We invite applications for a fully funded PhD studentship at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex, to work on the project : “What do you mean? Automatic identification of language barriers for effective communication with government organisations”.

Project Description: There is an ever-increasing amount of information being generated by organisations and individuals, and a considerable amount is in the form of texts. Language is one of the rich means of communication that can be used to understand the needs and desires of individuals, and provide important information that is relevant for them. However, a crucial challenge is in providing information in an accessible manner to individuals with a variety of backgrounds, in rich multicultural and multilingual communities, with different language profiles of both native and non-native speakers, of varying ages and levels of language abilities and which may include clinical conditions. The goal of this project is to use data science and natural language processing to investigate techniques for building language profiles of specific groups of speakers. Clustering methods will be employed to define target clusters of speakers on the basis of information about their age, socio-economic context, and education, and based on their language profiles methods for automatic readability assessment will determine whether information from a given document is optimally written for targeting that group. This will enable the use of information customisable to the language abilities of different groups of speakers, and can be used to increase accessibility to digital content.

The ideal candidate will:
– Hold a Masters degree in computer science, cognitive science or a related field and have experience designing, carrying out, and writing up empirical research studies. At a minimum, the successful applicant will have a good honours BSc degree (1st class or high 2:1, or equivalent) in computer science or related subjects. An MSc with Merit or Distinction is desirable (but not essential for students with a first class degree).
– Demonstrate strong writing and analytical and mathematical skills, as well as good programming skills.
– Knowledge of natural language processing and machine learning are desirable but not essential.

The studentship is for three years starting January or April 2018, and covers fees (UK/EU) and a stipend at £ 14,296 per annum.

Expressions of interest, together with a CV, transcripts, and contact details of two referees should be sent to avill@essex.ac.uk and r.amorim@essex.ac.uk. The position will be open until it is filled.