Ethical funding for trustworthy AI: proposals to address the responsibilities of funders to ensure that projects adhere to trustworthy AI practice

AI and Ethics 1 (1):1 (2021)
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AI systems that demonstrate significant bias or lower than claimed accuracy, and resulting in individual and societal harms, continue to be reported. Such reports beg the question as to why such systems continue to be funded, developed and deployed despite the many published ethical AI principles. This paper focusses on the funding processes for AI research grants which we have identified as a gap in the current range of ethical AI solutions such as AI procurement guidelines, AI impact assessments and AI audit frameworks. We highlight the responsibilities of funding bodies to ensure investment is channelled towards trustworthy and safe AI systems and provides case studies as to how other ethical funding principles are managed. We offer a first sight of two proposals for funding bodies to consider regarding procedures they can employ. The first proposal is for the inclusion of a Trustworthy AI Statement’ section in the grant application form and offers an example of the associated guidance. The second proposal outlines the wider management requirements of a funding body for the ethical review and monitoring of funded projects to ensure adherence to the proposed ethical strategies in the applicants Trustworthy AI Statement. The anticipated outcome for such proposals being employed would be to create a ‘stop and think’ section during the project planning and application procedure requiring applicants to implement the methods for the ethically aligned design of AI. In essence it asks funders to send the message “if you want the money, then build trustworthy AI!”.



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Marie Oldfield
University of Glasgow