PhD/Postdoc position: Networks and value chains in organized crime

Updated: 6 months ago
Deadline: ;

We are seeking a researcher (PhD candidate or Postdoctoral researcher) for a computational network science position to work on an exciting research project in an interdisciplinary team. You will focus on the use of mathematical and computational methods to study the organizing principles and adaptative, bottom-up nature of the various types of networks and value chains underlying modern organized crime activities.

There is a growing consensus that the complexities underlying crimes and criminal organisations cannot be unravelled by traditional methods alone. A shift in research paradigm to complex adaptive systems and network thinking is therefore imperative to move this field forward. Organized crime is a complex interplay between social networks, financial networks, communication networks, trust, opportunity, among others. A complex systems approach that studies these pathways, how these pathways adapt, and their interactions can support analysts and investigators in effectively tackling undermining criminal activities in a strategic manner.

Particularly novel in this project is that multiple rich intelligence datasets (anonymised) will be combined in order to create large, multiplex networks surrounding criminal activities. This quantitative data will be combined with qualitative knowledge from domain experts. The resulting networks (and value chains) will be conceptualized as a dynamical system which are adaptive and decentralised. The goal is to model, mathematically and computationally, the process of formation and evolution of the networks and value chains therein, and subsequently to use complexity science concepts to study the function of the emergent network topology as a resilient, bottom-up infrastructure for information, money, and commodities.

What are you going to do?

You will focus on identifying as well as modeling (mathematical/computational) the dynamics of adaptation to different opportunities as well as to different intervention strategies by law enforcement. Modern criminal networks are often grown in a bottom-up manner and are known to be resilient against (easily adapt to) different intervention strategies. In addition to social processes underlying different types of criminal activity, such as cocaine trafficking, money laundering or migrant smuggling, they also depend on their own characteristic value chains. For example, illegal cannabis cultivation involves property owners, electricians, cutters, distributors, and sellers, each with specific skill sets and dependence on each other.

The first goal is to understand the adaptation processes after different types of interventions based on historic police data. Second, the goal is to integrate these insights into a model for adaptation that can be used to simulate the different effects of interventions, such as centrality attack, value chain attack, etc. Third, we aim to use the knowledge of adaptation processes and value chains to predict potentially missing links from the inherently incomplete data sets, such as by matching partial value chains and inferring highly likely present yet unobserved links which would complete the value chain.

You will closely interact with researchers from computational science and complexity science as well as from criminology and anthropology. On a regular basis we will also organize meetings with the stakeholders in the RIEC organization in order to gather their feedback.

What do we require?

The ideal candidate for this position:

  • has a MSc in Complex Systems Science, Computational Science, Applied Mathematics, Applied Statistics, Statistical Physics, or related disciplines;
  • has experience in programming language(s) such as Python;
  • has affinity towards and good knowledge of network science (graph theory) and/or social network analysis (SNA). Preferably has experience in computational modelling of networks, network processes, network flow dynamics, and/or calculating various network topological features;
  • has affinity towards understanding the concept of value chains and understanding the dynamics of (criminal) value chains which are embedded in social, financial, and trust networks;
  • enjoys interacting with domain experts from different disciplines and tackling an interdisciplinary problem by internalising and subsequently integrating qualitative knowledge into computational models or quantitative analyses;
  • is trained in computational modelling and simulation techniques, such as Monte Carlo sampling;
  • has strong knowledge of the Dutch language in both reading and speech, since most data and metadata is in Dutch and may contain Dutch slang.

Our offer

PhD candidate: A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). You will get a customised Training and Supervision Plan, that will be evaluated every year. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.

Postdoctoral researcher: A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 3 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 12 months and after a satisfactory evaluation it will be extended).

The salary will be  €2,395 to €3,061 (scale P) gross per month for a PhD candidate and will be €2,790 to €4,402 (scale 10) for a postdoctoral researcher. The salary is based on full-time employment (38 hours a week), exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities  is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Then find out more about working at the Faculty of Science .

About the Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 6,500, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The Computational Science Lab (CSL)  at the Faculty of Science tries to understand how information is processed in natural settings through the study of a large variety of dynamic multi-scale complex systems. The project is linked to the 'Networks of Crime and Terrorism' at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) . You will join an interdisciplinary team, consisting of researchers from the Computational Science Lab, the Regional Information and Expertise Center (RIEC) in Amsterdam, the police, and the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD).


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

  • Dr Rick Quax , Assistant professor 

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.
The Informatics Institute strives for a better gender balance in its staff. We therefore strongly encourage women to apply for this position.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your motivation letter and CV, including a list of publications. You may apply online by using the link below. #LI-DNP

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