ESR14 : Gender and vocal alignment in speakers and robots

PhD fellowship

Objectives:

ESR14 will focus on acoustic-prosodic alignment at the discourse level. In addition to playing a crucial role in speakers’ joint understanding of what they are talking about, vocal alignment may also have an important social dimension. Thus, previous work reveals that vocal alignment tends to occur to a greater extent in women than in men. Recent studies on human-robot interactions, however, suggest that there is a tendency for both women and men to disalign with respect to the robot’s voice, regardless of the robot’s voice gender. This may be attributable to the fact that humans do not treat robots’ voices as human voices or, alternatively, because of the robots’ current limited capacities to align themselves with human voices. The goal of ESR14’s project will be to provide a fuller characterization of acoustic-prosodic in humans and robots with a focus on gender and the communicative situation.


Expected results:

  • Better understanding of the social function of vocal alignment;
  • New techniques for adapting a spoken dialogue management system to the user’s gender characteristics.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden

Full-time three-year contract, starting September 2020

PhD enrolment at: KTH, Stockholm, Sweden

Main supervisor’s institution: Furhat Robotics and KTH, Stockholm, Sweden

Main supervisor: Prof Gabriel Skantze

Secondments:

  • Université catholique de Louvain (UCL): training in designing naturalistic gender-based and situation specific speech elicitation techniques (6 months);
  • IISAS, Bratislava: training in fine-grained acoustic-prosodic alignment informed by dialogue progression (5 months).

Co-supervisors’ institutions:

  • Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium
  • IISAS, Bratislava, Slovakia

Benefits

The ESR will be contractually employed for 36 months by the main institution, and will be covered under the social security scheme of the enrolling country. She/he will monthly receive a Living Allowance, a Mobility Allowance and a Family Allowance (if applicable) compliant with the applicable EC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions-ITN general conditions.

The net salary for ESR1 will be about €2.300-2.700 according to her/his situation.

Eligibility criteria:

Experience eligibility requirement: Eligible applicants must be in the first 4 years of their research careers (full-time equivalent research experience) at the signature of the contract (measured from the time the Master’s degree has been obtained).

Eligible applicants must not hold a Doctoral Degree yet.

Mobility eligibility requirement

The fellow must not have resided in the main institution’s country for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date, and not have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in that country.

Selection process

February-March 2020: Opening of the call

Applications must be sent to administrative support and contain the following:

  1. An up-to-date CV, without gaps, in order for the selection committee to easily check the mobility and experience requirements. CVs that either do not clearly show the applicant’s past experience, or have gaps, will be considered ineligible;
  2. A letter exposing her/his motivation for a COBRA PhD fellowship, and her preference for two of the fifteen PhD projects proposed in COBRA;
  3. At least 1 reference letter (in English) from one former supervisor and/or lecturer;
  4. The scan of the degree (usually the master’s degree) which would formally entitles her/him to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained, or in the country in which the researcher will be recruited. If the degree has not been obtained yet, the applicant will have to provide a declaration of her/his university stating that the degree will be obtained before the expected starting date;
  5. Transcripts of records (document indicating the applicant’s ranking and marks within her/his master’s degree as well as the courses/modules she/he has followed).

Admissions time-line

  • April 2020: Selection & ranking of pre-selected candidates
  • May 2020: pre-selected candidates’ interviews
  • June 2020: Notification of the selected candidates
  • September-October 2020: beginning of contracts

Additional comments

REQUIRED EDUCATION LEVEL: Master’s degree or equivalent
REQUIRED LANGUAGES: ENGLISH (Good)

Specific Requirements:

Applications must be in English and will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Educational record;
  • Scientific quality of the applicant’s CV;
  • Expected impact and benefit to the fellow and to the project;
  • Previous experiences in the area of the COBRA research programme.

COBRA supports equal opportunity and encourages female researchers to apply for positions.

In the event that the ESR recruited has a disability such that her/his participation in the project is not possible without extra financial support, the host institution will apply for a dedicated Special Needs Lump Sum allowance (SNLS) to the European Commission.

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