Gepubliceerd op 13-01-2017

Vacature: Ontology specialist for project Golden Agents

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is a renowned research institute at the University of Amsterdam, in which researchers from the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Science collaborate. The research carried out at Humanities forms one of the six research schools within this faculty. ILLC’s central research area is the study of fundamental principles of encoding, transmission and comprehension of information. Research at ILLC is interdisciplinary, and aims at bringing together insights from various disciplines concerned with information and information processing, such as logic, philosophy, linguistics, musicology, mathematics, computer science, artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

The ILLC is looking to fill a position for an Ontology specialist (‘Semantic Lead’) within the project Golden Agents: Creative Industries and the Making of the Dutch Golden Age. This is a 5-year NWO Groot project (2017-2021) funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and carried out by a consortium consisting of a large number of universities, research institutes and national cultural heritage institutions such as the Rijksmuseum, the National Library of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Institute for History of Art.

Golden Agents aims to build a large digital humanities research infrastructure. More specifically, we connect a number of (at present) independent databases within a unified semantic infrastructure in an intelligent way. The infrastructure is based on one single conceptual model, and is geared to the sustainable use and benefit of researchers in art history, social-economic history, cultural history and book & archival studies. Researchers in these fields will be able to pose queries across a wide variety of datasets related to publishers and consumers of the creative industries in the Dutch Golden Age. This enables multi-perspective, cross-disciplinary and comprehensive studies that are currently nigh impossible. Technically, the project will combine semantic web with multi-agent technology to enable the analysis of interactions between producers and consumers of the different forms of art of the Dutch Golden Age.

The Golden Agents consortium team involves experts in computer science and digital humanities (artificial intelligence and related applied logics, knowledge representation, especially semantic web ontologies and related applied logics; cultural history, history of art and archival studies) appointed in Amsterdam (Huygens ING, Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam or the City Archives of Amsterdam), Utrecht and other Dutch cities.

A short description of the project can be found at:

Job description
The Semantic Lead works within Workpackage 2 (WP2, Ontologies and Scenarios), in a team led by Arianna Betti (Philosophy, WP2 leader & Head of Concepts in Motion Group at University of Amsterdam, and advised by Rinke Hoekstra (Computer Science, Knowledge Representation group at VU University). The WP2 team based at UvA is hosted in the centre of Amsterdam and will include a Scenario Specialist Multi Agent Technology and a RDF Representation Specialist.

The Semantic Lead will play a pivotal role in Golden Agents as he/she is expected to:

  • design an effective, sustainable and sensibly implementable (ontology-based) conceptual architecture common to the whole infrastructure. The common ontology is such as to enable multi-perspective, cross-disciplinary and comprehensive front-end queries across all databases relying on multi-agent systems at back-end. At the end of the project, users are able to rely on these queries to analyze, in a scholarly non-trivial way, the interactions between producers and consumers of the different forms of art of the Dutch Golden Age.

To achieve this goal, subtasks will be:

  • achieve a deep understanding of the ‘conceptual scheme’ or knowledge structures informally presupposed by the users (scholars in humanities) involved in the project, who will provide (kinds of) research questions embedded in user scenarios; extract any additional relevant and useful knowledge from the users;
  • formalise the informal knowledge thus extracted in domain-specific ontologies;
  • design the (ontology-based) conceptual architecture common to the whole infrastructure in such a way that (1) CLARIAH tools and standards are re-used and complied with; (2) the domain-specific ontologies are subsumed under the overarching ontology; (3) the whole ontological setup serves as the general reasoning architecture that the multi-agent systems will rely on to answer user queries;
  • collaborate closely with scientific programmers and advisors from all WPs on actually and effectively implementing the (ontology-based) conceptual architecture.

The work will be organised around regular work meetings with all (groups) of partners, i.e. the users in the ontology (Workpackage 2) team, the data representation (Workpackage 1) team led by Gertjan Filarski at Huygens ING (Amsterdam), which includes specialists based at the Amsterdam City Archives, and the multi-agent system (Workpackage 3) team led by Mehdi Dastani in Utrecht. The Semantic Lead is also expected to collaborate with the dissemination package (Workpackage 4) led by Charles van der Heuvel (Main Leader of the Golden Agents project) and contribute to papers, reports, and write up proper documentation for software releases.

The appointment is for one year with the possibility of extension up to a further three years. The position is based in Amsterdam and planned to be hosted at the Department of Philosophy, and embed them in the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC).


  • PhD in the area of Computer Science or another discipline, with demonstrable expertise in Knowledge Engineering, in particular Ontology Engineering;
  • knowledge of
    • semantic web technologies (SPARQL, RDF, OWL, etc),
    • description logics and other relevant applied logics;
    • programming languages (Java, Python);
    • program libraries, triple stores and reasoners (MSPL, etc);
  • knowledge and/or affinity with the multi-agent system technology paradigm;
  • strong cooperative attitude and willingness to engage in collaborative research;
  • excellent command of English, and preferably at least one other language;
  • previous experience within interdisciplinary projects involving a number of diverse partners, and geared to humanities infrastructure and/or supporting the work of humanities researchers is a strong advantage;
  • affinity with the humanities disciplines involved in the project (art, literature, theatre studies, book studies, and history, especially social-economic history and law), in the Golden Age in particular (17th century), but also beyond, is a strong advantage;
  • a background in theoretical philosophy, especially analytic metaphysics and ontology in the philosophical sense is a strong advantage;
  • a background in computational linguistics is an advantage.
  • knowledge and understanding of GLAM-standards (especially library and archive standards) such as FRBRoo, VIAF, BIBFRAME, FRAD, FRSAD etc, as well as knowledge and understanding of TEI, is an advantage.

Further information
For more information please contact:


The selected candidates will be appointed full-time (38 hours per week) starting as soon as possible and up to four years at the at the Department of Philosophy of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam. The work will be carried out under the aegis of ILLC. The appointment is initially for a period of 12 months; contingent on satisfactory performance it will be extended up to another three years for a total of four years. The gross monthly salary (on a full-time basis) will range from €3,427 to €4,691 gross per month (scale 11) depending on experience and qualifications, and in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

Job application
Applications should include the following information in one single pdf file (not zipped), named using the applicant’s surname and ‘SemanticLead’ as file name, e.g.: GoldenAgents-Fisher-SemanticLead.pdf:

  1. A cover statement of maximum two A4 pages motivating why you are applying and how you can contribute to the Golden Agents project in terms of (a) creativity and effectiveness in software design and implementation; (b) cooperative research; and (c) experience and know-how; in particular, include a description of your experience, if any, with designing and realizing fallbacks in a comparable project setup (please provide concrete examples);
  2. CV, including (a) details of studies, background and relevant experience; (b) names and e-mail addresses of at least two referees to be contacted for references; (c) full list of relevant output (papers, software, software documentation, reports);
  3. URLs for downloading two output pieces (e.g. sample publications, software documentation, theses, etc) that you have selected for their representativeness for the position. Please add a brief motivation for your selection (do not send the two pieces as part of your application).

Applicants must have completed their PhD by the time of the closing date of this call.

Please submit your application no later than 20 January 2017 at 12:00 hours to solliciteren2017-FGW@uva.nl. Only complete applications submitted to this email address will be considered.

Please state vacancy number 17-008 in the subject line of your application. The subject of the e-mail message and the attachment must consist of the vacancy number and the text ‘[GoldenAgents-applicant’s last name– SemanticLead]’.

At the moment, interviews are planned on 31 January 2017 and 2 February 2017. Latest 24 January 2017 selected candidates will receive further information as to the procedure and planned interviews. The appointment will start as soon as possible.

No agencies please


Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.