PhD position on Actionable open source intelligence and reliability assessment for forensic investigation of cold cases

The Centrum voor Veiligheid en Digitalisering (Centre for Safety and Digitalisation, CVD) is a knowledge institute in which companies and public organisations are collaborating on questions related to this theme. In this context,  the University of Twente, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, and the Police Academy of the Netherlands are setting up a joint research program around this time. The research program is centered around the 3 focus areas of the CVD: critical data & infrastructure, actionable intelligence and cyberresilience.

The goal of this project is to design and realise an open source intelligence (OSINT) system automating search and gathering of new evidence geared towards re-opening of cold cases. They focus in particular on uncertainty and reliability of information, associated plausibility of scenarios, and consequences for responsible use.

For each research line, they are looking for two PhD students to work on this theme. The PhD students will work in a multidisciplinary fashion, in close collaboration with each other, and with the supervision teams with members from the different CVD partners. Got intereted? Apply now!

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Vacature details

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About the Project:

Murder, manslaughter and cold cases reliably attract media interest. In addition to official criminal investigation conducted by the police and judiciary, they are popular subjects for investigative journalists and citizens' initiatives. Sometimes done individually, but more often in a collective, the brainpower of creative minds (wisdom of the crowd) is used to distil new lines of investigation in stalled murder investigations.

What these investigative journalist and citizen initiatives have in common is that both use publicly available information usually obtained through the world-wide web, also known as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). The question is, however, how do you derive reliable and high quality information from data obtained from such public sources, specifically for cold case investigations? The goal of the project is to develop a system to provide automated support for both the search and reasoning activities. Safety, security and the responsible use (including such questions as bias, reliability, privacy, transparency, explainability) of decision-support systems are crucial. As result, the project will research the legal and ethical aspects of this technology and ways to incorporate them into the design and use.

Relying on OSINT data rases a number of epistemological issues, most notably reliability. Sometimes data is subjective, incomplete, not current, or incorrect, sometimes it can be interpreted in different ways, etc. These issues come hand in hand with ethical and legal questions regarding the semi-automatic collection and analysis of cold case data. Besides the obvious privacy and data protection challenges, the project pays special attention to (a) assessing and addressing bias in the data and its reliability (including value assumptions and value by design-strategies), (b) the role of trust in authorities when combing knowledge created by professionals and citizens, (c) responsible use of AI technology and its proper integration in the decision-making process in this domain. Hence, questions at the core of the project are: How can they harvest the potential of AI and citizen-science in the context of “cold case,” while protecting ethical values and preserving the sense of responsibility for decisions made with the help of AI?


Your profile:

  • You are an enthusiastic and highly motivated researcher.
  • You have, or will shortly, acquire a master degree in Computer Science or an equivalent degree.
  • Affinity with philosophy (especially, epistemology or ethics) or forensic investigation is a plus
  • You have a creative mindset and excellent analytical and communication skills.
  • You have a good team spirit and like to work in an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented environment.
  • You are proficient in English (verbal and written).


Their offer:

  • As a PhD student at UT, you will be appointed to a full-time position for four years, with a qualifier in the first year, within a very stimulating and exciting scientific environment;
  • The University and partner institutes offer a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues;
  • Your salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU);
  • You will receive a gross monthly salary ranging from € 2.443,- (first year) to € 3.122,- (fourth year);
  • There are excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme;
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid);
  • You will have a training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision;
  • Part of this training programme will be filled by trainings developed especially by the CVD partners;
  • They encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence, while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other staff.

Bedrijfsprofiel Universiteit Twente

About the organization:

The faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) uses mathematics, electronics and computer technology to contribute to the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). With ICT present in almost every device and product we use nowadays, they embrace their role as contributors to a broad range of societal activities and as pioneers of tomorrow's digital society. As part of a people-first tech university that aims to shape society, individuals and connections, their faculty works together intensively with industrial partners and researchers in the Netherlands and abroad, and conducts extensive research for external commissioning parties and funders. Their research has a high profile both in the Netherlands and internationally. It has been accommodated in three multidisciplinary UT research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centre and Digital Society Institute.

About the department:

The Data Management and Biometrics (DMB) group's objective is to contribute to explainable, robust, and resilient data science by developing methods for autonomous, reliable, and robust gathering, preparation, and analysis of the data, to enable relevant, trustworthy, and explainable results. Data science's abilities for data analysis and machine learning drive novel innovative services and benefit society in a large variety of domains, including health, engineering, safety and security, business, and science. At the same time, this digitalisation comes with challenges. You can think of concepts like fairness, data quality, and trust, and threats such as fake news that must be addressed. This requires an interdisciplinary approach bridging fields like computational statistics, machine learning, image and signal processing, information retrieval, and data processing and management. The DMB group currently consists of 15 persons academic staff (including four affiliates), three supporting staff, and 24 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.


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