Research fellow (NLP/computational linguistics) for the Dissident Networks Project

Department
Centre for the Digital Research of Religion Faculty of Arts
Deadline
30 Apr 2021
Start date
1 September 2021 (negotiable)
e-Application

Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University announces an open competition for:

 

Full-time research fellowship for a computational linguist or NLP specialist in an ERC-funded digital research project on medieval heresy and inquisition

 

Department: Centre for the Digital Research of Religion, Department for the Study of Religions, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University

Position: researcher

Work time: 100%

Number of open positions: 1

Expected start: 1 September 2021 (negotiable)

Duration: 31 August 2022 (first contract), 31 August 2026 (very probable extension based on performance review)

Deadline for applications: 30 April 2021 23:59 CET (UTC+1)

 

The Dissident Networks Project (DISSINET, https://dissinet.cz/) - an ERC Consolidator Grant-funded research initiative based at Masaryk University (Brno, Czech Republic) - offers a full-time postdoctoral or senior research fellowship in computational text analysis. The research of the successful applicant will focus on discursive patterns in medieval inquisitorial records, with the aim of shining a new light on the textual practices of inquisition notaries, the interaction at trial, the discourse of inquisition texts, and religious dissidence.

 

We are searching for a research fellow with one of the following types of profile:

(a) computational linguist, NLP specialist or text mining specialist, with a strong interest in history and ancient languages

(b) digital humanist, with a strong competence in Latin and experienced in historical research, programming, and the analysis of textual corpora; or

(c) another kind of mixed/interdisciplinary profile, with some of the previously mentioned competencies and strong interest in working on a historical research project.

 

The successful candidate will develop their own research direction in consultation with the Principal Investigator (Dr. David Zbíral), focusing on the computational text processing and analysis of medieval inquisitorial records, e.g. building and maintaining NLP pipeline, stylometric and semantic analysis (word frequency and word co-occurrence, word embeddings, lexical dispersion, measures of lexical richness, measures of distance of texts, text reuse analysis, semantic distribution models) etc. The broader team also works extensively on the manual coding of inquisitorial material, offering a close-reading layer to be compared and contrasted with the distant-reading analysis of the textual corpus provided by NLP techniques. DISSINET at large focuses on various computational approaches to Christian dissent and inquisition, also including social network analysis and geographic information science: the successful candidate will have the opportunity to produce mixed-methodology work in this collaborative context. The ERC-funded position thus represents a unique opportunity for building a truly cutting-edge research profile.

The position is residential (although with reasonable flexibility for the duration of the pandemic). We are open to applications from those who have already completed their doctorates, and those who have submitted their thesis and are only awaiting the award of their degree. The successful candidates will be expected to have had their doctoral degree awarded prior to joining the project.

Requirements:

  • Strong interest in historical languages and the project’s topic.
  • Experience in research-oriented NLP of textual corpora (analysis, visualization).
  • Ability to learn new techniques and adapt existing ones (e.g., customize available tools to the medieval Latin of inquisitorial sources).
  • Programming skills (Python or R).
  • Version control (e.g., GitHub, GitLab...).
  • Digital text representation and annotation standards (esp. TEI/XML).
  • English language (C1 or higher).
  • Autonomy and ability to work in close team collaboration.

Other competencies of interest to the project:

  • Latin language.
  • Statistics.
  • Distributional semantics, stylometry.
  • Machine learning.
  • Data standards and interoperability (e.g., RDF, linked data).
  • Databases, data lifecycle management, metadata.
  • Technical experience with repositories of images and digital texts.

We do not expect candidates to possess all of these “other competencies of interest”, and recognise there may be other skills beyond this list that could enhance DISSINET’s research profile.

We offer:

  • A full-time research position in an interdisciplinary team working on an exciting frontier-research project.
  • Growth in interdisciplinary historical and social scientific research.
  • Individual research budget for participating in conferences and workshops, choosing books to be purchased, etc. (ca. 4,000 € each year).
  • Participation in writing high-profile publications in digital humanities, computational social science, network analysis, and history.
  • Friendly and informal working environment.

Responsibilities:

  • Leading a key research strand within DISSINET with a focus on the discursive patterns in medieval inquisitorial records.
  • Leading the constitution of a corpus of medieval inquisitorial records.
  • Supervising research assistants helping with the mark-up of OCR-ed texts.
  • Co-authoring articles (incl. as lead author).
  • Participating in the team’s discussions, meetings, tutorials, and other activities.
  • Contributing to the project’s visibility (papers at conferences, publications, online outcomes, social media, etc.).
  • Reading and excerpting literature.
  • Organizational and administrative responsibilities related to the project.

Attachments to the application:

  • Letter of motivation (in English).
  • Two letters of recommendation from established scholars in a relevant field (candidates may either submit their referees’ letter themselves or, if preferable, ask their referees to send them to the PI confidentially).
  • Structured CV (in English) with an overview of competences, language skills (incl. Latin and English), previous research experience, and a list of publications (incl. submitted).
  • Two to four commented examples of code (co-)authored by the applicant (if co-authored, with a description of the candidate’s contribution).
  • Two examples of academic texts (co-)authored by the applicant (in any European language; if co-authored, with a description of the candidate’s contribution).
  • Scanned proofs of the Ph.D. degree (e.g. academic transcript, certificate) or, if awaiting examination, written proof of thesis submission (dated no later than the call’s deadline).

 

The selection procedure has three rounds. The first will be based on the submitted attachments. In the second, the short-listed applicants will receive a corpus of plain texts in Latin and will demonstrate their skills and their approaches to research by processing those texts and submitting a proof-of-concept report with text and visuals. In the third, they will discuss with the PI their possible research focus within the larger DISSINET project, turn the topic into a written research project proposal, and participate in an interview via videoconference.

 

The candidate’s Ph.D. degree does not need to be recent for this position. Career breaks do not pose any problem: we are very open to those seeking to return to academia, provided their skills and interests are suited to the role. Applications from female candidates are particularly encouraged.

 

How to apply...?

Application with all required documents should be sent by e-application available below. Electronic application deadline is: April 30, 2021.

 

e-Application

We will send you a link to the e-application

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