In Autumn 2020 the Centre, directed by Prof. Shannon Vallor, Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence, welcomes an inaugural cohort of five PhD students to be supervised across six Schools at the University and mentored within the Centre. Supported by the Baillie Gifford gift, these students will pursue applied research projects in the ethics of data and AI applications in agriculture, medicine, social robotics, education, and finance.
Over the next decade and beyond, the Centre will sponsor a range of groundbreaking teaching and research programmes that unite technical and moral understanding in ways designed to invite and sustain collaboration across a diverse community of stakeholders.
The Centre will routinely engage technology practitioners, policymakers, regulators, business and civic leaders and citizen advocates, including and especially those communities historically underrepresented, marginalised or disproportionately impacted by data-driven innovation and other new technologies.
Each student will be supervised by a multidisciplinary team of two or more University of Edinburgh faculty. Collectively their research will draw upon expertise from six different Schools at the University:
- School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences
- School of Social and Political Science
- School of Informatics
- Business School
- Usher Institute: Edinburgh Medical School
- The Roslin Institute
Our Baillie Gifford PhD students will each combine theoretical and data-driven methods of inquiry to address a concrete ethical challenge in data/AI that is anchored in an emerging practice or application. This year’s cohort will be addressing technomoral challenges arising from data-driven innovations in education, health care, finance, commercial robotics, and agriculture.
While the Baillie Gifford students conduct research under the supervision of their respective advisory teams in the Schools, they will also be mentored as a group by Centre Director Shannon Vallor and other EFI researchers. Together they will have the opportunity to develop a shared body of cross-disciplinary knowledge, vocabularies and conceptual tools that will enable new technomoral modes of thinking, creating and problem-solving.
The aim of our mentoring within the Centre is to create a methodologically diverse but cohesive community of emerging scholars who know how to successfully embed ethical reflection, analysis, and practice within technical design and development challenges.
Over time, we aim for our students to have an impact on the broader innovation ecosystem: to bring technical imagination into a supportive relationship with our moral and political capabilities. We believe the goal of ethical innovation is not to build technology to solve problems for communities, but to empower communities to themselves exercise the power to build more resilient, sustainable and just futures.
Additionally, elective postgraduate courses taught by Centre-affiliated faculty will incorporate data ethics across EFI’s full range of PGR education programmes.
In 2022-2023, the Centre will deliver a new MSc programme designed for students who want to develop the knowledge, skills and tools needed to embed technomoral intelligence into the design, development and deployment of future data and AI-driven technologies.
Our approach will be to facilitate rather than instruct. In particular, our public engagement activities will be designed to elevate those voices most heavily impacted by new technologies, but all too often left out of decisions about how, where, whether, and for whose benefit those technologies will be designed and deployed.
The Centre’s public engagement strategy aims also to facilitate the transfer, exchange and integration of technical and moral expertise across traditional barriers and silos, often preserved by unjust power asymmetries and hierarchies. We ask, where is the missing expertise needed, not only to develop technologies more ethically or responsibly, but also to direct the power of technology more justly and sustainably?
Our events will draw upon forms and sources of public expertise within and without the University and Academy. Our approach will highlight practitioner and user perspectives, but also those of other citizen experts whose lived experiences with technology (and with the social needs and challenges that new technologies are designed to address) are too rarely heard.