Call Data Science

Call 2017 - 2018

Call for 8 places for a PhD course in “Data Science” at the Scuola Normale Superiore for the academic year 2018-2019.

1. Number of scholarships, subject areas, educational objectives.

1.1  For the academic year 2018-2019 the Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS) jointly with the University of Pisa, the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies – Pisa, the IMT School for Advanced Studies – Lucca, and the CNR (hereinafter referred to as “partner institutions”) hereby announces a call for application to 8 PhD positions within the course in “Data Science” for the academic year 2018-2019. The selection is based on candidates’ qualifications and interviews


1.2  Additional positions in collaboration with other institutions could be available before the deadline for application.


1.3  The selection process will consist of one session; additional positions could be offered if not assigned or if available after the deadline for application.


1.4  All successful candidates will receive scholarships and further funding for their study and research activities in accordance with article 6 of this call; enrolment and class attendance are free of charge.


1.5  One place of the PhD course is reserved for candidates who attained their MA/MS (or equivalent) degree in a non-Italian university.


1.6 Additional PhD positions may be available at a later stage, in accordance with specific agreements financed by international Institutions; admission to these positions will be based on the rules decided by each agreement, and will have no bearing on this call.


1.7  The PhD course lasts three years and will start on 1 November 2018.


1.8  The course will be held in English.

1.9 The candidates’ level of competence, talent, motivations and inclination towards scientific research will be assessed on the basis of their qualifications and research project, and through an interview.

1.10 Candidates are admitted to the interview on the basis of an evaluation of their qualifications and of a research project in Italian or English (about 20,000 characters, spaces included). The research project must reveal the candidate’s scientific interests and their cohesion with the scientific guidelines promoted by the SNS and the partner institutions as follows:

  • Data science for society and policy
  • Data science for economics and finance
  • Data science for culture and the humanities
  • Data science for industry and manufacturing
  • Data science for biology and health
  • Data science for the hard and environmental sciences
  • Data science ethics and legal aspects
  • Data science techniques and methods

The research project will not be a determining factor in the subsequent choice of the thesis. The project must show the candidates’ full awareness of the state of the art in the selected scientific field, and their competence in the research methods in use within that discipline; it must also include an adequate bibliography.

1.11 The PhD course involves teaching, seminars and research activities: the educational programmes, adjusted for each individual student, are designed to broaden their basic knowledge and to prepare them for research, with the aim of obtaining a particularly high level of specialisation in a specific scientific area. PhD students attend their studies in accordance with annually approved plans, and they can obtain the authorisation and funding to spend periods of study and research in other highly-qualified university or scientific institutions in Italy or abroad. At the end of the course, providing all due obligations have been fulfilled, the SNS, the University of Pisa, the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies – Pisa, and the IMT School for Advanced Studies – Lucca will jointly confer the title of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in “Data Science”, conforming to article 4 of Law no. 210/1998. The degree certificate, issued by the SNS, will show the logos of all partner institutions, and will be signed by the Director of the SNS, the Dean of the University of Pisa, the Dean of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies – Pisa , and the Director of the IMT School for Advanced Studies – Lucca.

1.12 In accordance with the Italian regulations (Ministerial Decree no. 45 of 8 February 2013), PhD courses can be activated by Universities every year upon approval of the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR), and only if the required standards are respected and maintained. Therefore, after the publication of the final ranking list, successful candidates will be enrolled only if approval has been received for the 34th cycle.

2. Requisites for admission

2.1 Applications are invited from candidates who, irrespective of their citizenship, have an Italian laurea magistrale (MA/MS degree) or an equivalent degree awarded abroad, or who expect to have obtained the degree required for admission by 31 October 2018. Failure to obtain a degree by this date will disqualify the candidate from admission. Degrees awarded abroad will be examined by the selection committee, merely for the purposes of the selection process, , in accordance with the prevailing legislation in Italy and in the country where the degree was issued, and with any international treaties or agreements for the recognition of degrees for the continuation of studies.

2.2 Admission to the selection process is restricted to candidates who:

  1. were born after 31 October 1988;
  2. have no past criminal charges resulting in a prison term of more than three years;
  3. have not been subject to the disciplinary measure of “expulsion” as specified in the didactic regulations of the SNS;
  4. are not in possession of a research doctorate issued by an Italian university, and in any case have never benefitted from a scholarship for attending a research doctorate course in Italy.

2.3 Admission interviews can be conducted in Italian or English. The candidate’s level of competence in the Italian and English language must be stated in the application, with reference to the EUROPASS language grid (

3. Admission to the selection process

3.1 Applications for admission to the selection process must be registered online by 23:59 CET of Wednesday, 28 February 2018.

The online procedure will be activated within the section dedicated to the call on the SNS web site, at the address

All applications received and registered online after the stipulated date and time will be rejected whatever the cause of delay. Applicants are strongly advised to check that they have received notification via email of the registration of their application; the SNS is not responsible for application procedures not correctly concluded.

Candidates are advised not to wait until the last few days before the deadline in order to present their application; the SNS cannot accept responsibility for any malfunctioning due to technical problems, overloading of the communication line and/or the application systems, for communications that go astray on account of incorrect indications in the application or errors ascribed to third parties, accidental circumstances or force majeure.

3.2 The application must include, in addition to personal details, forwarding addresses and proof of qualification for admission, the discipline – or disciplines – for which the candidate intends to compete.

3.3 Candidates must also indicate the names and email addresses of at least two academics who will be contacted by the SNS for reference in support of the candidature. Failure to include any references will not exclude a candidate from the competition.

3.4 Candidates must attach to their application the following documents in PDF format:

  1. a valid copy of a document of identity (citizens of non-EU countries should preferably enclose a copy of a valid passport, including the pages bearing a photograph, personal details, passport number and place and date of issue);
  2. a curriculum vitae et studiorum in the Europass-CV format, available at the following web site:
  3. their thesis for the laurea magistrale (MA/MS degree) or overseas equivalent, accompanied by an English abstract; candidates who do not submit their laurea magistrale certificate by the application deadline for admission must present an extended abstract in Italian or English (about 25,000 characters, spaces included); the extended abstract is also compulsory when the thesis is printed in a language other than Italian or English;
  4. a diploma supplement or equivalent document reporting the achievement examinations sustained and the final degree grade obtained; citizens of non-EU countries without a regular resident permit valid in Italy must enclose a certificate attesting the possession of the degree, the date it was attained, the issuing university and the final grade; candidates who have obtained an equivalent degree in a non-EU country must enclose a certificate of attainment of the degree translated into English, if the original is in another language;
  5. a copy of any publications;
  6. the research project as described in article 1.10 of this call (about 20,000 characters, spaces included) together with an English abstract (about 3000 characters, spaces included).

All enclosed documents must be in English or Italian; any documents in other languages must be accompanied, under the candidate’s responsibility, by a translation in Italian or English.

3.5 Candidates are admitted with reservation; those not in possession of the appropriate requisites may be excluded by the person in charge of the procedure at any time during the selection. Excluded candidates will be notified of the decision and the reason for exclusion.

4. Evaluation of qualifications and interviews

4.1 For the evaluation of the candidates’ inclination towards scientific research and their basic knowledge necessary to tackle the course programme, the selection committee will have a hundred points at its disposal for each candidate: sixty for the evaluation of their qualifications and forty for the interview. Candidates will be admitted to the interview if they receive at least forty points in the evaluation of their qualifications. To pass the interview, candidates must attain at least thirty points. Suitability for the PhD course is subject to passing the interview.

4.2 Qualifications will be evaluated as a whole.

4.3 The outcome of the evaluation and the notice of admission to the interview will be published by Thursday, 15 March 2018.

4.4 The interviews will take place at the SNS sites starting on Thursday, 22 March 2018.

4.5 The committee must conclude the process by Thursday, 12 April 2018.

4.6 Candidates must bring to the interview a valid document of identification. Failure to attend the interviews, for whatever reason, will entail exclusion from the selection.

4.7 Candidates who do not reside in Italy can sit the interview online, using procedures apt to guarantee their identification and the public nature of the interview. The online interview is also allowed for those candidates who are working or studying abroad. The committees can also authorise an online interview for other specific circumstances. The interview can be conducted in Italian or English.

4.8 The list of candidates admitted to the interview and the score obtained in the evaluation of their qualifications will be published, together with the date and time of the interview, on the SNS web site and on the official online noticeboard. Inclusion in the list of admitted candidates constitutes valid notice. All listed candidates are invited to attend the interview on the day and time indicated on the list without the necessity for further notification.

4.9 On the basis of the evaluation of qualifications and research programme, and of the results of the interview, the selection committee will assess the candidates’ suitability and create a performance ranking list in descending order.

4.10 At the conclusion of the interviews, should two or more candidates obtain the same score, priority will be given to the youngest candidate. The results will be published on the SNS web site and on the official online noticeboard.

4.11 Candidates whose qualifications are judged suitable, and who subsequently attend an interview, will be reimbursed for any documented travelling expenses over 50 euros and up to a maximum of 350 euros for candidates coming from Italy and 700 euros for those coming from other countries. The amount of the reimbursement will be calculated based on the place of residence, or, if more convenient for the SNS, on the effective place of departure. Applications for reimbursement, accompanied by the original travel receipts, including boarding passes, must be submitted by 15 November 2018. Reimbursement will be granted, over and above the first 50 euros, exclusively for journeys by train (2nd class), bus, boat, or plane (in economy class and if the distance between Pisa and the place of residence is over 600 km). For candidates residing in Sardinia, air travel is always reimbursed.

5. Nomination of successful candidates, forfeiture and renouncement

5.1 The Director of the SNS will approve the final ranking list drawn up by the committees, and will appoint the successful candidates in accordance with the number of positions specified in the call.

5.2 All successful candidates failing to notify the SNS of their acceptance by the deadline will automatically forfeit their place.

5.3 All successful candidates failing to submit their laurea magistrale (MS/MA degree) certificate or an equivalent degree certificate awarded abroad qualifying them for admission to the PhD course by 31 October 2018 will automatically forfeit their place.

5.4 Successful candidates must submit to the SNS, by the deadline to be indicated in due course, the following documents:

  1. a declaration of acceptance of statutory rules and regulations of the SNS, exonerating the SNS from any responsibility whatsoever for the consequences of any non-compliance;
  2. a digital passport-size photo;
  3. the certification relating to the data declared in the application form, where stipulated by Italian law.

5.5 Successful candidates in possession of a non-Italian degree must submit upon enrolment a Dichiarazione di Valore (Statement of Validity) issued by the Italian diplomatic authorities ( )

5.6 In accordance with article 71 of Presidential Decree no. 445 of 28 December 2000, (Testo unico delle disposizioni legislative e regolamentari in materia di documentazione amministrativa) and subsequent modifications and integrations thereof, the SNS in any case reserves the right to verify the veracity of the data contained in the document of identity and in the application. Successful candidates who will be found not to have the requisites for admission will forfeit their right to the place.

5.7 For the purposes of national insurance and in accordance with article 2, paragraph 26, of Law no. 335 of 8 August 1995, and subsequent modifications and integrations thereof, successful candidates will also be obliged to enrol in the “Gestione Separata”, the insurance fund managed by INPS, the Italian National Insurance and Pensions Office, for those who are self-employed.

5.8 Upon enrolment, successful candidates must submit to the SNS the receipt of payment of the “tassa regionale” (DSU Regional right-to-study fee). The SNS will refund the fee, if due and paid.

5.9 Successful non-EU candidates are obliged to observe the Italian and European Union rules on immigration and to regularise their status in Italy; for this purpose, they can contact the SNS relevant office that will provide in due course all the needed information.

5.10 Successful candidates must show up at the SNS by the date indicated in the notification of the nomination for the start of the course. Any unmotivated absence not approved beforehand by the SNS will result in the forfeiture of their position.

5.11 In case of renouncement or forfeiture by a successful candidate, the SNS has the right to proceed with a new assignation of the position available within thirty days from the start of the course, following the order of the final ranking list of suitable candidates.

6. PhD scholarship and contributions

6.1 PhD students will be granted a scholarship whose amount will be the same as for the PhD scholarships offered by the SNS, conforming to article 9 of the SNS regulations The PhD scholarship will be paid in twelve equal monthly deferred instalments, subject to the fulfilment of students’ academic duties.

6.2 For the academic year 2018-2019, the PhD scholarship is equal to 15,012.00 euros including a lodging allowance. Students also have the right to free meals at the SNS facilities, or at those facilities with active agreements with the SNS, for the whole duration of the course, excluding the periods of academic holidays.

6.3 Successful candidates can apply to use their lodging allowance at the SNS residences, subject to availability.

6.4 PhD students can also carry out off-site study and research activities; formally authorised activities will be assigned additional funds.

6.5 Successful non-EU candidates will be reimbursed for the travelling expenses incurred for the start of the course up to a maximum of 1,000.00 euros and on presentation of original and fiscally valid expense receipts, including boarding passes. They can also present a justified request for an advance on the first instalment of the scholarship grant.

6.6 Non-EU PhD students can request, within a year from the end of the course, reimbursement of expenses incurred for their return to their country of provenance, again up to a maximum of 1,000.00 euros and on presentation of original and fiscally valid expense receipts, including boarding passes. Students not completing the course due to forfeiture can also apply for reimbursement providing at least a year has passed since the start of the course.

7. Students obligations and rights, incompatibilities

7.1 Students’ status, obligations and rights are disciplined by the SNS Statute and regulations, in particular by the regulations of the PhD courses.

7.2 Admission to the course involves a full-time exclusive commitment not compatible with other activities of self-employed or employed work, or with the practising of professional activities. The PhD board can authorise PhD students to pursue other activities as described in article 11 of the PhD Regulation if they are considered relevant to the PhD training activities.

7.3 Successful PhD candidates who are public employees will be subject to prevailing regulations regarding entitlement to time off work or special leave.

7.4 Attendance of the SNS PhD course is incompatible with concomitant enrolment in other degree or specialisation courses, PhD courses, master’s degrees or other doctorate courses in Italy or abroad, unless under specific international agreements. Upon nomination, successful candidates enrolled in any of the above mentioned courses must rectify the situation within fifteen days, under penalty of forfeiture.

8. Treatment of personal data, person in charge of the procedure, deferments, information

8.1 The treatment of candidates’ personal data is subject to Law no. 196 of 30 June 2003 (Code regarding the protection of personal data).

8.2 The person in charge of the SNS academic and student office is also the administrative director of the call.

8.3 For any relevant matters not mentioned in the call, the rules of the SNS Statute and regulations apply.

8.4 This call will be published on the web site , on the European Euraxess web site, and on the web site of MIUR, the Italian Ministry of Education.

8.5 For more information, please contact the personnel of the Segreteria Allievi (Student Office): Silvia Carresi, +39 050 509663, Mario Landucci, +39 050 509237, Silvia Zappulla, +39 050 509685.