ESR14 : Gender and vocal alignment in speakers and robots

PhD fellowship


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.

Applicants should have a Master’s degree in a subject relevant for the research, such as computer science, language technology, or cognitive science. Applicants are expected to have good skills in programming and experience in machine learning. Some experience in linguistics is considered an advantage. 

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: Aix-Marseille University, France

Main supervisors’ institutions: Furhat Robotics, Stockholm, Sweden, and Aix-Marseille University, France

Main supervisors: Prof Gabriel Skantze and Dr Magalie Ochs


  • Aix-Marseille University: training in designing naturalistic gender-based and situation specific speech elicitation techniques (5,5 months);
  • IISAS, Bratislava: training in fine-grained acoustic-prosodic alignment informed by dialogue progression (5 months).

Co-supervisor’s institution:

  • IISAS, Bratislava, Slovakia


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.

Note that the Mobility Allowance is intended to cover the costs associated with the fact that the ESR has moved to another country in order to take her/his position, and is for her/his private use only.

The net salary for ESR14 will be about €2.300-2.700 according to her/his situation.

In addition, funds administered by the host institution will be available to cover the ESR’s participation in the project. This includes:

. Visa and residency card (if needed)
. Registration fees requested by the university in which the ESR will enroll as a PhD student
. Consumable and supplies costs involved in the ESR’s research
. Travel and accommodation expenses associated with the ESR’s stays in places of secondment
. Travel and accommodation expenses associated with the ESR’s participation in the seven COBRA training events
. Registration, travel and accommodation expenses associated with the ESR’s participation in conferences
. Publication fees

Eligibility criteria:

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

Eligible applicants must not hold a Doctoral Degree yet.

Mobility eligibility requirement

Applicants must not have resided in Sweden and/or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Sweden for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date.

Selection process

June 2020: Opening of the call

Applications must 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 the applicant’s motivation for the COBRA ESR14 PhD fellowship;
  3. At least 1 reference letter (in English) from one former supervisor and/or professor;
  4. The scan of the Master’s degree which formally entitles the applicant to embark on a doctorate in France where the applicant will enroll as PhD student at Aix-Marseille University. 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/or marks within her/his master’s degree as well as the courses/modules she/he has followed).

The complete application should be provided in the form of one single pdf file, named as follows: lastname-firstname.pdf.

The deadline for the submission of applications is 31 July 2020, 5 pm GMT.


Admission timeline

  • Early August 2020: Ranking and pre-selection of candidates
  • Mid-August 2020: Interviews of pre-selected candidates and final selection
  • September-October 2020: Beginning of contract

Additional comments

REQUIRED EDUCATION LEVEL: Master’s degree or equivalent
REQUIRED LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (Good or higher level)

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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