Integrating methods from network analysis, natural language processing, and machine learning with theories from the social sciences to advance knowledge and discovery about interaction-based and communication-based social systems

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Rank/title: Postdoctoral Research Associate

Location of position: School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Primary Position Function/Summary: The School of Information Sciences/ the iSchool at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign invites applications for the position of a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Dr. Jana Diesner’s research group. The PostDoc will work on two projects:

First, on a project titled “Reliable Extraction of Emergency Response Networks from Text Data and Benchmarking with National Emergency Response Guidelines” (project description below). This project is funded by CIRI (Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and is conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Second, on assisting Dr. Diesner in developing strategic Data Science Initiatives that involve education, research, and outreach at the School of Information Sciences at Illinois. This includes assistance with developing or refining proposals, and with developing, organizing and implementing cross-disciplinary offerings for undergraduate and graduate students and related mentoring plans.

Description of CIRI/ DHS project: During disasters, people are increasingly turning to social networks to communicate about challenges they face in affected areas. These networks can provide information about the effectiveness of current disaster response efforts and published guidelines; however, these complex, large-scale, socio-technical systems do not readily lend themselves to analysis or evaluation. This can make it difficult to identify the ad hoc human networks built and utilized during the recovery process, thereby further complicating attempts to compare actual relief efforts against national guidelines. Without this data, recommendations for improvement of disaster response policy may be uninformed, and result in the loss of opportunities to increase the effectiveness and resilience of these efforts.

In this project, we leverage methods and theories from natural language processing (NLP) and social network analysis to extract multi-modal networks that represent emergency response efforts based on large-scale text data. From this, we develop a classification schema for link labeling and for further inference tasks. We use these data to compare findings with current national disaster response guidelines to determine if efforts and results on the ground align with given policies. This project also contributes to the comprehensive assessment of semantic network construction methods, the systematic identification of the sensitivity of graphs to NLP methods, and the development of best practices for constructing reliable semantic networks for practical applications in the domain of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Statement of duties:


Candidates should have a Ph.D. in a relevant discipline (e.g., computer science, computational social science, data science) and evidence of conducting research related to the specified projects. Applicants should have published in at least one of the areas of NLP, network analysis, or computational social science. Domain expertise in crisis informatics or humanitarian assistance and disaster response is highly desirable, but not required.

Appointment status: The position is a full-time appointment (100%) for an initial period of 12 months.

Salary statement: Salary will be commensurate with experience.

Proposed start date: may start as soon as possible after the offer is accepted.

Application process: To apply for this position, please send your cover letter, CV, up to three related publications, and the name and contact information for two references to Jana Diesner ( Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Close date for applications: Monday, April 7th, 2020 (11:55 pm AoE)

Unit contact information: For more information, contact Jana Diesner at

Background check statement: Offers of employment by the University of Illinois may be subject to approval by the University's Board of Trustees and are made contingent upon the candidate's successful completion of any criminal background checks and other pre-employment assessments that my be required for the position being offered. Additional information regarding such pre-employment checks and assessments may be provided as applicable during the hiring process.

EEO statement: It is the policy of the University not to engage in discrimination or harassment against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, disability, national origin, citizenship status, ancestry, age, order of protection status, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation including gender identity, arrest record status, unfavorable discharge from the military, or status as a protected veteran and to comply with all federal and state nondiscrimination, equal opportunity, and affirmative action laws, orders, and regulations.

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For any questions and more information about this position, please contact Jana Diesner (