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Provenance and explainability of AI decisions

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship in Cybersecurity Group in the Department of Informatics, King’s College London, ideally to begin in October 2019.

The Project

First, what is provenance? Provenance is “a record that describes the people, institutions, entities, and activities involved in producing, influencing, or delivering” a piece of data, a document, or an automated decision. Thus, provenance is an incredibly valuable source of data from which to generate explanations, about decisions made by algorithmic systems. This is precisely the definition of W3C PROV provenance (, a standardised form of knowledge graph providing an account of what a system performed. It includes references to people, data sets and organisations involved in decisions; attribution of data; and data derivation. It captures not only how data is used and updated but also how data flows in the system and their causal dependencies. The US ACM statement on Algorithmic Transparency and Accountability suggested that provenance can assist with Information Accountability. We share this view, as discussed in

So, the initial research question for a research project is: how can provenance be used to generate explanations about automated decisions that affect users? From there, there are multiple investigations, depending on your personal interest. See the following page for examples of concrete projects


To apply, you must have an outstanding (first-class or distinction) undergraduate or MSc degree in Computer Science (or STEM subject, provided you have a strong computational experience).
You will have excellent oral and written communication skills, strong programming and software engineering skills (Java, Scala and/or Python are desirable), the ability to work independently and organise your own work and to meet deadlines. Ideally, applications will also have experience in one or more of the following areas:
- Graph processing
- Semantic web and provenance
- Machine learning

The PhD studentship is open to both Home and EU citizens, or to those who have settled status in the UK and have been resident in the UK for three years prior to the start of the studentship.

Information about the programme’s application procedure can be found on the Centre for Arts & Sciences Admissions webpage:

Candidates should apply for a PhD in Computer Science in the usual way through King’s myApplication system. To feasibly start in October 2019, candidates should have received an unconditional offer by June 2019:

To facilitate internal procedures, once you have applied for this funding please email your name, surname and application ID number to Prof Luc Moreau ().

Selected candidates will be contacted and will be interviewed according to the Departmental process.


Candidate are strongly encouraged to discuss the research area informally with Professor Luc Moreau (), before submitting their formal application. This informal discussion will allow them to tailor their research statement before formal application.

Useful contacts

Postgraduate Admissions:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 7000

Accommodation Services:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 1790

Student Advice and International Student Support:
Student Advice Line: +44 (0)20 7848 7019

Accommodation Services:
Online Enquiry form:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 2759

Student Advice and International Student Support:
Student Advice Line: +44 (0)20 7848 6858

Funding Notes

The PhD studentship lasts three years in duration and will cover Home/EU tuition fees and provide a stipend of £16,777 p.a., inclusive of a London allowance.

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