Summer School on Democracy in the age of Big Data and AI

Venice, 15 – 20 September 2019

This ODYCCEUS summer school mixes theoretical lectures with practical hands-on sessions and ateliers to examine how novel tools of computational social science can help us understand these phenomena and possibly facilitate future democratic decision processes. It introduces social scientists and media researchers to the latest methods, tools, and techniques and introduces AI researchers and complex systems scientists to the approaches and issues of social science so that they can come up with new new tools or refine existing ones.
More specifically, participants will learn how they can build Opinion Observatories that tap into social media to collect information about how certain actors are trying to manipulate political opinion in elections, how fake news gets fabricated and spreads, or how opinions get polarized and shift. They will learn how AI and social media might breathe new life into participatory democracy and how citizens can get empowered to make up their own minds or explore critical issues such as pollution or over-exploitation of their urban environment for tourism. Participants get the opportunity to present their own research in poster sessions. There will also be opportunities to visit relevant social and cultural projects in Venice.

Further information:

Post-doctoral position available

We are looking to hire a post-doctoral researcher (100%) to join the Penelope team in Brussels. You will have a leading role in shaping the Penelope platform, which consists of tools and techniques for mapping opinions expressed in online (social) media. Responsibilities include the design, implementation and integration of novel tools (in particular NLP-related), steering the development of Penelope within the project and (if desired) supervision of students.

Requirements and application: The candidate should have experience in NLP and machine learning. Very good spoken and written command of English is required. The starting date is flexible, depending on the availability of the candidate. Women are especially encouraged to apply. The initial contract will be for 1 year, and can possibly be extended. Please send your application by e-mail to including your CV, transcripts and certificates, a cover letter, a statement of research interests, your PhD thesis, as well as the contact details of 3 references before 15 January 2019.

As an employee of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel you will work in a dynamic, diverse and multilingual environment. Our green campus is located in the centre of Brussels, the lively capital of Belgium and Europe. Depending on your experience and academic merits you will receive a salary according to the official pay scales. Hospitalisation insurance and free use of public transport for travel to and from work are standard employment benefits. Both campuses have extensive sporting facilities which are at your disposal and a nursery is within walking distance. More information is available at
ContactFor more information, please contact Dr. Katrien Beuls (

Inspiration day of the Flemish Radio and Television (VRT)

The main ideas of the ODYCCEUS project were introduced to a delegation of the Flemish Radio and Television (VRT) at the inspiration day organised at the VUB AI Lab. Paul Van Eecke and Katrien Beuls demonstrated the semantic frame extractor, which detects semantic frames in news paper articles and tries to fill in their slots. An example of such a semantic frame is the Causation frame, with the verb “cause” that evokes the frame and phrases such as “climate change” and “rising sea levels” as the cause and effect slots.  You can read more about a first version of the semantic frame extractor in the online web demo.

A further follow-up meeting is planned with the VRT News editorial team to discuss a potential collaboration.

Workbench piloted at JRC in Ispra

The Penelope workbench was presented and piloted today at the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra during the third Resonances Summer School, this year devoted to the theme of “Big Data”. The pilot took place in a session on “New tools for social media and fake news”, in which Luc Steels gave a talk and Michael Anslow (Sony CSL Paris) demonstrated the workbench. The Resonances Summer School is an initiative of the Sci-Art project, which is joining art and science to support EU policy making.

Guest lecture at VUB-SMIT

Katrien Beuls gave an invited talk at the VUB centre for Studies in Media, Innovation and Technology (SMIT) where she introduced the ODYCCEUS project. She talked about the goals of the project to create conceptual and social maps from online media and use these maps to make social discourse and social dynamics visible. The semantic frame extractor was also demonstrated, as it was used as an augmented reading tool for a newspaper article about climate change.

First pilot study of the Penelope workbench

The Penelope workbench, which is the first Penelope interface that was released to the public and allows social scientists to build pipelines with available Penelope components, has been piloted at the first ODYCCEUS conference in Leipzig this week. The results of the pilot study show that the participants rated the workbench as useful (8/10) and state that it met their expectations (7.5/10). The workbench can be tested on