Just Public Algorithms

‘Just Public Algorithms’ is a project funded by Not Equal EPSRC Network+: Social Justice through the Digital Economy. It will run September 2019 – April 2020. The project is led by Helen Pallett, supported by Jason Chilvers and Simon Burall at Involve.

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The main aim of the ‘Just public algorithms’ project is to design an observatory for algorithms and society, in order to improve the governance of the social dimensions of the use of algorithms in public services. This will be achieved by first reviewing existing work on algorithms in public services, current responsible research and innovation (RRI) frameworks around algorithms and AI, and emerging literature on public observatories. This review work will be accompanied by a mapping of existing examples of public engagement around the use of algorithms in public services in the UK. Second, a stakeholder workshop will be held to reflect on the findings of the review and mapping work, and to codesign the institutional blueprint of the observatory for algorithms and society. Finally, a blueprint for the observatory of algorithms will be proposed including identifying potential actors and organisations to be involved, developing an organizational design, and proposing methods to be used for continued mapping of public engagement with algorithms in public services, foresight around these approaches, and application of principles and findings.

This project will provide the most comprehensive picture yet of citizen responses to the ways in which algorithms are being adopted in and around UK public services, from welfare payments to policing, healthcare and immigration. The key outputs of the ‘Just Public Algorithms’ project will be an academic paper presenting key findings from the review work, mapping and stakeholder workshop on how to govern the use of algorithms in public services, and an accessible briefing note for policy-makers, practitioners and concerned citizens presenting the proposed design for the observatory and exploring how it can improve responsible innovation of these approaches.