Utrecht University: Millions in funding allocated to research into ‘the algorithmic society’

As part of the Gravitation programme external link, the government is awarding 21.3 million euros to ‘The Algorithmic Society’. This research project is a collaboration between several universities, in order to investigate the implications of the increasing use of automated decision making and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Utrecht University team can expect a share of approximately 3.5 million euros.

The use of AI and digital technology in the world around us continues to grow, and that has countless legal, ethical, social and democratic implications. In the project ‘The Algorithmic Society’ (ALGOSOC) researchers from five Dutch universities, led by the University of Amsterdam external link(UvA), investigate how we can safeguard public values and human rights within the development of automated and semi-automated processes, including Artificial Intelligence.

ALGOSOC is being carried out by a Dutch consortium: apart from the UvA and UU, the partners are Erasmus University Rotterdam, Tilburg University and Delft University of Technology.

Interdisciplinary cooperation helps research into digital society
The Utrecht team, which is making a substantial contribution to the Gravitation Project, is led by University Professor of Media and Digital Society José van Dijck external linkand Professor of Public Innovation Albert Meijer external link, who head the Governing the Digital Society (GDS) focus area at UU. Professor of Fundamental Rights Janneke Gerards external link, Professor of Innovation Studies Koen Frenken external link, Professor of Data Science in Healthcare Daniel Oberski external linkand Utrecht Data School project leader Mirko Schaefer external linkcomplete the team.

The team will focus with public values in algorithmic decision-making in three areas: in the news media, within the legal system and in the health sector.

“This award is a signal that Dutch society attaches great importance to research into the design and governance of our digital society”, says Van Dijck. “The anchoring of norms, values and rights in algorithmically controlled processes requires the insights of cooperating lawyers, data scientists, media researchers and public administration experts. With our Utrecht-based organisation of interdisciplinary research in strategic themes and focus areas, we are excellently equipped to roll out this approach nationally.”

Fundamental rights and public values
The project is led from the University of Amsterdam by Natali Helberger external link, university professor of Law and Digital Technology, with special emphasis on Artificial Intelligence, and university professor of Artificial Intelligence and Society Claes de Vreese external link.

“Automated decision making is rapidly becoming a social reality. In all areas of our life, from health and justice to media and democracy, policy makers and academics alike are grappling with the question whether and how to implement automated decision making within society”, says Helberger.

“This funding for our ALGOSOC programme is a huge opportunity to contribute cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research insights that will help us safeguard our fundamental rightsand public values within the ‘algorithmic society’”, Helberger continues, “and create the necessary governance frameworks. I feel very privileged to be able to work on this critical challenge with an amazing team of experts.”

Utrecht University