Job Properties
  • Job Type
    Full-time Position
  • Category
    Research & Science
  • Languages
  • Experience Required
  • Degree Required
    • Province
    • Date Posted
      December 28,2021
    • Entrusting Package
    • JSS
    • VISA
    • IMG_6430
    • Career Consultation

    PhD Causal inference

    About the role

    In this PhD project, you will develop new statistical methods in the area of causal inference and apply them on real medical data, in particular on hip replacement data.

    Causal inference

    Causation is notoriously difficult to establish, as is instilled in many researchers with the saying `correlation does not imply causation!'. It is usually considered the prerogative of the randomized controlled trial to claim that a particular intervention causes better outcomes. However, due to ethical or practical considerations, there are many research questions and (patient) groups for which a trial cannot be carried out, leaving questions of the type 'Which treatment is the best choice for the patient?' unanswered.

    Regression discontinuity designs

    It is possible to draw causal conclusions outside of the setting of randomized controlled trials. An opportunity for causal inference presents itself when an intervention is assigned based on a cut-off, as is very common in medical decision-making.

    Suppose for example that patients aged 65 or younger receive treatment A and patients older than 65 receive treatment B. On average, patients aged 64 will be similar to patients aged 66 in all potentially confounding aspects like BMI or smoking status. So if the outcomes for patients aged 64 are much better than those of patients aged 66, we may reasonably ascribe this difference to the intervention, and claim a causal effect. This is the core concept behind the regression discontinuity design.

    In this PhD project, you will extend regression discontinuity methodology into several medically relevant directions and apply the new methods to medical data in collaboration with clinicians.

    You will spend most of your time performing research. You are expected to publish your results in refereed journals, to develop publicly available software, and to finalize the research with a PhD thesis. In addition, you will present your results at local and international conferences, seminars and workshops, and you will contribute to the teaching activities of the department.


    We are looking for a PhD student with the following experience and background:

    • You hold an MSc in Mathematics, Statistics, or a closely related discipline;
    • You have strong programming skills, preferably in R, or are willing to learn R;
    • Knowledge of causal inference, survival analysis and/or Bayesian statistics is preferred, but not required;
    • You have good communication skills (written/oral) in English, you are self-disciplined and can work in a multi-disciplinary environment;
    • You are excited to share your results with a broad community of researchers who'd like to use the new methods, through tutorials and workshops.

    Our offer

    • We offer a contract for 1 year that will be extended for 3 years after successful evaluation.
    • In addition to a good basic salary, we offer 8.3% end-of-year bonus and 8% holiday allowance. Do you want to know what you will earn? Then calculate your net salary here (subject to change).
    • Your pension is accrued with the ABP; VUmc contributes a large part of the premium (70%).
    • In addition to excellent accessibility by public transport, we reimburse 75% of your OV travel costs (commuting costs) and also we offer a bicycle arrangement.
    • Free and unlimited access to our online learning environment GoodHabitz.
    • An active staff association and the Young Amsterdam UMC association, both of which organise fun (sports) activities and events.
    • For an overview of all our other terms of employment, see
    • The department's current location is VUmc, but we might move to the AMC location.

    Amsterdam UMC has an open culture. This means that we hope that everyone feels welcome in our organization and that we strive to offer equal opportunities to everyone. We therefore cordially invite all interested parties to respond to this vacancy.

    For more information about our terms of employment, please visit our website.

    About the project

    This PhD position is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The summary of the project is:

    It is generally hard to establish the true cause of something. Are outcomes after a certain treatment better because the treatment is so good, or because only patients with a better prognosis received it? Luckily, we can learn a surprising amount when a cut-off is used. Suppose for example that patients aged 65 or younger receive one treatment while older patients receive another. If the 64 year olds have better outcomes on average than the 66 year olds, we may ascribe this difference to the treatment. The researchers will use mathematical techniques to make optimal use of such convenient cut-offs.

    About the workplace

    The project is embedded in the Big Statistics group within the Department of Epidemiology and Data Science. You will work closely with Stéphanie van der Pas (website) and Mark van de Wiel (website) to develop the new methods. For the applications, you will work with orthopedic surgeons through the Dutch Arthroplasty Register (LROI).

    Big Statistics is a lively research group that links Big Data to clinical response by novel, problem-specific statistical methods. We love data. You can read more about the group members and our projects on our website, and follow our activities on Twitter.

    Let's meet

    We would like to receive your application (motivation letter & CV) via the site accompanied by your grade list (Master's degree), (a draft of) your master thesis (if available) and one or two letters of recommendation (optional). Please upload these additional documents as one file with your CV.

    During the publication period of this vacancy, an invitation for a first interview is already possible.

    We would like to invite you to apply now if you are graduating this summer! The start date of this position is flexible, but can be no later than September 15 2022.

    For more information about this position, you can contact dr. Stéphanie van der Pas via

    For more information about the application process please contact Tanja Hart, Recruitment adviser, via or via 06-21603178.

    A reference check, screening and hiring test may be part of the procedure. Read hier whether this also applies to you. If you join us, we ask for a VOG (Certificate of Good Conduct).

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