Post-doctoral Research Assistant

Opportunity for a Post-doctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) to work on two projects related to the role of social media in influencing political behaviour.

JOB TITLE Post-doctoral Research Assistant
LOCATION British Library, London
SALARY £35,000 per annum
HOURS Full time
CONTRACT TYPE Permanent
PLACED ON 6th October 2017
CLOSES
29th October 2017

The first project looks at political advertising on social media, exploring the relative effects of different advertising designs – varied according to the degree of social information about what other people are doing – on an individual’s own likelihood in participating in public good behaviour. The second project looks at volatility in political systems, generating a wide range of data sources to explore how social media feed volatility in political systems, with chains of social influence creating continual series of punctuated equilibria, injecting turbulence into political systems. The PDRA will work as part of a project team that includes political scientists Peter John and Helen Margetts. They will gather data sources, liaise with social media platforms, design experiments, analyse data and work with the other members of the team to devise theoretical models of political behaviour on social media platforms and to prepare conference and journal papers reporting on the results; to contribute to the ideas in the ongoing project, including looking at potential longer term impact development; and to plan the integration of any new ideas with emerging grant proposals. The position is suitable to candidates who have completed a PhD degree in a social science discipline, with a strong data analytical and/or experimental focus.

The goal of these projects are to understand better the influences at work on individual political behaviour taking place on social media, hypothesized to be an important source of volatility in political systems. This social influence includes social information regarding the behaviour of other people, demonstrated in a range of previous research to be a key driver of individual level decision-making, with popular initiatives becoming more popular and unpopular ones languishing with no support. While most mobilizations formed in this way wither away completely, a few generate rapid rises in support or dissatisfaction which are both unstable and unpredictable. Understanding this volatility, and improving ways that data can be generated and analysed to provide warning signals will be an increasingly important task for policy-makers in the future. We will investigate idealised theoretical models and, concurrently, embark on an intense exchange of ideas with practitioners and applied statisticians to guide the theoretical investigations. While at least in the beginning the emphasis of the project is predominantly on the theoretical side, we will also implement any new algorithms and apply them to data from industry partners.

The project will take place at the Alan Turing Institute (The Turing) and in the partner universities of University of Warwick, UCL, and Imperial College. At The Turing, access to both a large number of research experts, useful data sets, and cloud computer facilities is available.

The project will be carried out in collaboration with the other project members Peter John (UCL/the Turing) and Helen Margetts (Oxford/The Turing), with Scott Hale (Oxford/the Turing) for the second project.

THE ALAN TURING INSTITUTE

The Alan Turing Institute (the Turing) is the national centre for data science, established in 2015 with the mission to make great leaps in transformational data science research that will have positive real-world impacts.

The Institute has cross-disciplinarily at its core; we bring researchers in mathematics and theoretical computer science, statistics and machine learning, algorithm for data analytics and distributed computing, computational social science and data ethics, and industry partners, to work together in an open and collaborative environment with a shared goal to generate world-class research in data science.

Our researchers are motivated by driving impact, both through theoretical development and application to real-world problems. In our first year we have identified six priority sectors to focus our translational research: Data-Centric Engineering; Defence and Security; Smart Cities; Culture and Media; Financial Services; and Health and Wellbeing.

We have attracted strategic partnerships with a broad range of users of data science including the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Intel, GCHQ and HSBC. We are looking to develop partnerships with government departments and have recently announced a collaboration with the Office of National Statistics.

We invite you to join us as we grow our research community, supporting our goal to develop the next generation of data science leaders, shape the public conversation, and push the boundaries of this new science for the public good.

THE ROLE

They will gather data sources, liaise with social media platforms, design experiments, analyse data and work with the other members of the team to devise theoretical models of political behaviour on social media platforms and to prepare conference and journal papers reporting on the results; to contribute to the ideas in the ongoing project, including looking at potential longer term impact development; and to plan the integration of any new ideas with emerging grant proposals. The position is suitable to candidates who have completed a PhD degree in a social science discipline, with a strong data analytical and/or experimental focus.

The role is available for one year, either part or full time, with the possibility of an extension should further funding be secured.

DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES

The RA will work with the team to advance the aims of the project.

PERSON SPECIFICATION

Essential:

  • A PhD (or equivalent experience and/or qualifications) in a social science discipline.
  • Programming experience in Python, R, C/C++, Java, or similar.
  • Good statistical ability.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills including the ability to present complex or technical information.
  • Understanding of data wrangling and data management.
  • Ability to lead one’s own work, including planning and execution, and to prioritize work to meet deadlines.
  • Ability to work as part of a team.

Desirable:

  • An interest in and knowledge of politics and policy-making
  • Experience with working with a people from different disciplines.
  • Experience in writing grant proposals.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE

If you are interested in this opportunity, please send your CV and a covering letter to jobs@turing.ac.uk. Please also arrange for two references to be sent directly to this e-mail address by the closing date at the latest. Applications will not go forward for shortlisting without references. If you have questions or would like to discuss the role further with a member of the Institute’s HR Team, please contact them on 0203 862 3375 or email HR@turing.ac.uk.

CLOSING DATE FOR APPLICATIONS: 29th October 2017

INTERVIEWS (at The Turing): 20 November 2017

 The Alan Turing Institute is committed to creating an environment where diversity is valued and everyone is treated fairly.  In accordance with the Equality Act, we welcome applications from anyone who meets the specific criteria of the post regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender reassignment, marital status, pregnancy, religion or belief or sexual orientation. Reasonable adjustments to the interview process can also be made for any candidates with a disability.

Please note all offers of employment are subject to continuous eligibility to work in the UK and satisfactory pre-employment security screening which includes a DBS Check.

Full details on the pre-employment screening process can be requested from HR@turing.ac.uk.