Last week UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced an investment in 12 new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) in Artificial Intelligence (AI) based at 16 universities. Three of the new Centres will be led, or co-led by the School of Informatics.
A total of £117 million has been awarded to the 12 CDTs, which will train the next generation of AI researchers from across the UK.
Doctoral students will specialise in areas such as developing a responsible and trustworthy future for AI, healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability to media.
Responsible and Trustworthy in-the-world NLP
Three UKRI AI doctoral training centres will be led or co-led by University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, including the “Responsible and Trustworthy in-the-world NLP (Natural Language Processing)” CDT which will be hosted by Edinburgh Futures Institute.
This CDT will be led by the School of Informatics in collaboration with Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Law School, and the Schools of Mathematics and Psychology, Philosophy and Language Sciences.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) underpins many leading-edge AI applications like personal assistants (such as Siri and Alexa), chatbots (such as ChatGPT) and generative AI applications that use text prompts to generate other media (such as Midjourney, DALL-E).
Understanding how complex AI systems that utilise natural language, such as large language models (LLMs), operate in the world is critical to ensuring a responsible, sustainable, and socially sensitive design that steers clear of common LLM issues such as bias.
To achieve this, systems of the future must be built by multidisciplinary, and diverse teams who understand the complexities of responsibly developing, deploying, and overseeing these systems in real-world settings.
Professor John Vines, Chair of Design Informatics at the School of Informatics, will direct the CDT. He said:
“We recognise that NLP, and AI in general, are technologies that have thus far been deployed on citizens and the public, rather than designed with and by them. A core part of our training is on how issues of inclusion and exclusion are baked into the history of AI, and introducing students to state-of-the-art participatory and co-creative methodologies so they are ready to involve diverse users in the earliest stages of application design.”
Working at Edinburgh Futures Institute’s new building
The CDT will benefit from its location in the newly opened Edinburgh Futures Institute building.
The University is currently finalising the transformation of the iconic, category-A listed Old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh into the new institute, which will occupy the restored 20,000m2 space.
The facility includes state-of-the-art teaching facilities, room for co-working with industry partners, incubation areas for businesses, labs for innovation and prototyping, and exhibition and performance space.
CDT students will also benefit from being co-located with the Futures Institute’s community of academics associated with its research clusters (such as the Centre for Technomoral Futures), companies engaged in real-world artificial intelligence and data science initiatives, and postgraduate students studying on its ten radically interdisciplinary MSc programmes.
Professor John Vines added:
The interdisciplinary, critical and action-oriented environment of the Edinburgh Futures Institute aligns perfectly with the ambitions of this CDT and the values of the Institute for Design Informatics as a whole. We recognise that NLP, and AI in general, are technologies that have thus far being deployed-on citizens and the public, rather than designed with and by them. A core part of our training is making use of the Futures Institute’s postgraduate courses that attend to how issues of inclusion and exclusion are baked into the history of AI. We will also be introducing students to state-of-the-art participatory and co-creative methodologies so they are ready to involve diverse users in the earliest stages of application design.