TU Delft

Postdoc on Urbidata: ethics for the (open) data driven city

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Faculty Architecture & the Built Environment

The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has a leading role in education and research worldwide. The driving force behind the faculty’s success is its robust research profile combined with the energy and creativity of its student body and academic community. It is buzzing with energy from early in the morning until late at night, with four thousand people studying, working, designing, conducting research and acquiring and disseminating knowledge. Our faculty has a strong focus on 'design-oriented research’, which has given it a top position in world rankings.

Staff and students are working to improve the built environment with the help of a broad set of disciplines, including architectural design, urban planning, building technology, social sciences, process management, and geo-information science. The faculty works closely with other faculties, universities, private parties, and the public sector, and has an extensive network in the Netherlands as well as internationally.

The more than 100 members of the Urbanism department are united in contributing to the Urbanism mission: to advance, share and apply knowledge on how the built environment interacts with humans and their behaviour, and how design, planning and engineering interventions can better satisfy human and societal needs. Here ‘advance’ refers to our research, ‘share’ to our education and dissemination and ‘apply’ to our conviction that Urbanism needs to be an action-oriented, forward-looking practice. The department has a global reputation for excellence in research and education and is particularly known for the ‘Delft Approach’ that brings together the creativity of design with academic research methods. This integral urbanism enjoys high international esteem in professional practice, research and education.

Urban data science is an interdisciplinary research program at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) which investigates urban data challenges from both data technology and data governance perspectives. A special focus of the program is on open geographic data and 3D modelling.

Functie omschrijving

Your research will mainly concern the following research question: how can the city of 2050 be designed in a data ethical manner?

Practically the following sub-questions should be answered:

• what role can data play in the city of 2050?

• which ethical preconditions (the Ten Data Commandments) can be distinguished?

• how can which data (from public parties, private parties, citizens, and others) be used by which users, for what purposes, at what time?

• how open can / should this data be to meet the ethical preconditions?

• how do we check the data? (checking for bad quality data, or incorrect / manipulated data)

• how can the identity of the citizen concerned be guaranteed?

Data has always played a role in the design, layout and use of the city. Rational decisions can be made and choices can be substantiated based on data and models. In recent years, digitization made a major impact in this field. Often referred to as the "smart city", collecting and analyzing Big Data is seen as a solution to ever-current issues. However, the direction that this application is taking in shaping the built environment and urban life is not only a question of technological possibilities, legal frameworks and policy considerations. It is also about, or perhaps even primarily, ethical questions, because choices have to be made.

Sennett (Building and Dwelling, 2018), introduced the typology of the 'prescriptive smart city' and the 'coordinating smart city'. In the first, digital technology and big data are used to gain full control over the urban environment, offering the perspective of a safe, risk-free, city, which - from the perspective of the data analyst - is optimally planned, with services and products that are tailored to the personal profile of the individual city dweller. A profile as determined on the basis of the available data, but using non-transparent methods. This can be referred to as a "closed" data driven city. On the other side of the spectrum we find the coordinating smart city, digital technology forms the basis on which the city dweller can make choices. It is therefore also a basis for creativity, cooperation. This can also be referred to as the "open" data-driven city.

Open means that developments are coordinated from the bottom up and that there remains room for chance. Open also means that there is complete transparency, in all relations between the public sector, the citizen and the private sector. In this way, citizens keep a grip on (spatial) developments, and are actively involved in the design and functioning of the city, with full transparency regarding the process and the choices made therein. Open data plays therefore a key role as driver of Urbidata: the sustainable open city of 2050.

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Applicants must have

• a proven background in social science, with a strong profile in ethics, and an affinity with (geo)data and urban challenges;

• hold a PhD degree in an appropriate discipline;

• have teaching experience at university level;

• be committed to research excellence, evidenced through academic publications;

• possess good communication skills;

• access to an international network in ethics and urban studies;

• a strong publication profile.

In addition, the candidate is expected to have an international profile with an active international network. Demonstrated ability in written and spoken English is required. Knowledge of Dutch is welcome, but not required at the start of the position.


Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation. An International Children's Centre offers childcare and there is an international primary school.

Informeren en solliciteren

For information about this vacancy, you can contact Bastiaan van Loenen, Associate-professor, email: b.vanloenen@tudelft.nl, tel: 31(0)152782554.

For information about the selection procedure, please contact Jeannine Wellink, HR-Adviseur, email: HR-BK@tudelft.nl.

Your application should contain:

• a letter outlining your motivation for this position;

• your detailed CV;

• a list of publications;

• a portfolio (max 20 pages);

• the names of two references.

All documents should be in clear English and compiled into a single pdf file named: lastname_firstname_vacancynumber.pdf.

Please send your application by email to HR-BK@tudelft.nl by 9 June 2020 at the latest.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Acquisitie naar aanleiding van deze vacature wordt niet op prijs gesteld.

Uren per week: 38.0 uur per week

Salaris: € 3.637,- tot € 4.978,- per maand


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