Postdoctoral Research Position, Algorithmic Bias and Discrimination – Faculty of Law University of Oxford

Faculty of Law University of Oxford
February 10, 2021
Oxford, United Kingdom
Job Type



Amidst important debates about the gig economy and the automation of jobs, scant attention has been paid to the rise of algorithmic management: the increasingly pervasive reliance on monitoring technology and sophisticated algorithms to measure, control, and sanction workers (also known as ‘People Analytics’ or ‘Big Data HR’). This poses a fundamental threat to the legal regulation of our labour markets. Automated management allows the exercise of hitherto impossibly granular employer control. At the same time, however, the absence of clear decisions and traditional management structures appears to disperse responsibility ‘into the cloud’.

What technologies are required for responsible algorithmic management? How can regulation – from data protection and discrimination to employment law – respond to a world in which automation has not replaced workers—but their bosses? iManage will develop a systematic account of the challenges and potential of this rapidly growing field, examine its implications for legal regulation, and develop concrete solutions to avoid harmful path-dependencies. Looking at a range of technologies and jurisdictions across the European Union and beyond, the project team will work at the intersection of data science and law. In articulating the underlying structures of automated management control, it will develop a new and positive role for the law in ensuring algorithmic accountability, and shaping the responsible use of technology in the workplace. The results will be published both in the form of traditional academic writings and toolkits for regulators, developers, and social partners. A full project description and details of envisaged outputs are available from the PI on request.

About the Role

The researcher will work collaboratively with the PI and other members of the research group to accomplish the aims of the iManage project. They will lead on work package II, exploring algorithmic bias and discrimination, as well as providing guidance to junior members of the research group, including research assistants. This will focus on the technical challenges inherent in automating employer functions, from hiring to firing (e.g. competing definitions of fairness, and their mathematical reflection in different models), as well as the proactive development of novel technical approaches and toolkits for a range of stakeholders.

Expected outputs include both independent papers and collaborative writing with the PI, as well as participation in workshops, congresses, and broader project activities. A relocation and IT allowance are available, as is funding for conference attendance and research travel. In the third year of the Fellowship, the researcher will have the opportunity of participating in short-term placements with project partners.

The successful applicant will be offered an affiliation with the Human-Centred Computing theme in the Department of Computer Science at Oxford University, which covers human-computer interaction, social computing, and the world-wide web. They will also enjoy discipline-specific mentoring from Professor Reuben Binns in Computer Science, and regular interaction with the project advisory board which includes Dr Janine Berg (International Labour Organisation), Prof Krishna Gummadi (Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, Saarbrücken), Azeem Azhar (Exponential View), and Prof Ifeoma Ajunwa (UNC Law).


The postholder should hold, or be close to completion of, a PhD/DPhil in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Science or a related discipline; have demonstrated expertise in the field of Human Centred Computing or related fields, and research / professional software engineering experience; outstanding research and writing skills, including the ability to assist in the design and development of joint publications, ideally demonstrated in previous publications and/or participation in research projects and the ability to manage own academic research and associated activities.

The post is full time and fixed-term for three years, to commence in the autumn of 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter. The postholder will be based at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, Mansfield College, Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TF.


Interested applicants can view the posing here.

Applications for this vacancy are to be made online via and enter vacancy ID:.  149338.  You will be required to submit a covering letter and CV as part of your application.

You will also need to submit a sample of written work in English as well as three referees’ reports to by the closing date.

Closing date for applications is midday on 1 March 2021.  Interviews are likely to be held in the week commencing 8 March 2021.

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