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Research Fellow in Drone Violence and AI Ethics

Politics & International Relations

Location:  Highfield Campus
Salary:   £30,688 to £36,613
Full Time Fixed Term (3 Years)
Closing Date:  Tuesday 04 September 2018
Interview Date:   Wednesday 10 October 2018
Reference:  1042018CC

The University of Southampton invites applications for a postdoctoral Research Fellow to investigate ethical and governance questions arising from the use of armed uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’).

We seek an enthusiastic and highly-motivated researcher to work with Professor Christian Enemark (Principal Investigator) on a major project entitled “Emergent Ethics of Drone Violence: Toward a Comprehensive Governance Framework” (DRONETHICS). The project is funded through the European Research Council’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Consolidator Grant no. 771082).

You will have *PhD-level experience in conducting high-quality independent and/or collaborative research in a field relevant to the DRONETHICS project, you will be willing to engage with literatures beyond your own discipline, and you will be a committed and well-organized team member.

*Applications for Research Fellow positions will be considered from candidates who are working towards or nearing completion of a relevant PhD qualification.  The title of Research Fellow will be applied upon successful completion of the PhD.  Prior to the qualification being awarded the title of Senior Research Assistant will be given.

Within the project team, you will be primarily responsible for designing and leading a programme of research on the relationship between artificial intelligence, ethics, and the use of armed drones. This research will advance the theoretical, empirical and policy-related dimensions of the DRONETHICS project, and it will include fieldwork (interviews) at locations within and outside the UK. In addition, you will participate in project-related planning, management, public engagement, and publication activities. 

Your appointment will be for a period of three years (36 months), with an option to extend for up to six months (subject to funding availability).


The increasing use of armed drones is a serious political challenge with implications for security and justice worldwide. DRONETHICS is an interdisciplinary project—situated at the intersection of international relations, military ethics, and computer science—which systematically addresses an urgent need to clarify the morality of ‘drone violence’. The ambition of the project is to extend ethical debate about such violence beyond contemporary Just War thinking, by conceptualising it as either war, law enforcement, interpersonal violence, or devolved (to AI) violence. The rationale for pursuing this expansive approach is that it is more conducive to discerning the true essence of drone violence and thus more likely to lead to a comprehensive framework for governing it justly. 

The three main objectives of DRONETHICS are to: (1) develop a comprehensive theory of drone violence as a basis for normative thinking; (2) discover and compare how government officials, academic authors, drone operators, and robotics engineers make a moral case for or against drone violence; and (3) generate research-based, value-sensitive policy recommendations on ethically preventing, restricting or permitting drone violence in various circumstances.

As Research Fellow in Drone Violence and AI Ethics, your responsibilities will include leadership of Work Package 5 (Drone Violence as Devolved Violence) of the DRONETHICS project. This work will include consideration, from an ethical perspective, of a hypothetical future of robotic violence in which drones are no longer remote-controlled but self-controlled. The research will advance ongoing debates about the desirability of a machine’s autonomy reaching a point at which humans are divested of moral responsibility for its actions. It is likely to involve the development of principles of AI ethics as components of a framework for envisioning, judging and governing AI-controlled drone violence.

Department of Politics and International Relations

As a member of the DRONETHICS team, you will also be a member of the intellectual community associated with the Department of Politics and International Relations (PAIR) at the University of Southampton. The Department has a strong, collegial and well-established research culture. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) it was ranked 5th in the UK for research outputs quality, and the Department incorporates four active research groups specialising in: international relations, political analysis, political theory and public policy. Further information about PAIR’s staff, research and teaching programmes is available at

University of Southampton

The University of Southampton is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research-intensive UK universities, and it has an excellent international reputation for cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research. Here, you will have easy access to our world-class expertise in numerous fields, including moral philosophy (Southampton Ethics Centre), AI (Centre for Machine Intelligence), and social science research methods (School of Economic, Social and Political Sciences). Further information about the University of Southampton is available at

For informal enquiries, please contact Professor Christian Enemark (Principal Investigator, DRONETHICS):

Application procedure:

You should submit your completed online application form at The application deadline will be midnight on the closing date stated above. If you need any assistance, please call Charlene Tyson (Recruitment Team) on +44 (0) 23 8059 6803. Please quote reference 1042018CC on all correspondence.

Please note that with effect from 01/08/2018, the University’s organisational structure has been updated. This post is now within Politics and International Relations, School of Economic Social and Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences.

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

Further details:

We aim to be an equal opportunities employer and welcome applications from all sections of the community. Please note that applications from agencies will not be accepted unless indicated in the job advert.

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