Research Assistant at School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
University of Edinburgh, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
United Kingdom

Research Assistant

Vacancy Ref: : 045976

Closing Date : 08-Jan-2019

Contact Person : Dr James Kirby

Contact Number :

Contact Email :

The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is seeking to appoint a 1.0 FTE Research Assistant for a fixed-term period of 36 months. The position is to support a research project entitled “The emergence and evolution of linguistic tone” which is funded by the European Research Council and led by Dr James Kirby.


The successful candidate will be responsible for key aspects of conducting the experimental studies associated with the project, including participant recruitment, preparing and running experiments, post-processing, analysis, and write-up. This position requires someone with a PhD in Linguistics, Psychology, Cognitive Science, or a related discipline (PhD pending and assumed complete at time of appointment can be considered). Applicants with expertise in speech production and perception, high levels of computational proficiency, and programming expertise are particularly encouraged to apply.


For informal enquiries please contact Dr James Kirby:


This full-time position is 35 hours a week, for a fixed-term period of 36 months.


Salary: £33,199 - £39,609 per annum (pro-rata).


Closing Date: Tuesday 8th January 2019, 5pm GMT.


It is anticipated that interviews will be held Feb/March 2019.


Further Particulars


1. Job Details

Job title: Research Assistant
School/Support Department: School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
Unit (if applicable): LEL
Line manager: Dr James Kirby


2. Job Purpose

A full time (35 hours per week) post for a Research Assistant with expertise in the experimental study of language is available in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences


This is an exciting opportunity for an ambitious researcher to join an ERC-funded project “The emergence and evolution of linguistic tone” (Principal Investigator: Dr James Kirby). This project aims to explore our understanding of how physical and cognitive pressures interact to shape speech perception and language change. The post holder will be responsible for key aspects of conducting the experimental studies associated with the project, including participant recruitment, preparing and running experiments, post-processing, analysis, and write-up.

Applications are invited from those with PhD in psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, or a related discipline, and a strong track record of research and publication in relevant areas. Applicants with expertise in speech production and perception, high levels of computational proficiency, and programming expertise are particularly encouraged to apply. Specific experience with MATLAB, R, Python, statistical modelling and functional data analysis, and signal processing are also desirable.


3. Main Responsibilities 
(Approximate % of time)

  1. The Research Assistant will be required to design, develop and refine experiments using existing speech production and perception paradigms, and to extend these paradigms in novel ways. They will be required to prepare experimental stimuli and edit experiment code; coordinate experiments involving large numbers of participants in a series of studies; maintain accurate records of laboratory-based research and administrative paperwork; and summarise and undertake complex statistical analyses of data using established and novel methods to an acceptable standard for publication in peer-reviewed journals. (50%).

  2. Contribute to writing manuscripts for publication, and presenting results at international scientific meetings. (25%).

  3. Keep up-to-date with ongoing research associated with current projects. Develop, accumulate and maintain knowledge of the scientific literature relevant to the field via local and university support streams as well as external networking opportunities. (10%).

  4. Oversee graduate and undergraduate students working on related projects, and supervise data annotators and other scientific staff attached to the lab’s projects. (5%).

  5. Undertake any other tasks relevant to the project as and when they are needed (10%).


4. Planning and Organising

The RA will be expected to manage day-to-day project objectives, conduct data collection and analysis, and draft manuscripts for submission, with awareness of when to liaise with the PI on more substantive matters. 
The RA is expected to work on their own initiative within guidelines set up by the PI who is available for direction as required. They will be expected to report any major issues to the PI and be able to present solutions. 
The RA must be able to manage and reprioritise unexpected work as it arises, for example in response to new developments in the current field of investigation. 
The RA will be expected to co-ordinate and liaise with other members of the research team over work progress.


5. Problem Solving

The RA will be responsible for identifying and resolving, in conjunction with other members of the project team, unforeseen issues with experimental design, analysis, and participant recruitment.


6. Decision Making

The RA will be responsible for making day-to-day decisions related to fine-tuning of the experiment design, participant recruitment and data analysis strategy.


7. Key Contacts/Relationships

Regular contact with the grant holder and other members of the project team, will be required, both at group meetings and informally at other times. 
A good relationship with the IT support staff, senior administrative staff and with the School facilities, team needs to be maintained.


8. Knowledge, Skills and Experience Needed for the Job

E1- A PhD in Linguistics, Psychology, Cognitive Science, or a related discipline. PhD pending and assumed complete at time of appointment can be considered.

D1- An undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline.



E2- Previous experience designing, running, and analysing speech production and perception experiments in laboratory settings.

D2- Experience designing, running, and analysing speech production and perception experiments in fieldwork settings. 
D3- Experience with perceptual learning and phonetic imitation paradigms. 
D4- Proven track record of publications in peer-reviewed journals. 
D5 - Experience with MATLAB, R, Python, statistical modelling and functional data analysis


Knowledge, Skills and Competencies 

E3- Computer skills related to experiment design and stimulus presentation (e.g. PsychoPy, E-Prime, Presentation). 
E4- An up-to-date knowledge of the current literature on speech perception. 
E5- The ability to prepare draft manuscripts for peer review publication, including creation of figures for data presentation using R.


D5- Programming web-based experiments. 
D6- Familiarity with literature on tone production, tone perception, and tonogenesis. 
D7- Experience with computational historical linguistics software and techniques.


Personal Attributes 

E6- Enthusiasm and conscientiousness. 
E7- Excellent time management and organisational skills with the ability to communicate and interact effectively with the other project staff, to coordinate multiple tasks, and to work with other investigators, whilst adhering to key project milestones. 
E8- Ability to prioritise and to work both independently but within a team with minimum supervision, and to solve problems as they arise.


D4-. A flexible approach to working, especially when liaising with volunteer participants.


9. Dimensions

The work is part of a major project on the emergence and evolution of tone systems, with implications for the larger understanding of speech perception, the production of laryngeal contrasts, and language variation and change. The RA will, in collaboration with the grant holder and other team members, be responsible for implementing the study designs as articulated in the grant application.


10. Job Context and any other relevant information

The post holder will be based in School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences in the Dugald Stewart Building. This is a 3 year fixed term post and the grant holder will be expected to deliver the objectives outlined in the project funded by the ERC.


Application Procedure

All applicants should apply online by clicking the apply link at the bottom of this page and submitting: - A cover letter explaining qualifications for the position; - An up-to-date CV; - A research statement; and - One or more representative publications, manuscripts, or dissertation chapters The application process is quick and easy to follow, and you will receive email confirmation of safe receipt of your application. The online system allows you to submit a CV and other attachments.


We anticipate interviews will be held in Feb/March 2019.You will be notified by email whether you have been shortlisted for interview or not.

The closing date is 5pm GMT on Tuesday 8th January 2019.


Eligibility to Work

In accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and Immigration Act 2016 the University of Edinburgh, as an employer, has a legal responsibility to prevent illegal working and therefore must check that all employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom (UK).

To do so, the University requires to see original documents evidencing right to work in the UK before commencement of employment and this is normally carried out at interview. Details will be provided in any letter of invitation to interview.


For further information on eligibility to work please visit our eligibility to work webpage


If you are from outside the EEA and not currently eligible to work in the UK, there are visa routes that may be available to you, for example:

  1. Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): If you are an academic in the field of sciences; humanities; engineering; medicine; digital technology; or the arts, it may be possible for you to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. This route requires you to apply to be endorsed as an internationally recognised leader or emerging leader in your particular field by a designated competent body (Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, Tech City UK). However, if you are applying for a senior academic role, e.g. Professor/Reader there is an accelerated route to endorsement. Further information can be found on the UKVI website
  2. Tier 2: The University is a UKVI licensed sponsor and is able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to successful candidates who are offered highly skilled roles and meet the eligibility criteria. The CoS enables candidates to apply for a Tier 2 (general visa).


Further information about whether you require a visa and other visa routes can be found at:


Conditions of Employment


Pension Scheme

This role is grade UE07 and therefore the post holder is automatically included in membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), subject to the USS membership criteria, unless they indicate that they choose not to join the Scheme.

For further information please visit our Pensions website.



The role is grade UE07 and attracts an annual salary of £33,199 to £39,609 per annum, pro rata. Salary is paid monthly by direct transfer to your Bank or Building Society account, normally on the 28th of the month. Salaries for part-time staff are calculated on the full-time scales, pro-rata to the Standard Working Week.


The University reserves the right to vary the candidate information or make no appointment at all. Neither in part, nor in whole does this information form part of any contract between the University and any individual.


The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

The School comprises Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences (Linguistics and English Language). We offer a rich and diverse learning and research environment for our staff and students, with close links between our three subject areas, alongside other world-class research areas within the University and beyond.
The School is recognised as world-leading, as shown in its excellent output across all areas in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), our research environment is rated as 100% conducive to internationally excellent research across all subject areas.

All of the School’s subject areas consistently rank in the top 50 in the world.

• Linguistics ranks 5th in the world and 2nd in the UK (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017).

• English Language is grouped with Literature in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017, where the University ranks 11th in the world and 3rd in the UK.

• Psychology ranks 20th in the world, and 2nd in the UK in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 by subject.

• Philosophy was covered in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 subject grouping ‘history, philosophy and theology’ where the University ranks 27th in the world and 5th in the UK.
The School is unique in offering outstanding opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and in pioneering novel forms of research that reach across traditional boundaries. In 2016/17, the School welcomed nearly 2000 students from around the world onto our diverse range of programmes. The School has well established links with other areas of the University such Clinical Neuroscience, Medicine, Informatics and Edinburgh College of Art. This large and diverse teaching portfolio is augmented by the breadth of our research portfolio, whereby we are able to secure large volumes and value of externally funded research grants. Our core income budget is circa £23m per annum.

There are over 150 academic staff within the School, and the breadth of expertise ranges from analytic philosophy and the study of English language, through theoretical and applied linguistics, philosophy of science and epistemology and experimental psychology, to cognitive neurosciences and genetic influences on human behaviour. We have six research centres which drive our research and help put our research into practice, connecting academia with industry, policy and the general public.

• Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre – dementia research centre in collaboration with Alzheimer Scotland

• Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics – research centre focused on historical linguistics and language change, centred on the history of English and Scots.

• Bilingualism Matters – a centre promoting bilingualism and language learning to the general public

• The Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE) – famous for its intelligence studies with the Lothian Birth Cohort

• The Centre for Language Evolution – interdisciplinary centre focused on understanding the origins and evolution of language

• EIDYN – Philosophy research centre focusing on epistemology, mind and normativity.
The School offers extensive professional service support for academics across a wider range of administrative operations, including dedicated undergraduate and postgraduate teaching offices, research and knowledge exchange support team and a highly skilled and specialised IT team who provide support relating to learning technology, and facilities for data collection and experimentation across cognitive science.
We are fully committed to recognising and supporting equality and diversity amongst our staff and students. In 2017 we were awarded an Athena SWAN Bronze award by the Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN charter in recognition of our efforts to promote a School culture of equality.

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (
The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is a large and diverse part of the University. Led by Vice-Principal Professor Dorothy Miell, it has 13,800 undergraduates, 5,500 taught postgraduates, 1,300 research students and more than 3,800 academic and professional services staff. The College incorporates 11 Schools (Business; Divinity; Economics; Edinburgh College of Art; Education; Health in Social Sciences; History, Classics and Archaeology; Law; Literatures, Languages and Cultures; Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences; and Social and Political Science), the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and the Centre for Open Learning. The College is located on multiple sites across Edinburgh, with the majority of Schools and College Offices based close to the central George Square area. The College, which is recognised as one of the world's leading centres for the arts, humanities and social sciences in research and teaching, has been growing and investing strongly in recent years.


Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014)


The College operates at the highest levels of international quality across a very wide range of disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences and submitted the work of more than 750 staff to 23 Units of Assessment in the Research Excellence Framework 2014. The College achieved a superb result, combining a large-scale, broad and diverse submission with very high quality outcomes: 86% of its research impact and 76% of the overall quality profile were assessed as world-leading (4*) and internationally excellent (3*). Using the widely used Research Power index (which combines the submission's overall score for 3* and 4* work with the volume of staff submitted), 12 of the College’s Units were ranked within the top five in the UK, and 18 were ranked first in Scotland. With an assessment of more than 95% at 3* and 4*, we're particularly proud of the outstanding research environment we create for staff and research students.

The University of Edinburgh
For more than four centuries, our people and their achievements have rewritten history time and again. They’ve explored space, revolutionised surgery, published era-defining books, paved the way for life-saving medical breakthroughs and introduced to the world many inventions, discoveries and ideas from penicillin to Dolly the sheep. We have believed that anything is possible, we still do.

The latest Research Excellence Framework highlighted our place at the forefront of international research. This adds to our international reputation for the quality of our teaching and our student experience excellence. The University is proud of its success with online teaching initiatives, with 2550 students currently studying its online distance learning postgraduate programmes, and a total to date of more than 2 million enrolments for Edinburgh MOOCs.


As a member of staff, you will be part of one of the world's leading universities, with 20 Schools spread over 3 Colleges that offer more than 1600 undergraduate and 600 postgraduate programmes to over 35,000 students each year. Professional services are critical to this success as well as our world-class teaching, research and student facilities. In fact, we are one of the top employers in Edinburgh, with over 13,000 people spread across a wide range of academic and supporting roles.


As a world-changing, world-leading university, we offer an exciting, positive, creative, challenging and rewarding place to work. We give you support, nurture your talent, develop and reward success and integrate academic, professional and personal career goals, as well as give your career the benefit of a great and distinguished reputation. In addition, our employees benefit from a competitive reward package and a wide range of staff benefits, which include generous holiday entitlement, a defined benefits pension scheme, staff discounts and much more. Access our staff benefits page for further information and use our reward calculator to find out the total value of pay and benefits provided.


The University of Edinburgh holds a Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our commitment to advance gender equality in higher education. We are members of the Race Equality Charter and we are also Stonewall Scotland Diversity Champions, actively promoting LGBT equality. The University has a range of initiatives to support a family friendly working environment, including flexible working and childcare vouchers. See our University Initiatives website for further information.


University Family Friendly Initiatives


Equality Networks:

Staff Pride Network for LGBT+ colleagues and allies
Disabled Staff Network

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336.

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