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Senior Researcher position - KBR/VUB - FED-tWIN mandate

Category:  Academic Staff & Researchers

1 - Context

This function is part of the FEDtWIN program of the federal science policy, which aims to combine and mutually reinforce the expertise of a federal scientific institution and a university by financing a long-term research project. The "KBR Data Science Lab" project is a joint initiative of Frédéric Lemmers, head of the KBR Digitization Department and Ann Dooms, head of the Research group Digital Mathematics (DIMA) at the Department of Mathematics and Data Science (WIDS) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).


The objective of the KBR Data Science Lab is the development of applications that increase the value of the digitized and born-digital collections in the cultural heritage sector by means of data- and model-driven artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML). In particular, the function aims to improve/automate the digitization workflow on the one hand and developing innovative library services on the other.


About the VUB: 

For already 50 years, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has stood for freedom, equality and connectedness. These values are strongly present on our campuses, in our students as well as our staff. At the VUB, you’ll find a diverse collection of personalities: pure innovators, but especially people who are 100% their authentic selves. With about 3,500 employees, we are the largest Flemish-speaking employer in Brussels, an international city with which we are all too happy to be affiliated and around which our four campuses are located. Our education and research are grounded in the principles of free research with an eye on human progress. We disapprove of every purely authoritative argument and guarantee the free formation of judgement that is necessary for this basic principle to be incorporated in the community. The VUB is autonomous and managed democratically. As such, we guarantee fundamental freedoms within our university, as well as the right of the university community to be involved in making and checking university policy.


The research group Digital Mathematics (DIMA) of the Department of Mathematics and Data Science (WIDS) specializes in the mathematical foundations of Data Science, i.e. digital data acquisition, representation, analysis, communication, security and forensics (in particular the mapping of special properties of thestudy of source material purely through mathematical calculations on its digital counterpart). We develop techniques in discrete mathematics (graphs, ...), harmonic analysis (wavelets, ...) for image processing and machine learning (deep learning, transfer learning, ),
GANs, ...). The research group has a strong track record in the application of mathematics in the cultural heritage sector.


About the KBR: 

The Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) is located at Mont des Arts in Brussels and is one of the ten federal scientific institutions. The Royal Library is the national scientific library. It collects all Belgian publications and plays an essential role in preserving the country's historical, scientific and literary memory. Providing scientific information as well as acquiring, preserving, managing and enhancing an important and extensive contemporary and historical cultural heritage are the absolute basic tasks of this institution. 

2 - Job Description

Teaching area/research area 

KBR Data Science Lab


  • In the first five years of the mandate, the teaching task will be limited in accordance with the objective of the function.
  • The candidate will contribute to the Master programs in which the department provides education with a 6SP course on Data Science in the cultural heritage sector.
  • In addition, guest lectures and research-related workshops at both institutions and their partners are part of the duties.
  • The candidate will also supervise internships, Master's theses and PhDs.


The Belgian government has invested considerably in the digitization of the collections of the Federal Scientific Institutions, for example the digitization of the Belgian press (1830-1950). Although the digitization of these valuable Belgian literary, cultural and historical heritage collections is an important step forward, the real potential of these sources for research is still insufficiently exploited. Without the help of advanced digital methods, it is simply impossible to extract additional value from this large quantity of mostly unstructured data.


The candidate, with his/her combined position, will change this by helping to set up the KBR Data Science Lab.


The FED-tWIN researcher is expected to conduct and supervise groundbreaking research (at Ma and PhD level) within DIMA as well as to acquire competitive research resources. He/she will initiate and coordinate several, also simultaneous ,research trajectories leading to the development of applications that increase the value of the digitized and born-digital collections in the cultural heritage sector using data- and model-driven artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML). In particular, the function aims on the one hand to improve/automate the digitization workflow (e.g. automatic quality assessment) and on the other hand to develop innovative library services (e.g. document recognition and processing, iconography) based on new mathematical concepts, theories and tools. 



  • mathematical data science
  • data- & knowledge-driven AI/ML
  • digitization workflows in libraries
  • information harvesting & iconography in libraries


The candidate becomes a member of the Digitization Department at the KBR and the Department of Mathematics and Data Science at the VUB.


In addition to strengthening the collaboration and research lines between KBR and DIMA, he/she will also contribute to the operational and administrative tasks of the departments as well as to the valorisation of the research on the KBR collections, both within the (inter)national research community (R&D projects, ...) as well as to interested bodies and the general public (outreach).

3 - Job profile

  • As a formal minimum requirement, the applicant must hold a doctorate in Science - Mathematics, Computer Science or Engineering awarded on the basis of an original dissertation.


  • The doctorate may not have been defended more than 12 years ago (counting from the day of submitting the application). This period of 12 years is extended by one year for each absence due to pregnancy, parental or adoption leave, as well as any long term absence due to illness of the candidate or any long term absence due to illness of a first-degree family member.


  • Ideally, the candidate has:
    • at least one year postgraduate experience at the time of recruitment. The term is determined on the basis of the date mentioned on the diploma requested above.
    • competencies in creative thinking and the development of mathematical concepts and theories
    • a strong scientific file (ISI publications) with proven research expertise in
      • data science, particularly in data- and model-driven AI/ML
      • mathematical, statistical and computational models for image processing
      • digital document recognition, processing and quality assessment
    • experience in developing software algorithms (e.g. in Matlab, Python or C++)
    • good communication skills, both to fellow researchers and colleagues with a non-mathematical background as well as to the general public
    • an international network
    • experience with inter/multidisciplinary projects
    • experience in fundraising and project management
    • research valorization experience
    • demonstrable educational expertise
    • experience in supervising Ba, Ma and/or PhD students.


  • The candidate writes and speaks English fluently. Knowledge of Dutch on recruitment and experience with the library sector are a plus.


  • The candidate is expected to subscribe to the university’s vision of education. (The full text in relation to this is available on the university website.)


  • Every initial appointment is also dependent on the successful teaching of a trial lesson.


  • Language requirements:
    • KBR: This position is open to candidates who can be assigned to the Dutch language role, in application of the rules laid down by the laws on the use of languages in administrative matters.
    • VUB: Members of the academic staff who, as title-holders, are charged with teaching assignments, must be able to demonstrate the required knowledge of the language of instruction for the relevant course units. Example: When a course unit is taught in English, the candidate is required to have the appropriate certificate. More information about the regulations concerning the language proficiency you can find via  

4 - Offer

We offer a full-time Senior Research position for an initial period of 5 years, renewable twice upon positive evaluation, with prospects for permanent employment at the end of this mandate. 


The position consists of two 50% contracts at the KBR (scientific personnel, level SW2, 19 hours/week) and VUB (ZAP, lecturer level) respectively.


The candidate should be willing to hold both half-time positions and should also apply for both positions. It is not possible to apply for only one of the two half-time positions. The candidate shall abide by the regulations of both institutions.

5 - Additional information

The planned starting date of the appointment is 01-10-2021. 


Applications need to be submitted at latest on 16-05-2021. 


For more information concerning these vacancy, you can contact: 

  • Ann Dooms ( 
  • Frédéric Lemmers ( 

6 - Application

Applications can only be made ONLINE

Your application must include the following as a minimum:

  • A concise CV;
  • The academic dossier with all relevant elements;
  • Vision of education and research and a list of your five most important publications;
  • A brief statement of reasons for the candidature, including an explanation of the expansion of future research;
  • Degrees and diplomas.


You can contact the person mentioned in the job description.