PhD Position in User-Centred Recommender Systems (0.8 -1.0 FTE)

Design, create and evaluate interfaces and recommendations that encourage users to choose what they really want!
  • WO
  • Tijdelijk
Utrecht University


On a daily basis, we all use online platforms to maintain social relationships and to make our lives easier and nicer. Recommender algorithms help us share and find posts, articles, products and people that we like or need. A common criticism, though, is that these algorithms completely determine which items we will see and react upon. Particularly in social media, we currently witness the negative effects.

However, filter bubbles and similar effect are not purely algorithmic: a more human-centred approach acknowledges that the behaviour of these algorithms is just as well shaped by user-provided content and user reactions to this content.

In any system where algorithms employ previous user actions for predicting, supporting, or recommending future actions of the same user or other users, feedback loops are created. The actions of these future users, influenced by the system, will influence system behaviour for later generations of users.

In this research project, you will investigate how users and current (commercial) recommender systems respond to one another, and study which mechanisms help to encourage users to actively choose what they want instead of passively following suggestions. Methods for doing so include qualitative and quantitative user studies, data analysis and design science.

The position includes research as well as teaching, where the teaching commitments account for 30% of employment time. You will be involved in supporting the preparation of Bachelor's and Master's courses offered by the Department of Information and Computing Sciences. Furthermore, you will teach such courses in class and supervise student theses.


You are a motivated researcher with a curious and critical mindset. You have a strong interest in how everyday interaction between humans and (information) systems shapes our individual lives as well as our society. We would also like you to bring:

  • a Master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction, Information Science, Data Science, (Computational) Social Science, or a related field;
  • knowledge in human-computer interaction and interest in conducting human-centred studies;
  • proficiency in English, both in writing and speech;
  • other plusses would be knowledge in recommender systems, data science, statistics, user interface design and/or programming.


Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world's happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our informal atmosphere and the can-do mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts professors, researchers and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity's most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

You will join the Human-Centred Computing group of the division Interaction within the Department of Information and Computing Sciences. In our constantly changing (digital) society, the Department of Information and Computing Sciences is constantly looking for new, realistic ways to push the boundaries of both science and social application.

The human-centred computing group conducts research that aims to understand how people use computerised systems in their everyday lives. Our research areas include, amongst others, personalised and adaptive systems, user modeling and recommender systems, and persuasive technology. You will be working closely with other members in this research group, other research groups within and outside of the faculty, and collaborators from outside of Utrecht University. Great examples of collaborations related to the research area include the AI & Media Lab and the focus area Human-centred Artificial Intelligence.


  • A position for 5 years.
  • A full-time gross salary that starts at €2,541 and increases to €3,247 per month (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO)).
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow. For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science

Meer informatie

If you have questions about this position, don't hesitate to contact dr. ir. Eelco Herder via e.herder@uu.nl.

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to science.recruitment@uu.nl