Two Westminster academics’ research groups, focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI), were cited in the new House of Lords Select Committee’s report published on 16 April 2018.

The report, entitled ‘AI in the UK: Ready, Willing and Able’, compiled from evidence given by hundreds of experts, made a series of recommendations highlighting, amongst other things, the importance of putting ethics at the centre of AI development in the UK.

The report cited the work of Westminster digital media expert Dr Mercedes Bunz who has been evaluating the role of public data sets for Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute as part of her research book, ‘The Internet of Things’, co-written with Professor Graham Meikle. Dr Bunz’s work for the book assessed the role that data sets play in the development of business and research and found that the creation of high-quality public datasets provide a strong stimulus for business and research.

Quoting her evidence, the report states that the UK is in need of “a strategy to actively create big data, especially in areas of government interest such as healthcare, transport, science and education”. It also cited her recommendation to implement guidance in the creation of datasets to minimise bias.  

Speaking about the report, Dr Bunz said: “This comprehensive report reflects the thorough evidence the Lords have gathered. It is comprehensive, timely and vital. The Lords suggestion is clear: the UK can substantially contribute to AI’s development if we put ethics at the centre of AI’s development. Only an ethical approach ensures the public trusts this technology. The recommendations of the Lords, to ‘opening up data sources, especially in the public sector’ reflect the findings of our research at CAMRI.”

Members of the Centre on the Legal Profession at Westminster Law School, Dr Paresh Kathrani, Michael Butterworth, Joanna Goodman and Chrissie Lightfoot alongside with their colleague Dr Steven Cranfield from Westminster Business School, also submitted written evidence to the Select Committee. Their evidence focused on the growing influence that AI will play in the delivery of legal services and the need for greater ethical oversight. This evidence was cited and used in the Select Committee’s report.

Dr Paresh Kathrani, Senior Lecturer in Law and Expert in Artificial Intelligence, said: “The House of Lords Select Committee’s report is important in calling for greater legal regulation of an area that will play an increasingly dominant role in our lives. In particular, the call to the Law Commission is welcome. The code proposed by the report also lays down a significant ethical framework in terms of accountability and transparency for those working in artificial intelligence. As mentioned in our evidence, this is crucial for those delivering legal services. The code will be pivotal in protecting the public good. It was a pleasure to work with Centre and Westminster Business School colleagues on this evidence.”

Dr Kathrani is currently part of a project team working with a start up in developing a new AI platform for delivering access to justice. The project successfully received the European Regional Development Fund KEEP+ Scheme to fund the collaborative work.

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