PhD Scholarship in Social Data Science
University of Copenhagen

Two PhD scholarships in Social Data Science, University of Copenhagen (UCPH)

DISTRACT - The Political Economy of Distraction in Digitized Denmark

Applications are invited for 3 PhD scholarships at the Copenhagen Centre for Social Data Science (SODAS) at the University of Denmark as part of the ERC-funded project “DISTRACT: The Political Economy of Attention in Digitized Denmark.

Employment is scheduled to begin on Feb 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter.

DISTRACT is an interdisciplinary research project financed an ERC Advanced Grant. Bringing together an interdisciplinary team and drawing on SODAS’ broad social data science expertise, DISTEACT explores the political economy of distraction in digitized Denmark in order to break new empirical, methodological and theoretical ground in the social scientific study of attention. Combining new data science techniques, including text mining, machine learning, and natural language processing, with classic social science methods such as randomized experiments, social network analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, DISTRACT thus collects, integrates and analyses qualitative and quantitative data on the nature and the dynamics of attention in the world’s most digitized country. The projects is divided into four work packagers, each of which involve collaborations private and public partners including LEGO and Foreningen Folkemødet: WP1: Attention Politics, WP2: Software Developers, WP3: Digital Detox and WP 4; Digital Media in Schools. 

Co-funded by a Data + grant from UCPH, the first PhD project will join the WP #1 team, which is currently comprised by PI Prof Morten Axel Pedersen (anthropology/SODAS), Dr. Hjalmar Bang Carlsen (sociology/SODAS), PhD student Anne Helene Grothe-Møller (SODAS) and a number of research and student assistants. Within the overarching theme of political attention, the project will explore questions such as issue publics, event studies and the political-economy of digital attention. In methodological terms, the project will focus on the computational collection, storage, processing, and analysis of unstructured data from social media and other digital and non-digital sources, including not least ethnographic fieldnotes.

A second PhD researcher will join the WP # 3 team, which is also comprised by Co-PI Professor Sune Lehmann (DTU/SODAS), Co-PI Dr. Kristoffer Albris (anthropology/SODAS), Dr. Anna Sapienza (SODAS) and one or more student assistants. The PhD researcher will be doing research on attention technologies and practices in relation to how people seek to limit and/or control their digital consumption and screen usage. Methodologically, the PhD researcher will first of all deploy social data science and computational techniques and methods to study digital detox as a matter of concern in society, and how people carry out detoxing practices. In addition, the candidate is expected to partake in qualitative and ethnographic data collection and analysis in collaboration with the rest of the work package team. Finally, the PhD researcher is expected to contribute to the execution and preparation of ongoing data collection experiments that use smart wearables to track how people manage their attention towards digital devices on a daily basis.

Applicants must have a background in sociology, psychology, economics,  political science, anthropology, computational social science, cognitive science, natural language processing or a related field, and have experience with the collection, processing and analysis of quantitative - and ideally also qualitative – digital data. Experience with and openness to working in an interdisciplinary research environment is preferred.

Duties and Responsibilities

Further information about the PhD study programme is available on the website of Copenhagen Graduate School of Social Sciences: 

Under "Legal basis" on the website you will find information about the rules and guidelines for the PhD programme and the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD programme at the Universities. 

 Job description

The positions are available for a 3-year (for applicants with a master degree), a 4-year (for applicants with four years of course work) or a 5-year (for applicants with a BA) period. The tasks of the PhD students are to:

  • Participate in and contribute to their respective work packages and DISTRACT project as a whole
  • Write and co-author scientific articles and other scientific outputs to be included in the PhD thesis
  • Attend and complete PhD courses in accordance with the PhD program in Social Science 
  • Participate in and co-organize workshops/seminars/conferences 
  • Teach in the MSc programme in Social Data Science and/or other degree programme at the Faculty
  • Visit a research institution abroad for minimum of two months (pending Covid-19  restrictions)
  • Participate actively in scholarly and social life at SODAS

DISTRACT is an intensely collaborative and explicitly interdisciplinary project. In joining our team, the PhD candidate must help deliver the research and outreach impacts detailed in the project proposal. The candidate will also be expected to participate in weekly team meetings; to attend research events in Denmark and aboard; to write individual and co-publications; and to help disseminate findings to partners and the public. In addition, the PhD candidate is expected to participate actively in the vibrant academic community and social life at SODAS by e.g. attending seminars, lectures, reading groups and data sprints.

Qualifications and Terms of Employment

We seek candidates with a strong social science background who quality for 5+3 (3 year PhD programme), the 4+4 (4 year PhD programme) or 3+5 (5 year PhD programme) in Social Science. In the assessment, emphasis will be put on academic track-record, experience with digital social science research, the project proposal, and interdisciplinary experience. Excellent English language skills are required. The ability to read, speak and ideally write Danish will be an advantage due to the specific nature of the object of investigation.

To be eligible for the 5+3 PhD scholarship, applicants must have completed a two-year MSc degree programme, or have earned 120 ECTS credits at an equivalent academic level. The position includes a work obligation of up to 840 hours over the 3-year period. This will, typically, include teaching or supervision.

PhD students under the 4 + 4 model, who have completed a BSc and 60 ECTS of a relevant MSc degree, will enrol as PhD students simultaneously with completing their enrolment in this MSc degree programme. Until an MSc degree is obtained, the grant will be paid partly in the form of up to 48 state education grant portions (in Danish: “SU-klip”). More specifically, the PhD student will be paid two grant portions per month plus salary for work (teaching, supervision etc.)  totalling a workload of at least 280 hours. Upon completion of the MSc degree the PhD student will transfer to the salary-earning part of the scholarship.

PhD students in the 3+5 scheme will be simultaneously enrolled in the M.Sc. programme in Social Data Science and in the PhD programme, and will be expected to complete their master degree within three years. Until an MSc degree is obtained, the grant will be paid partly in the form of up to 48 state education grant portions (in Danish: “SU-klip”). More specifically the PhD student will be paid two grant portions per month plus salary for work (teaching etc.) totalling a workload of at least 280 hours. Upon completion of the MSc degree, the PhD student will be transferred to the salary-earning part of the scholarship.

The terms of employment and payment are according to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State (AC). The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure. Salary range starts at DKK 27,593.77 per month incl. PhD supplement.

The University of Copenhagen invites all qualified applicants, regardless of personal background, to apply for the positions. In order to be awarded a PhD scholarship the applicant has to enrol as a PhD student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, cf. the rules of the Danish Ministerial order No 1039 of 27 August 2013.

Application and Assessment Procedure

  • The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding society, and invites all qualified applicants, regardless of personal background, to apply for the positions.  
  • In order to be awarded a PhD scholarship the applicant has to enroll as a PhD student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, cf. the rules of the Danish Ministerial order No 1039 of 27 August 2013.  

Applications can be submitted online via the job portal of the University of Copenhagen (in English) (in Danish).

After the expiry of the deadline, applicants are selected for assessment by an appointment committee composed by PI’s from DISTRACT and other research leaders from SODAS. All applicants will then be notified of whether their application has been shortlisted for assessment by an academic committee composed by scholars from SODAS and departments at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Shortlisted applicants are notified of the composition of the committee and will have the opportunity to comment on their own assessment. Further information about the recruitment process can be found at

The application must be accompanied by the following appendices:

  • Abstract (part of the standard application form) (Please fill in the project abstract in the application form. Must not exceed 1.200 characters.)
  • Cover Letter (max 2 pages) detailing the applicant’s motivation and background for applying
  • Project proposal (max 5 pages) comprising (a) an outline of proposed research project and its contribution to one of the three relevant work packages; (b) a description and reflections on experiences with social data science methods and interdisciplinary collaboration; (c) broader thoughts and ideas on how to contribute to making DISTRACT an agenda-setting social data science project.
  • CV
  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
  • Rough time plan/schedule
  • Budget
  • List of publications (if any)

Please note that it is only possible to upload one document per attachment category. If more than one document has to be uploaded in the same category, please make sure that they are scanned and collected into one file.  


Further information can be obtained from the PI of DISTRACT, Professor Morten Axel Pedersen ( or from co-PI Dr. Kristoffer Albris (

Application process  

On the website of Copenhagen Graduate School of Social Sciences you will find information about the application process, and enclosures to include with your electronic application:

The recruitment process

Further information on the recruitment process at University of Copenhagen can be found here:

The following criteria are used when shortlisting candidates for assessment: 

1. Research qualifications as reflected in the project proposal. 

2. Quality and feasibility of the project.  

3. Qualifications and knowledge in relevant Anthropology disciplines. 

4. Performance (grades obtained) in graduate and post-graduate studies. 

5. The Centre for Social Data Science (SODAS) can offer adequate supervision for the research topic in question. 

Selected applicants are notified of the composition of the assessment committee, and each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself. You can read about the recruitment process here. 

An Equal Opportunity Workplace

The University of Copenhagen is committed in its pursuit of academic excellence to equality of opportunity and to creating an inclusive working environment and therefore encourages all qualified candidates to apply, regardless of personal background, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, ethnicity etc. For more on the diverse working place environment at the University and the University’s participation in the HRS4R HR Excellence in Research, see

International applicant?

The University of Copenhagen offers a broad variety of services for international researchers and accompanying families, including support before and during your relocation and career counselling to expat partners. Please find more information about these services as well as information on entering and working in Denmark here:

Contact information

Information about the recruitment process is available from Pernille Lykke Paulsen HR, e-mail:, please refer to ID number: 211-0561/20-2H

The closing date for applications is 1 November 2020, 23:59 CET

Applications received after the deadline will not be taken into account. 


Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Application deadline: 01-11-2020
Employment start: 01-02-2021
Department/Location: SODAS
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