, or better exploit it through a variety technical means.

Algorithmic code increasingly plays the role of simulating human mental functions. While the scope of human activities reproduced through algorithms is growing in quantity, they are also evolving rapidly in quality. Coders have long ago surpassed the primary task of recreating purely logical functions and instrumental procedures. The new challenges for creators of algorithms turn increasingly toward simulation of ‘human’ functions beyond pure logic: moral judgement, aesthetic appreciation, emotions, imagination, intuition, etc. Although a wide range of philosophical analyses have dealt with the evolution of the notion ‘humanity’ relative to the evolution of machines, exploring the limits of the human beings, etc., none have attempted to chart and analyse how the human and the machine increasingly co-constitute each other.

This project asks: what form does the transfer of ‘the human’ take across the digital divide? To what extent and in what form can human moral qualities, traditionally thought to be irreducible, be transferred to algorithms? In other words, how is ‘humanity’ coded? What are the technical particularities of code that represent human qualities, for example dignity, autonomy, liberty, or responsibility? To what extent can the knowledge and the practices of the human sciences apply to algorithmic coding? Which algorithmic tools are available for simulating the human?


Scientific Objectives, Methodology & Expected results

Importance of artificial intelligence

One of the pillars of the project will be a conceptualisation of the artificial intelligence for the human sciences. Relatively few scientific studies have succeeded in translating the rapidly evolving science of artificial intelligence into terms that permit it to be understood, assessed, integrated into the human and social sciences. The tacit, two-way aim of the research will be to improve the ‘humanity’ of AI while at the same generating new human and social scientific insight into the technical dimensions of AI.


Interest and relevance in the subject area

Any contribution to the understanding and critical analysis of AI in human and social scientific terms will in itself be a significant contribution to the state of scientific research. Current research in the human and social sciences is rife with misinformation and misunderstanding, even while the presence of AI touches an increasing range of the objects and processes that are the objects of these sciences.


Challenges and impacts expected

The fundamental challenge will be that of managing interdisciplinarity in the shaping of both theory and method. The fields of political theory and artificial intelligence lie far from each in their ontologies and their methodologies. Careful calibration of the their common trajectory will be necessary. The impact of the proposed research is potentially great. A fully developed set of political concepts which can accompany and enrich the development of AI will have a significant impact on the quality and the viability of coming systems.


International mobility

The doctoral researcher will be invited to an internship/collaboration with the ERC Advance Researcher project Counting as a Human Being in the Era of Computational Law COHUBICOL, at the Research Group Law, Science, Technology and Society of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB, Belgium).


Thesis supervision

J. Peter Burgess and Jean-Gabriel Ganascia



Created in 2012, Université PSL is aiming at developing interdisciplinary training programmes and science projects of excellence within its members. Its 140 laboratories and 2,900 researchers carry out high-level disciplinary research, both fundamental and applied, fostering a strong interdisciplinary approach. The scope of Université PSL covers all areas of knowledge and creation (Sciences, Humanities and Social Science, Engineering, the Arts). Its eleven component schools gather 17,000 students and have won more than 200 ERC. PSL has been ranked 36th in the 2020 Shanghai ranking (ARWU).

More Information


  • Opportunity to conduct academic research in a top 100 university in the world.
  • High-quality doctoral training rewarded by a PhD degree, prepared within Ecole Normale Supérieure - PSL and delivered by PSL.
  • Access to cutting-edge infrastructures for research & innovation.
  • Appointment for a period of 36 months (job contract delivered by the involved component school of PSL) based on a salary of 3100 € gross employer (including employer tax) per month or approximately a 2228 € gross salary per month.
  • Job contract under the French labour legislation in force, respecting health and safety, and social security: 35 hours per week contract, 25 days of annual leave per year (“congés annuels”). Eventual complementary activities may be accepted or proposed by the co-supervisors (maximum of 64h/year for teaching, 32 day/year for specific missions).
  • Short stay(s) or secondment in France or abroad are expected.
  • An international environment supported by the adherence to the European Charter & Code.
  • Access to AI training package, with a strong interdisciplinary focus, together with a Career development Plan.

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants must have a Master’s degree (or be in the process of obtaining one) or have a University degree equivalent to a European Master’s (5-year duration) to be eligible at the time of the deadline of the relative call.
  • There is no nationality or age criteria, but applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the deadline of the call (MSCA Mobility rule).
  • Applicants must declare to be available to start the programme on schedule.

For submitting your online application, go to: https://www.psl.eu/recherche/grands-projets-de-recherche/projets-europee...


The online application should contain the following documents:

  • English translated transcripts from the Master’s degree (or equivalent 5-year degree). A copy of the Master’s degree or a certificate of achievement will be required later on for the final registration.
  • International curriculum vitae and a cover letter explaining the reasons that lead him/her to prepare a PhD, why he/she applies to this offer and his/her professional project (guidelines will be given to the applicants in order to help him/her in the writing of his/her letter).
  • Two academic reference letters.
  • A statement duly signed on the mobility rules, availability, and conflicts of interest.


The applicants can only apply to one PhD project among the available ones. Multiple applications of one candidate will automatically make all his/her applications ineligible.

Selection process

The applications will be analysed by the Management Team for eligibility and completeness. Afterwards, the applications will be reviewed by the Selection Committee. In the pre-selection round (March-April 2021), applicants will be rated using a scoring system based on 3 criteria (academic excellence, experience, motivation, and qualities). A shortlist of qualified applicants will be interviewed during the selection round (June 2021) to further assess their qualifications and skills according to the predefined selection criteria.

All information regarding the applications (criteria, composition of the Selection Committee, requirements) can be found on the website of the programme, in greater detail.


The selection and recruitment processes of the PhD student will be in accordance with the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct of the Recruitment of Researchers. The recruitment process will be open, transparent, impartial, equitable, and merit based. There will be no discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion of belief, disability, or age.

Additional comments

The ENS-AXA Research Chair in the Geopolitics of Risk is a 10-year research programme (2015-2025) that seeks to join a range of disciplinary approach to the politics of uncertainty in the global age. It unifies research in political science, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and law in order to re-visit the challenge of finding security in an age of the politics of uncertainty.

The Chair is hosted by the Department of Geography and Territories of the Ecole Normale Supérieure.


The Ecole Normale Supérieure - PSL is a leading multidisciplinary institution that focuses on training through research. The ENS - PSL defines and applies scientific and technological research policies, from a multidisciplinary and international perspective and counts close relationships with prestigious partners, in France and abroad. It encompasses fourteen teaching and research departments, spanning the main Humanities, Sciences, and disciplines. The ENS - PSL currently has a staff of almost 800 lecturers, ENS - PSL, CNRS or associated researchers, and post-doc researchers. Within its Departments, the ENS - PSL includes 40 research units identified as ENS - PSL, INSERM or INRIA, encompassing ENS - PSL and CNRS agents as well as 300 foreign researchers and 650 doctoral students. The ENS - PSL respects the principles of the European Charter and Code for Researchers and is engaged in the HRS4R certification.

Web site for additional job details

Required Research Experiences

    Political sciences
    1 - 4

Offer Requirements

    Political sciences: Master Degree or equivalent
    ENGLISH: Excellent


  • M2 (MSc) in Political Science with a strong emphasis in Political Theory or modern Political Philosophy.
  • Fluent in English, both spoken and written.
  • Publication experience and fluency in other languages are an advantage.

Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
République des Savoirs, Ecole Normale Supérieure - PSL
45, rue d Ulm

EURAXESS offer ID: 579850


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