ESR leads the way when it comes to embracing new technologies that enrich communities through science. As an ‘early adopter’, ESR’s experts are turning their attention to how artificial intelligence – poised to be one of the greatest disrupters of our time – could further enhance their research, while ensuring AI’s power is harnessed in an ethical, productive way.
To help guide use of AI in a responsible way, ESR is proud to have signed-up to the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand. We spoke to ESR’s Chief Data & Analytics Officer Jan Sheppard to find out why this Charter is so important.
“Signing-up to the Charter represents a pivotal moment for ESR and we are proud to be the first Crown Research Institute to join, highlighting both the value AI can bring while also keeping at the forefront awareness that AI needs to be applied with due care.
“AI has actually been around for several years, but is growing exponentially in its capabilities. Now more than ever we need the Charter, which guides how public sector organisations like ESR can act responsibly in the AI space. Many key partners including Ministry of Health and New Zealand Police are also signatories of the Charter.”
Jan says key workstreams will support ESR to meet the Charter’s obligations. These include:
- Maintaining a register of our algorithms so we know what we have in use, and where and how it is applied.
- Being transparent, particularly where an algorithm leads to a decision that impacts on people.
- Working in partnership with the people and communities who are impacted by decisions that come from algorithms, to ensure our algorithms best reflect reality.
The Charter is also focused on ensuring organisations use ‘plain language’ when discussing AI, so the public understands what is happening with data rather than this occurring in a ‘black box’
“These obligations are in line with good practice and are what we would be doing even if we had not signed up to the Charter, so there is no additional burden when it comes to ESR being a signatory.
“But by joining the Charter we are clearly signalling to our communities that ESR won’t use data improperly, building public confidence. After all, public perception is key when it comes to gaining support for our sciences,” says Jan.
Full details about the Charter including signatories can be found on StatsNZ’s website. And please get in touch with Jan Sheppard if you’d like to find out more about how the Charter’s application at ESR.
An opinion piece written by Lumi™ Drug Screen Manager Dion Sheppard about responsible use of AI at ESR was recently published on the data.govt.nz blog.
Image generated using AI, with the prompt 'watercolor painting of computer with conscience in science laboratory'.