Scotiabank Postdoctoral Fellowship, AI and Inclusion

Posted on Thursday, April 23, 2020

Type: Postdoctoral Fellowship

Start date: Flexible (but ideally September 1, 2020)

Duration: One-year fellowship (with possibility of renewal)

Salary range: $45,000, plus benefits


Fellowship Description

We are seeking a skilled and enthusiastic Postdoctoral Fellow to pursue an innovative research program focused on reimagining how to design ethical and inclusive Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems.

The successful candidate will be supervised throughout the postdoctoral fellowship by leading technology law, ethics and policy scholars at the University of Ottawa AI + Society Initiative, notably from The eQuality Project and the Canadian Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Ethical Design Lab (CRAiEDL).

AI promises important benefits, but unchecked AI development surfaces significant challenges, such as creating uncertainty surrounding the future of work, redistributing various risks and benefits in society in discriminatory ways, or shifting power to new structures that lie outside of the control of existing and understood governance and accountability frameworks.

Applicants are encouraged to propose creative ideas for a postdoctoral fellowship, emphasizing how they plan to contribute to new knowledge in developing effective inclusive and participatory ethical design/engineering frameworks for AI systems that avoid the disturbing risk of amplifying global digital injustices through AI for marginalized populations (women, youth, seniors, Indigenous People, LGBTQIA+, racialized people, people with disabilities, and linguistic minorities—and those marginalized by intersecting oppressions such as racism, sexism, and homophobia.) 

We are particularly interested in proposals aligning with the following topics: 

  • Developing Ethical AI Engineering Requirements: This research will develop and validate effective methodologies, frameworks and tools for ethical AI requirements engineering practices. It will fill the critical gap between identifying broad ethical principles and effectively translating those principles into concrete engineering and design requirements for AI, implementing those requirements into actual AI systems, and validating their implementation.
  • Youth and AI: The research would look at young people’s AI literacy, how digital communications and associated corporate structures are exposing them to discriminatory impacts from AI and algorithmic sorting, and develop resources and policy frameworks to help youth and their supporting adults to better navigate a digital environment increasingly dominated by AI. 
  • AI and Justice: The research would undertake to develop a robust framework for assessing whether and, if so, how AI can be appropriately used to automate parts of bail, sentencing and parole decisions in the criminal justice system, notably looking at how human rights codes and other legal tools can be used to leverage more diversity and inclusion in AI systems and to remedy discriminatory practices and outcomes.

The postdoctoral fellowship will result in a better understanding of the current AI context and challenges. Research outputs (e.g. policy recommendations and framework proposals) will be disseminated through a series of publications, white papers and other knowledge mobilization activities. The postdoctoral fellowship will focus on research dissemination and knowledge translation both within and outside the academy, and with public and private sector actors. 

The successful candidate will be registered as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa and will enjoy all associated privileges. This individual will have experience conducting interdisciplinary research and a strong background in Human Rights, AI Ethics, or AI Policy or Governance (or a closely related field). In addition, training in a related technology field, such as computer science or engineering may be beneficial (though not necessary).


About the Project

The Postdoctoral Fellow will join the dynamic research community of the AI + Society Initiative at the University of Ottawa, and notably its “AI + Inclusion” research stream, which focuses on reimagining how to design ethical and inclusive AI systems.

The University of Ottawa has positioned itself as a leader in transdisciplinary research and training for responsible AI for the benefit of Canada and the world. The AI + Society Initiative leads a research agenda for a better understanding and framing of the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI research and its uses, as well as leveraging a transdisciplinary approach to advancing AI methods and tools, with a focus on their responsible applications.

The AI + Society Initiative promotes an inclusive research agenda with a specific focus on avoiding the amplification of global digital injustices through AI for affected communities. The research will include many important voices such as women, youth, seniors, Indigenous People, LGBTQIA+, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and linguistic minorities (such as French and Indigenous Languages) – and those at the intersection of these identities.

While being grounded in rigorous evidence-based academic research, most outreach (public lectures, training, tools, white papers, reports, etc.) will be developed with the general public in mind, and communicated in plain language for them to be able to take ownership of the tools and implement them to have a transformative impact within their communities, including in relation to policy reform.


Position Requirements

  • Doctoral degree in a relevant field (e.g. law, policy, ethics, social sciences, sociology). The preference will be for candidates with doctorates awarded in the last 5 years, but all candidates will be considered. 
  • Interdisciplinary research experience focused on the social and/or human rights implications of AI. 
  • English or French proficiency.


Additionally, the following skills will be considered as assets:  

  • Bilingualism (English and French).
  • Scholarship on the relevant topics.
  • Experience with knowledge mobilization.


If the start date for this position is affected either by the candidate being under COVID-19-related travel restrictions or the campus being closed, remote working options can be negotiated.


How to apply

Apply on our Application Portal


The application package should include:

  • a cover letter,
  • a complete curriculum vitae,
  • a one-page (max.) description of research interests relevant for this position.


The selection committee will start to review applications on June 8th. Applications will be considered until a successful candidate is found. We thank all applicants for their interest, however only those under consideration for the role will be contacted.

The cover letter shall indicate the level of proficiency in English and French.

The University of Ottawa is an equal opportunity employer. We strongly encourage applications from women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.

In keeping with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada requirements, all qualified persons are invited to apply; however, preference will be given to Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The cover letter should confirm the immigration status of the candidate.

In keeping with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, the University of Ottawa will provide accommodations upon request during the recruitment, selection and assessment process for candidates with a disability.


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