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Tilburg Law School to invest € 2.5 million in innovative PhD research

PRESS RELEAE 26 September 2016 - Tilburg Law School has appointed thirteen young researchers who, between September 2016 and February 2017, will start with innovative PhD research, for instance, into the role of the law in the use of Big Bata. The investment involved amounts to approximately € 2.5 million.


Four of the PhD projects are devoted to Data Science, a major thrust area of Tilburg University in which Tilburg Law School want to annually invest € 100,000 until 2020. Research will for instance be conducted into the regulation of intelligent personal robots, the use of Big Data analytics in the criminal justice domain, and data protection in the neuro-technological context of networked bionic limbs.

The other research projects also respond to changes in society that illustrate gaps in national and international legislation. They also reflect the way in which the professional practice of the law is changing.

Examples of topics dealt with include accountability and responsibility for human rights violations around such mega sports events as the FIFA World Cup football competition in Qatar or the Olympic Games, the responsibility of the EU member states in terms of refugees’ and human rights when trying to keep refugees from entering EU territory, the strategies that public servants use in dealing with citizen initiatives in modern democracy, and the new informal regulations on natural resources by public-private partnerships.

“We are extremely pleased that, with all this research talent, Tilburg Law School can contribute to the development of the law and public administration of the 21st century,” says Corien Prins, Dean of Tilburg Law School. Ton Wilthagen, TLS’ Vice-Dean for Research: “Investing in young talent is crucial for science and society.”

The PhD candidates and their projects: =>

Tomislav Chokrevski LL.M (Data Science, TILT, Tilburg Institute for Law Technology and Society)

‘What is in my mind?’ The legal and regulation classification of neural signals

With small, portable EEG neural headsets as ‘wearable electronic’ and networked bionic limbs interfacing with the nervous system, neurotechnologies are poised to reach more consumers and citizens. As these technologies are in converging fields (info-, bio-, nano- and cogno-sciences), they intersect with the law in highly complex ways. Chokrevski will investigate the hitherto unresearched challenge under which legal regime neural signals processed by such technologies should be qualified and regulated. This involves questions like, are these signals (partly) thoughts, which are traditionally beyond the domain of law? If neural signals fall under an (intellectual) property regime, would the property claims of content owners extend into the brains of people?

Silvia De Conca LL.M (Data Science, TILT)

Personal robots in the Big Data era: A new challenge to the European legislation on the protection of personal data

This project analyzes the interactions between the European regulation on the protection of personal data and Intelligent Personal Robots. The functionality of Intelligent Personal Robots is based on machine learning, which requires extensive collection, storage and transmission of personal data. At the same time, the European legislation limits the processing of personal data to what is strictly necessary. This research addresses the question how to create a balance between the technology and the law, to further innovation while protecting individual rights.

Irene Kamara LL.M (Data Science, TILT)

Standardizing personal data protection in the Internet of Things era: A European perspective in an interconnected world

This study aims to analyze the role of standardization as form of regulation of new technologies in safeguarding the protection of the right of personal data with regard to the adverse consequences of big data generated by the Internet of Things. The research focuses on the cases of smart home (domotics) and health monitoring wearable computing. Standards play an important role in the European General Data Protection Regulation from 2018 because they can specify requirements in specific contexts, technologies and sectors that the legislation does not.

Sascha van Schendel LL.M (Data Science, TILT)

A framework for the protection of data and privacy in Big Data Analytics in the domain of criminal justice

This project involves an investigation of the scope of exemptions to data protection and privacy legislation for actors in the domain of criminal justice in the light of big data analytics. Van Schendel will also draft a framework for the protection of citizens against risks of the use of big data analytics.

Wieke Blijleven LL.M (Tilburg School of Politics and Public Administration)

Street level bureaucracy in the context of governance: Understanding democratic professionalism

This study will reveal the crucial, yet understudied role that ‘democratic professionalism’ plays in modern day good governance, by protecting democratic procedures, lawfulness and fairness, and also being responsive to active citizens. The research focuses on the strategies that public servants use to deal with active citizens and citizen initiatives, and moves beyond the existing research by explaining which contextual factors and rationalities account for their choice of strategy.

Robbert Coenmans LL.M (Reflect, Research Institute for Flexicurity, Labor Market Dynamics and Social Cohesion)

Robotization and workplace involvement: The key to job satisfaction?

The fear of job loss due to robotization is mounting. As a response the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) coined an ‘inclusive robot agenda’, a key element of which could be work place involvement. Coenmans will investigate whether effective workplace involvement could maintain or enhance job satisfaction when robotization occurs. He will also evaluate the legal system regarding workplace involvement and industrial relations and which changes need to be made to the legal system (especially Art. 25 Netherlands Works Councils Act) to be in line with an inclusive robot agenda.

Daniela Heerdt LL.M (European and International Law)

Blurred lines of responsibility and accountability: Human rights violations in the context of mega-sporting events

While mega international sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic games entertain people all over the globe, they also bring about grave human rights violations. Recent estimations predict that before the first ball will be kicked in Qatar in 2022, 4000 more workers will have died due to hazardous working conditions. Many thousands of families have been displaced for the Olympics in Brazil. The parties responsible of these mega events are a complex mix of national, international, public and private actors. Moreover, an increased frequency of joint actions blur the lines of responsibility and accountability. This study explores the potential of international law in establishing responsibility and accountability for cases of joint action that result in human rights violations.

Danielle Op Heij LL.M (Private Law)

Digital content and contract law. In search of appropriate remedies for non-conforming digital content

Consumers increasingly buy goods and services such as e-books and music that contain data, which in contractual terms are referred to as ‘digital content’.  If the purchase is unsatisfactory, however, consumers have to fall back on legal remedies that were designed for goods and services without digital content such as bikes and coffee makers. The problems experienced with digital content in practice indicate that the remedies in contract law fall short and that an upgrade of the rules on digital content is needed. The project examines how this upgrade can be achieved in Dutch and European contract law.

Louise van Heusden LL.M (Public Law, Jurisprudence and Legal History)

Judicial review of evidence-based lawmaking – A closer look at the role of the courts as regulatory watchdogs

In what way and to what extent can Dutch courts and the European Court of Justice in reviewing legislation assess the empirical and scientific evidence underlying the enacted legislation? And to what extent can the courts contribute to strengthen the empirical and scientific basis of evidence-based legislation? This project investigates the role of courts as regulatory watchdogs. This research aims to contribute to this practice in the Netherlands and the EU.

Hyoung Jin Nho LL.M (Public Law, Jurisprudence and Legal History)

The transition of the international legal order in East Asia: The Treaty of Shimonoseki revisited

The conclusion of the Treaty of Shomonoseki (17 April 1895) was a groundbreaking event in the history of international law. It was adopted by China and Japan, the first of which upheld the Confucian legal order while the other adhered to European international law. The treaty marked a watershed as it stands for the universalization of international law in East Asia. This project explores the characteristics of the Treaty of Shimonoseki as an unequal peace treaty in an age of legal transition. Theoretical explanations drawing on legal history and comparative law will serve to bridge the gap in the existing narrative of international law in East Asia between the era of ancient philosophies and the adoption of modern international law in the 19th century.

Oguz Kirman LL.M (Private Law)

Legal transplant of boilerplate contract clauses: ‘Copy-paste’ or ‘error’?

This project concerns a comparative study of the implementation of ‘boilerplates’ from Common Law into Civil Law. These standardized contract clauses (boilerplates) are being copied in cross-border trade contracts which can lead to unintended results in the new system. The project aims to identify and explain interpretational differences between Common law (primarily in the United States) and Civil Law systems (primarily in the Netherlands_ and explain why the clauses have been implemented the way they have been.

Marissa Ooms LL.M (European and International Public Law)

Informal international lawmaking as governmentality: Global governance of natural resources by public-private partnerships

International lawyers have identified the emergence of an ‘international resources law’, which allegedly reflects a shift from sovereignty to global governance of natural resources. With the aim of contributing to ‘good governance’, informal lawmaking by public-private partnerships (PPPs) has been a popular technique for governing resources. This project analyzes informal lawmaking by PPPs through the lens of ‘governmentality’ in order to grasp this juridico-political practice as a form of power.

Annick Pijnenburg LL.M (INTERVICT, International Victimology Institute Tilburg)

At the frontiers of state responsibility: Do non-entree policies reach beyond the limits of refugee and human rights law?

The increase in the number of refugees and migrants trying to reach the EU since 2015 highlights the attempts by the European states to manage migration flows by preventing potential asylum seekers from reaching their territory. Annick Pijnenburg will analyze jurisdiction and state responsibility for extraterritorial State action and determine State responsibilities under international refugee and human rights law in the context of these cooperative non-entree policies.

Note to editors

For more information please contact press officer Corine Schouten, tel. +31 13 466 2993, e-mail c.h.schouten@tilburguniversity.edu.