PhD Position – Fair NLP: Mitigating bias and discrimination in datasets and machine learning models for natural language processing
Posted : 3 November 2020
Closes : 4 December 2020

PhD Position

Applicants are invited to apply for a PhD studentship with Insight Centre for Data Analytics, at the School of Information and Communication in University College Dublin, Ireland. The successful applicant will work on a project entitled ‘Fair NLP: Mitigating bias and discrimination in datasets and machine learning models for natural language processing.

Bias in AI systems has the potential to set back decades of advances in equal rights and civil liberties. This is largely attributable to the way in which social injustices and discriminatory attitudes embedded in data can be learned and perpetuated through AI systems. This is particularly pertinent in relation to language datasets and models where biases and discriminatory attitudes can be deeply embedded and challenging to unravel.This project addresses these issues through the development of methods for the curation of datasets for machine learning and evaluation of trained language models. The project will be informed by critical theories of gender and race and will enable evaluation of the social dynamics of power embedded in NLP (natural language processing) systems, thereby contributing to advances in fairness and transparency in AI.

The project is supervised by Dr Susan Leavy from the School of Information and communication and is funded through the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.


Trustworthy AI, Data and Society is an initiative within Insight Centre for Data Analytics, concerned with approaches to the development and implementation of trustworthy, fair and responsible AI. Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics is one of the largest data analytics centres in Europe. It undertakes high-impact research, seeks to derive value from Big Data and provides innovative technology solutions for industry and society by enabling better decision-making.

The Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics ( is an SFI funded Research Centre which brings together researchers from University College Dublin, NUI Galway, University College Cork, and Dublin City University, as well as other partner institutions, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University of Limerick (UL), Maynooth University (MU) and Tyndall National Institute. It creates a critical mass of more than 400 researchers from Ireland’s leading ICT clusters to carry out research on a new generation of data analytics technologies in a number of key application domain areas such as Health and Human Performance, Smart Communities, Internet of Things, Enterprise and Services and Sustainability and Operations.

The School of Information and Communication Studies is the only academic institution in Ireland to provide degrees in Information and Library Studies, Information Systems and Digital Curation. The School is an active member of the ‌iSchools consortium – a global collection of Information Schools dedicated to advancing the information field and sharing a fundamental interest in the relationships between information, people, and technology.

Entry Requirements:
– 2.1 grade (or equivalent) in an undergraduate or postgraduate degree incorporating one or more of the following: natural language processing, computational linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, statistics, cognitive science or similar discipline.
– Non-native English speakers require at least IELTS 6.5 (with at least 6 in all components) or equivalent (further details on equivalence of tests are available here).

Desirable Skills:

– Knowledge of critical theories (e.g. feminism, critical race theory) or sociolinguistics and demonstrable interest in social justice
– Experience with large-scale text datasets and projects involving language models (e.g. word embeddings)
– Experience with cloud platforms and Linux environments
– Fluency in Python
– Strong writing and communication skills


The successful candidate will receive a generous scholarship valued at around €110,000. This covers PhD fees (fully covered for EU students and partially covered for non-EU students), a tax-free stipend of €18,500 per annum for four years, funds for conference travel, and an equipment allowance.

To Apply

An application consisting of a curriculum vitae, cover letter, and scanned copies of relevant academic transcripts should be sent to Dr. Susan Leavy ( by 5pm on December 4th, 2020.