PhD Researcher in Criminal Law – Maastricht University (UM) – Maastricht

Maastricht University (UM)

Are you interested in criminal law and the intersection between liability and technology? Do you want to be part of a research team that is exploring the boundaries of criminal law and investigating how new advancements in Artificial Intelligence are reshaping the landscape of accountability? If so, apply to this PhD position and join us at the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology at Maastricht University.

Job Description
Research project: Adjudicating Criminal Liability in Multifactorial Technological Scenarios.

Over the past 50 years, our society (and our legal systems) has ceased to view disasters as “acts of fate” to be dealt with only after their occurrence. In this day and age, catastrophes are seen as a phenomenon to be prevented. It follows that when things go wrong, and disasters occur, someone must be held accountable. The undesired event which results from a failure of such systems, i.e., a catastrophe, is of a multifactorial nature: it can be caused by a combination of natural and technological factors, such as omissive conducts of multiple subjects, decisions taken in split-second scenarios, structural deficiencies of the system, and, in some cases, even by the conduct of the victims themselves. It follows that ascribing the fault of an accident to a single “root cause” (as it is in the case of criminal proceedings) appears to be an inherently flawed process.

The recent evolution in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has led to introduction of AI-based safety enhancing features and accident prevention systems. These systems can have different duties, such as observing and assessing a person’s fitness to perform a specific high-risk task and issuing warnings/take-over requests. The introduction of these systems leads to the emergence of cooperative actions between the AI system and the human agent, which, again, leads to shared responsibility. This might have relevant consequences on the attribution of criminal liability. On the one hand, there might be the need pose new questions and, on the other hand, to evaluate the need for new answers to old questions.

Moreover, the same evaluations will then enter the criminal trial and may be used as evidence against the defendant. Rules of criminal procedure might not be equipped to deal with this new type of evidence. Differently from other types of “traditional evidence”, establishing reliability, accuracy, and credibility of AI-evidence could be challenging due to its characteristics, such as its opaque nature. One could also question its relevance and probative value. These aspects impact questions of admissibility in court. Other relevant issues include the fact that AI systems cannot be questioned – at least not in the same ways as humans can – even by those who created them (black box issue); and the risk of imposing an unfair burden on the defendant, who usually is in a position of economical inferiority in comparison to the prosecution and lacks access to the tools to challenge the AI-based evidence.

In order to address these questions, two streams of research have been identified:

  • The impact of AI systems in the criminalization of humans in macro events of harm: What happens if the decision of the human agent is partially substituted or aided by an AI system? What is the impact of AI on the shaping of criminal negligence standards for human operators? Could AI systems be included in the duty of care?
  • AI-generated evidence as a new type of scientific evidence: Are existing legal rules adequate to address AI-evidence? What are the differences, if any, between AI- and other types of “typical” evidence? How should elements such as relevance, reliability, accuracy, veracity and probative value of AI-evidence be assessed?
  • The candidate is expected to present an original research project that fits into one of the two research streams identified above. Please note that the questions provided are prompts to help the candidate develop their own research question and are not exhaustive.

    The supervisory team will be composed of dr. Alice Giannini and prof. dr. André Klip .

    The candidate will:

  • Determine a specific research focus within the research project described above;
  • Regularly meet with the supervisory team to discuss progress;
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis, either in the form of submitted/published articles or a monograph;
  • Teach courses coordinated by the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology, amounting to 0.2fte of the full appointment;
  • Take active part in the supervisory team’s research activities and grant applications;
  • Take active part in the Criminal Law and Criminology Department’s and Maastricht Institute of Criminal Sciences’ research projects and activities;
  • Take part in training by the Graduate School of Law at Maastricht University;
  • Organize events and conferences.
  • Requirements
    We are seeking a highly motivated candidate with a completed university master’s degree (or research master) in Law – preferably with a specialization in criminal and criminal procedural law, criminology or other discipline relevant for this PhD position.
    Moreover, the ideal candidate should possess the following skills:

  • Excellent writing skills, preferably evidenced by an excellent MA thesis;
  • Strong interest in scientific research and demonstrable research skills;
  • Ability to work in a team and share knowledge in an open and inclusive working environment;
  • Ability to conduct research in a self-driven and independent manner;
  • Excellent communication skills;
  • Fluent written and oral English. Good command of Dutch and/or other languages is also a plus.
  • What we offer
    As a PhD at the Faculty of Law , you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:

  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale PhD according to UFO profile PhD, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 in the first year and €3539,00 gross per month in the fourth year (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1.0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow.
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model.
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students.
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as ‘acknowledge and appreciate’.
  • The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply.

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