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PhD Studentship - Knowledge Representation for Ontological Interoperability

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: stipend of £18,500 tax-free per annum for up to 4 years.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 14th May 2021
Closes: 30th June 2021

Supervisory Team:    Dr Mark Weal, Professor Dame Wendy Hall

Project description

The Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton is offering an EPSRC ICASE PhD studentship in collaboration with Dstl. 

The importance of knowledge representation is becoming widely recognised as being of critical importance for the future of a broad tranche of digital technologies.  Prior knowledge is vital for the next generation of data science, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and emerging concepts such as digital twins. Importantly, being able to share knowledge across digital ecosystems without loss of meaning requires forms of knowledge representation capable of supporting collaborative cognition and human machine teaming. 

This project will explore the challenges raised by semantic interoperability in the context of ontologies for defence and security. Key research questions may include: 

  • What forms of knowledge representation best support the inclusion of prior knowledge into learning-based methods?
  • How could knowledge engineering, modelling techniques and domain descriptions leverage standards and inform standards development to achieve semantic interoperability?
  • How could differences in ontological commitments and entailments inform a layered approach to ontology construction?
  • How can diversity in representation between machines and humans be managed including translation between different forms of representation?

You will be part of a cohort of students investigating Human-Centred AI and the impact of AI on society, and will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of academic and Dstl staff. Your research will be supported by relevant training, such as MSc modules, activities offered through the Web Science Institute and opportunities for industry experience.

The Web Science Institute  is an entrepreneurial non-profit research institute which supports interdisciplinary doctoral training in Web Science Innovation and AI for the Future of Society, and is linked to the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub.  The University of Southampton is a partner of The Alan Turing Institute.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory is an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence whose purpose is to maximise the impact of science and technology for the defence and security of the UK.

For informal enquiries please contact Dr Mark Weal ( ) or Alison Tebbutt (


This studentship is open to applicants who are eligible for Home fees.

Entry Requirements

A good undergraduate honours degree (at least a UK 2.1) in a computational subject plus evidence of multidisciplinary research.  Advanced AI experience is not needed but some programming experience would be desirable. 

Closing date: 30 June 2021. Later applications may be considered subject to the availability of funding.

Funding: For Home students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £18,500 tax-free per annum for up to 4 years.

How To Apply Applications should be made online.

Select programme type (Research), 2021/22, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Next page select “PhD Web Science (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form please enter the project title and Dr Mark Weal as the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include:

Research Proposal

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact:

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