A.I. for learning and understanding the Quran and the Bible

Project description

This PhD research project will contribute to a large-scale research programme, linking research and teaching in Artificial Intelligence, Languages Cultures and Societies, Religious Studies, and Education.

Measuring semantic similarity or relatedness of passages of text is a key challenge in Artificial Intelligence. We propose to explore textual semantic similarity and relatedness applied to the Quran and the Bible. Similarity or relatedness between two passages from the Quran and Bible goes beyond comparing the words in the passages, but aims to find shared concepts and related messages or teachings. This is a new, more abstract kind of "relatedness" for AI researchers; and measurement of abstract conceptual relatedness has wider applications. Different approaches or algorithms have been developed for AI semantic similarity research, so we will explore and comparatively evaluate these for the special challenges of religious text similarity.

Religious scholars have identified and analyzed related passages within and between these two sacred texts within books of exegesis or critical explanation or interpretation of the scriptures. From these religious expert sources, we can extract a knowledge base K of expert-attested similarities and relatedness between passages. We will develop AI tools and resources to independently identify such similar and related passages, using the expert-derived religious knowledge base as a gold standard to evaluate our computational metrics of religious relatedness. We can then go on to extend coverage of the religious knowledge base to identify passages related to any given Quran or Bible passage or question, extending K.

We will host the collection of Quranic and Biblical knowledge resources and semantic matching tools on an open-access website, as a novel resource for Religious Studies research and teaching in universities; and a wide-reaching resource for education in schools, in three different areas:

  • We will develop a religious chatbot and teaching materials which use the website as a resource for Religious Education teachers, to meet World Religions syllabuses.
  • The website can also make a timely contribution to the UK government's PREVENT strategy to counter radicalization of schoolchildren: we will develop PREVENT-oriented training materials which use the website to counter radical misinformation through education to teach the meaning of the Quran, and Bible, and the similarities which link rather than divide the religious communities.
  • The website will also provide a novel case study in teaching of Computer Science, as we will provide teaching materials which showcase the AI and NLP methods applied to this special data-set.

In this project, you will contribute to a Work Package to our overall Research Programme work plan. Topics for research include:

  • Apply and compare alternative Natural Language Processing methods and representations for capturing the semantics of the Quran and the Bible.
  • Compile a knowledge-base of similarities, analogies, and questions and answers on Quran and Bible text segments (verses, chapters) from religious scholarly Exegesis: critical explanations or interpretations of the religious texts.
  • Integrate AI tools with Quran and Bible text sources in an online open access Web platform W for experimentation, exploration and learning.
  • Evaluate AI methods to identify and measure intra- and inter-text similarity and question- answering on the Quran and the Bible, using religious scholars' analyses of the texts as a guiding Gold Standard.
  • Develop teaching resources integrating AI tools and Website into University course material for Quran and Bible Studies taught modules.
  • Develop a chatbot conversational agent for discussion of questions about the Quran and Bible and promoting critical thinking and argumentation skills, along with teaching and training resources, syllabuses and lesson plans for use by school teachers, using our Website as a case study and showcase in Religious Education and PSCHE, PREVENT education and training to counter radicalization of schoolchildren, and Computer Science teaching.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/ or a Master's degree in a relevant subject.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section of your application, the name of the PhD you wish to apply for is 'Artificial Intelligence for learning and understanding the Quran and the Bible' as well as Dr Eric Atwell as your proposed supervisor. 

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates.  All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office
e: phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000.