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What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care announces research partners in ethics review of machine learning

10 April 2019

Press Release

The Rees Centre (Department of Education, University of Oxford) and The Alan Turing Institute will be partnering with the Centre for the ethics review of machine learning in children’s social care.

 

The What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care commissioned an external review of the ethics of researching machine learning in children’s social care. This review accompanies the Centre’s technical work on machine learning and ongoing engagement with the sector on the acceptability of applying machine learning in the context of children’s social care.

The review will be conducted by two partners with deep combined knowledge of the sector, research and machine learning: The Rees Centre (Department of Education, University of Oxford), who produce research evidence to inform policy and practice in children’s social care; and The Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

The purpose of the project is to review existing ethical frameworks and assess their applicability to current machine learning practices in the sector as well as to identify specific complexities of children’s social care which would influence the ethics of using machine learning in the sector.

The output of the review will be recommendations for the ethical use of machine learning in children’s social care, for example, exploring technical and non-technical solutions to the problems of AI explainability, bias, discrimination, inaccuracy, and poor data quality. The project will include a literature review and engagement with the relevant research communities in the UK and internationally. It is expected to be available in Autumn 2019.

 

Vicky Clayton, Senior Researcher, What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care: “Machine learning is already being used in the children’s social care sector in the UK but without a solid ethical framework to help practitioners make decisions about when and importantly when not to use machine learning. We are excited that The Rees Centre and The Alan Turing Institute will be combining their expertise to provide a map across what can be rocky terrain.”

Dr Lisa Holmes, Director, The Rees Centre (Department of Education, University of Oxford): “I am pleased to be working on this project with colleagues at The Alan Turing Institute. We recognise the need for transparency in this area and welcome the opportunity to interrogate the issues related to the appropriateness of machine learning in children’s social care”

Dr David Leslie, Ethics Fellow, The Alan Turing Institute: “This joint effort to assess prospects for the responsible design and deployment of machine learning systems in the children’s social care sector couldn’t be more timely or critical, given that these systems are currently in use across the UK. Our work will include engagement with researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to ensure we deliver results that will encourage well-informed and ethical decisions be made about the application of these powerful technologies in real world scenarios.”

Who's involved

Development team

Research partner

Funders

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