A new research programme has been announced that will see researchers collaborate with industry and policymakers to tackle some of the of the biggest ethical questions posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI), in order to build public trust and ensure the UK remains at global forefront of the research, development and deployment of AI technology.
The major programme, led by the AHRC, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will be the first of its scale in the UK and will inform the ethical development and use of AI in the UK.
AI is unlocking enormous benefits across our economy and society, however with this come new and accelerated risks. One survey, carried out following the use of algorithms to standardise exam grades in 2020, found 53% of UK adults stating that they have no faith in algorithmic decision making applied to them, so it is vital to build trust to ensure the AI industry can thrive and its technology can benefit people’s lives. This programme will help build public confidence by fostering the growth of a responsible and ethical AI ecosystem informed by world-class, trusted research.
The programme will enable progress in how responsible and ethical approaches to AI technologies are applied, to positively transform commercial, business-led, and public-facing endeavours. It will move beyond AI ethics frameworks, creating recommendations and use cases that can be put into practice for a range of AI applications – from biometrics and facial recognition, to big data analytics in the financial sector and diagnostics in healthcare.
Harnessing the expertise of researchers and innovators from across a breadth of disciplines - from the humanities to computer science – the programme will involve a diverse range of perspectives to tackle these complex ethical challenges.
Dr Allan Sudlow, Arts and Humanities Research Council Director of Partnerships and Engagement, said:
“From facial recognition to big data used in the financial sector, ‘deep fake’ videos to ‘tailored’ adverts on social media, Artificial Intelligence has become embedded in our daily lives. However, this prevalence has raised a number of questions about the ethical impact of such data-driven technologies.
“Ethics and accountability cannot and must not be an afterthought in the design and development of AI. This programme will work in partnership with the Ada Lovelace Institute and industry, government and regulators to add new insight and perspectives to this area.
“This important investment announced today will harness the UK’s existing strengths across multiple sectors and disciplines to ensure the AI technologies of the future are used responsibly and ethically across our society and industry.”
Carly Kind, Director of the Ada Lovelace Institute, said:
“We are delighted to be partnering with the AHRC on this major new research programme to ensure that AI works for people and society.
“There is a real opportunity for the UK research community, in collaboration with policymakers and industry, to lead the way in developing a responsible AI ecosystem.
"We will be working with the AHRC and appointed Programme Director to define and shape the programme strategy, identify and amplify diverse and interdisciplinary perspectives, engage with the existing ecosystem and influence policy and practice.”
Edwina Dunn, Chair of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, said:
"To truly realise the transformative benefits of AI, we need to build a world-leading ecosystem to ensure that these technologies develop in a way that earns public trust.
“A strong research environment will help to ensure that the UK can continue to make rapid progress in achieving the benefits of responsible AI.
“We look forward to working with the academic community to achieve ethical and responsible approaches to AI."
Notes to editors
For further information or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson from AHRC, contact:
Corinne Mosese, UKRI Senior Media and Communications Manager
Mobile: 07522 218070
About the Arts and Humanities Research Council
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, funds internationally outstanding independent researchers across the whole range of the arts and humanities: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages and literature, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. The quality and range of research supported by AHRC works for the good of UK society and culture and contributes both to UK economic success and to the culture and welfare of societies across the globe.
About the Ada Lovelace Institute
The Ada Lovelace Institute (Ada) is an independent research institute with a mission to ensure data and AI work for people and society. Ada works to create a shared vision of a world where AI and data are mobilised for good, to ensure that technology improves people’s lives. They take a sociotechnical, evidence-based approach and use deliberative methods to convene and centre diverse voices. They do this to identify the ways that data and AI reorder power in society, and to highlight tensions between emerging technologies and societal benefit.
Find out more: adalovelaceinstitute.org | @adalovelaceinst
About the Nuffield Foundation
The Ada Lovelace Institute is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. The Foundation funds research that informs social policy, primarily in education, welfare and justice. It also provides opportunities for young people to develop skills and confidence in STEM and research. In addition to the Ada Lovelace Institute, the Foundation is also the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory.
 See the British Computer Society’s report Priorities for the National AI Strategy, page 25: https://www.bcs.org/media/7562/national-ai-strategy.pdf