PhD Position in Green-and-Explainable Machine Learning

Faculty/Services:  Faculty of Science
Educational level:  Master
Function type:  PhD position
Closing date:  31 January 2024
Vacancy number:  12338



Do you enjoy figuring out how things work? Do you have the ambition of going beyond the limits of what is currently known? Do you like working with others and occasionally engage in teaching activities? The Informatics Institute is looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate. Your research is part of the Complex Cyber Infrastructure (CCI) research group.


There is growing concern that black-box Machine Learning is not always suitable as its explainability is limited and its energy consumption might be prohibitively expensive. Both issues are interrelated, as enhancing the explainability of ML (ensuring that decisions made by ML are sufficiently motivated to humans by that same ML) may require more complex ML models or additional steps – such as local approximations with an interpretable model or simulations of “what if” scenarios, thus leading to increased energy consumption. Conversely, recent comprehensive research into explainable-by-design deep learning systems indicates that feed-forward neural architectures are intrinsically suitable for explainability, at the cost of worsened classification metrics (accuracy).


Thus, it is important to understand to what extent explainable ML, accurate ML, and reducing the energy consumption of ML could be simultaneously optimised. This way, we can establish best practices to guide ML developers in the implementation of ML models and users in the selection of ML tools that are accurate, explainable, and energy-efficient at the same time.


What are you going to do?


You will design and develop techniques that support formulating recommendations for ML tools that focus on human and energy-related aspects, while also accounting for accuracy. You could scope the vast ML landscape to the energy consumption and explainability aspects of Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) and lay the foundational work for Green-and-Explainable Machine Learning, i.e., the set of models that are highly energy efficient, highly explainable, and highly accurate. Concretely:

       1. Design energy recommendations for DNNs. Several key research questions are:

  • To what extent can DNNs be grouped in terms of their energy consumption and accuracy?
  • To what extent do extra-functional properties, such as sensitivity to hyperparameters and (re)training time, influence the grouping?


       2. Design explainability recommendations for DNNs. Several key research questions are:

  • How can we describe explainability from different user perspectives?
  • What would be the design of an actionable framework for the interaction between explainer and explainee?
  • To what extent does the explainability requirement lead to more complex ML architectures?
  • How can we efficiently characterise the relationship between accuracy and explainability?


       3. Combine energy and explainability recommendations into Green-and-Explainable ML. Several key research questions are:

  • What is the relation between DNNs’ energy consumption and their explainability?
  • How can we efficiently explore the space of DNNs in terms of the three characteristics: energy consumption, accuracy, and explainability?
  • What are suitable metrics for each of these so that we can compare DNNs?


What do you have to offer?


Your experience and profile:

  • MSc in CS, AI or a closely related field;
  • Strong interest in ML, energy efficiency, and explainability. Previous experience in these fields is a plus;
  • Enthusiasm for the research process: studying research papers, solving complex problems, applying creative thinking, evaluation, reflection and disseminating findings via writing and oral presentations;
  • The ability to critically analyse abstract models as well as concrete implementations;
  • The ability to work individually as well as effectively in a team;
  • Fluency in written and spoken English.


Our offer


A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). The preferred starting date can be discussed, ideally before the 1st of September 2024. This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.


The gross monthly salary, based on 38 hours per week, ranges between € 2,770 in the first year to € 3,539 in the last year (scale P). UvA additionally offers an extensive package of secondary benefits, including 8% holiday allowance and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. The UFO profile PhD Candidate is applicable. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Universities of the Netherlands is applicable.


Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at Science Park we offer you multiple fringe benefits:

  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime) and extra holidays between Christmas and 1 January;
  • Multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;
  • A complete educational program for PhD students;
  • Multiple courses on topics such as leadership for academic staff;
  • Multiple courses on topics such as time management, handling stress and an online learning platform with 100+ different courses;
  • 7 weeks birth leave (partner leave) with 100% salary;
  • Partly paid parental leave;
  • The possibility to set up a workplace at home;
  • A pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;
  • The possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;
  • Help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you’re moving from abroad.

Are you curious to read more about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits, take a look here.


About us


The University of Amsterdam (UvA) is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 42,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.


The Faculty of Science (FNWI) has a student body of around 8,000, as well as 1,800 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.


The mission of the Informatics Institute (IvI) is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. Our research involves complex information systems at large, with a focus on collaborative, data driven, computational and intelligent systems, all with a strong interactive component.


The Complex Cyber Infrastructure (CCI) group is part of the Informatics Institute at the University of Amsterdam. CCI focuses on the complexity of human-made systems on all scales. Cyber Infrastructure is rapidly evolving from relatively simple fixed components to programmable and virtualized objects with many degrees of freedom, owned, operated and governed by different entities in multiple administrative domains interacting on the Internet. Harnessing this complexity in a transparent, trustable way for safe and secure data processing is a major research topic that defines the focus of CCI research. The challenges are addressed by combining methods and results from research into distributed data processing, programmable networks, policy reasoning and normative control, hardware and cryptographic security, and software (language) engineering.


Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


Any questions?


Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:

  • dr. Ana Oprescu, Assistant Professor Complex Cyber Infrastructure


Job application


If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. You can apply online via the button below. We accept applications until and including 31 January 2024.


Applications should include the following information (all files apart from your CV should be submitted in one single pdf file):

  • A detailed CV including the months (not just years) when referring to your education and work experience;
  • A letter of motivation;
  • A list of publications, if any;
  • The names, affiliations, and email addresses of two academic referees who can provide details about your academic profile in relation to this position (please do not include any reference letters in your application);
  • Transcript of records (BSc + MSc);
  • MSc thesis or any other scientific document you have created, and/or link to any software or other project you created that is available online.


Please make sure to provide ALL requested documents mentioned above.
You can use the CV field to upload your resume as a separate pdf document. Use the Cover Letter field to upload the other requested documents, including the motivation letter, as one single pdf file.


A knowledge security check may be part of the selection procedure.
(for details: National knowledge security guidelines)


Only complete applications received within the response period via the link below will be considered. Please do not send any applications by email.


We will invite potential candidates for interviews soon after the expiration of the vacancy.




The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.


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