Vacancies: two postdoctoral researchers in CS for foundational research into 'legal tech' - deadline 15 December 2019


This is your chance to dig into the fundamental assumptions underlying computer science, teasing out the implications they may have for real life applications, notably those of 'legal tech'. The combination of research into the theory of computer science and the opportunity to make a difference in the legal domain provides a unique opening for those willing to address the societal impact of both machine learning and self-executing code, based on frontline research in the theory of computer science.   

​You will be part of the COHUBICOL CS team at Radboud University (the Netherlands). The CS team will inquire into the architecture and foundational issues of:

  • machine learning applications, e.g. prediction of judgements, 

  • self-executing code, e.g. ensuring compliance by design,

  • in the context of legal practice, while 

  • the focus will be on assumptions of computer science and their implications. 

Relevant research questions could, for instance, be:

On the side of machine learning

  1. if machine learning enables compression of a dataset into a mathematical target function, how could lay persons and lawyers learn to test and contest the relevance of the compression? 

  2. what is the relationship between ML and statistics and how do their assumptions differ? How does this relate to the difference between exploratory and confirmatory research? How does this relate to the credibility and reproducibility crisis and the lack of theoretical rigour in applied ML research?

  3. what kind of transparency is required to ensure that the output of machine learning applications in the legal domain is testable and contestable?

On the side of self-executing code (smart contracts or smart regulation):

  1. which relevant assumptions are key to the mathematical foundations of CS? 

  2. what are the relevant implications of the inherent limitations of CS, considering e.g. Godel’s incompleteness theorem, the Church-Turing thesis on undecidability, and Wolpert’s NFL theorems - coupled with the issues of e.g. undefined behaviour and floating point numbers?

  3. what kind of transparency is required to ensure that self-executing code aligns with the claims made about its behaviour (mathematical, computational, domain expertise)?


The COHUBICOL CS team will be embedded in the institute of Computing and Information Sciences (iCIS) at Radboud University Nijmegen, and there will be more than enough space to develop your own research agenda within the confines of computer science (machine learning, theoretical computer science, digital security), while also interacting with the interdisciplinary hub (iHub) on Security, Privacy, and Data Governance at Radboud.

You will engage in a sustained dialogue with members of the COHUBICOL legal team at the renowned research group on Law, Science, Technology and Society studies (LSTS), of which Hildebrandt is co-director, at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. You will help to clarify the assumptions, research design and operations of computational systems, ensuring that the legal team ‘get things right’.

To achieve this, the COHUBICOL legal team will clarify the nature and methodologies of law and legal protection. This will require a curiosity on your side for the role played by the ‘sources of law’ (Parliamentary Acts, case law, doctrine), the implications of the ambiguity inherent in natural language (ambiguity as a feature not a bug), and by the conceptual architecture of legal systems (thinking in terms of legal conditions and legal effect).  

Further information on the content of the project can be obtained by contacting Prof. Mireille Hildebrandt at


Candidates will have an excellent track record:

  • PhD in CS, with a specialisation in either

    • theoretical CS, with a focus on code-driven architecture or data-driven architecture (ML); or

    • code- or data-driven architecture, with a demonstrated affinity with theoretical CS;

  • an advantage could be that one has a minor in philosophy and/or science, technology & society studies;

  • academic writing skills, demonstrated fluency in English; 

  • an affinity with novel types of conceptualisation;

  • imagination beyond analytical skills, affinity with the generative nature of text

  • passion for conceptual clarity, critical reflection and creative intervention;

  • independent thinking and working, also when under pressure, a respect for colleagues, for deadlines, and the ambition to produce high quality work;

  • a willingness to engage with lawyers with a strong theoretical mindset.


The successful candidate will collaborate in the CS COHUBICOL team of iCIS at the Science Faculty of Radboud University (the Netherlands), under the guidance of Principle Investigator Prof. Mireille Hildebrandt.  

iCIS is a renowned computer science research institute, hosting around 130 staff, grouped along with three research themes (Digital SecuritySoftware Science, and Data Science) that build upon Radboud University’s long-standing tradition of combining cutting-edge research on the mathematical foundations of computer science with societally relevant problems that are susceptible to scientific solutions. The overall objective of iCIS is to perform excellent scientific research and to have a positive impact in science and also in society — both in terms of improved economic performance and in terms of social well-being. iCIS not only aims to study technical aspects of software systems, but also their embedding in the environments in which they have to operate. iCIS wants to have firm roots within the broad “general university” environment offered by Radboud University. This also explains the focus on formal modelling and analysis and distinguishes iCIS from computer science departments at technical universities, which typically have a more applied focus. iCIS aims to contribute to the progress of computer science itself and also to the progress of science by ICT applications in other disciplines, such as neuroscience, biology, law, and medicine, scientific areas in which Radboud University is particularly strong.


The Faculty of Science is a complete, student-oriented science faculty where research and education are closely related. The faculty aims to be an academic community with an international character, where staff members from different backgrounds can combine their talents with the common goal of being a leading faculty of science in Europe.

Radboud University wants to get the best out of science, others and ourselves. Why? Because this is what the world around us desperately needs. Leading research and education make an indispensable contribution to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This is what unites the more than 22,000 students and 5,000 employees at Radboud University. And this requires even more talent and collaboration. You have a part to play!


We offer employment as a half-time or full-time postdoctoral researcher, for 2, 3 or 4 years



Candidates will be selected on the basis of the quality and relevance of their application, and interaction during an eventual interview. The application must be submitted via the official site of Radboud University via this link

This will require the following documents:

  1. a curriculum vitae, including degrees (and grade list), scientific publications, work experience, and language skills;

  2. an expression of interest (1500 words), explaining why you are interested in COHUBICOL, what research questions you intend to develop, and what makes you a suitable candidate;

  3. two reference letters with contact details.

Deadline for the submission of applications will be 15 December 2019. A first round of interviews with selected candidates will take place in the week of 6 January 2020. The candidates will start at Radboud from 1 March 2020.