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Research centre to tackle social, ethical challenges of automated decision-making

QUT researchers will play a key role in a new $31.8 million ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society which will be headquartered at RMIT University and was announced yesterday by Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan.

First published 10 October 2019

It will investigate how rapidly emerging autonomous decision-making technologies, already replacing human judgement in health, social services, transport, and the media, are impacting on society.

The new ARC Centre of Excellence will see researchers from QUT collaborate with experts at seven Australian universities, and 22 academic and industry partner organisations from Australia, Europe, Asia and America.

Distinguished Professor Patsy Yates, QUT Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Research and Innovation) said the centre would be unique, putting Australia on the cutting edge of research in a rapidly changing environment already impacting on a wide range of industries and public institutions as well as everyday life.

“QUT’s input into the new ARC Centre of Excellence includes lead researchers in digital media, communications and law. They will collaborate with other national and international experts from the humanities, the social sciences, and key technology disciplines,” Professor Yates said.

“Professor Jean Burgess, who leads QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC), will be Associate Director of and a Chief Investigator in the new centre.

“The DMRC conducts world-leading research for a creative, inclusive and fair digital media environment. The Centre of Excellence draws on the DMRC’s research into the social implications of digital communication technologies and the digital transformation of the media industries, as well as QUT’s strengths in communication and media studies overall.”

Professor Burgess (pictured right) added the creation of the new centre would help ensure that new forms of automated decision-making are developed responsibly, ethically and inclusively.

“From AI to big data, automated systems are changing the way Australians live and work. They promise enormous benefits in many areas. But they also pose substantial risks to our welfare. We only need to look at the way automation is playing a major role in deciding what news we see and how online behaviour is managed by social media platforms,” Professor Burgess said.

“The new Centre’s research program will provide a much-needed understanding of the risks of the new technologies, and the best strategies for mitigating these risks.

“We will work with a wide range of international research and industry partners, to help Australians gain the full benefits of these new technologies, from better health and transport, to improving algorithmic systems in news and media.

“The research will formulate world-leading policy and practice, inform public debate, and train researchers and practitioners in this challenging new cross-disciplinary field.”

Four other members of QUT’s DMRC will be involved with the new Centre of Excellence – leading social media researcher Professor Axel Bruns and internet governance expert Professor Nicolas Suzor will be Chief Investigators, alongside Associate Professor Daniel Angus and Dr Timothy Graham as Associate Investigators.

Media contact:

Amanda Weaver, QUT Media, 07 3138 3151, amanda.weaver@qut.edu.au

After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901, media@qut.edu.au

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