Data for Policy joins Algorithmic Governance Workshop

On 27 June, Data for Policy took part in the workshop ‘Academic-Policy collaborations on human-centric algorithmic governance’ hosted by UCL, and organised by Zeynep Engin (Data for Policy and the Alan Turing Institute), Natalia Domagala (UK Cabinet Office) and Nicola Buckley of Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP), University of Cambridge.

Algorithmic governance is a growing field of research concerned with the design and execution of governance processes through, by, and with algorithms. It also draws significant relevance from an adjacent field – governance of algorithms. Complex and important decisions that affect individuals, societies and the environment are increasingly delegated to or supported by algorithmic systems, but the relevant research and policy landscapes are alarmingly fragmented. New practices are needed in both policy and research terms. The workshop was envisioned as the start of a global conversation bringing together stakeholders from cross-sectoral research and practitioner communities to build a transdisciplinary and cross-sector ecosystem around this key field.

The workshop welcomed experts both in-person and online. It commenced with a scene-setting invited panel discussion on capacity-building to lead the global debate, featuring Gina Neff (Minderoo Centre for Technology & Democracy), David Pym (UCL), Maria Axente  (PwC) and Adrian Weller (Alan Turing Institute). 

Participants spent the day discussing questions such as what could/should good governance look like; whether algorithms can help overcome systemic problems (e.g. prejudice, inequality) of human decision-making in governance and the effects of algorithmic governance on power and domination in existing governance mechanisms. 

Interspersed in the table discussion was a series of fascinating lightning talks on the topic of human-centric algorithmic governance in practice, its challenges and mitigations from Roger Taylor (Open Data, and former chair of Ofqual),  Hannah Knox (UCL), Giles Herdale (Royal United Services Institute)  and Jenny Brennan (Ada Lovelace).

The workshop concluded with talks on public sector algorithmic governance initiatives from Omar Bitar (Policy Advisor, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat) and Rose Woolhouse (UK government Office for Artificial Intelligence). 

It was a full day of inspiring and engaging conversation, and we are very grateful to our co-organisers and to all the participants, in particular our speakers.

A number of outputs from the day are already available. You can watch curated video highlights on our YouTube channel. You can also read Zeynep’s Data & Policy blog, which gives insights to her interest in the area, poses key questions for algorithmic governance research, and looks to widen debate around the topic.

Lastly, we could not bring together this meeting without funding from UCL Innovation & Enterprise and EPSRC, and UCL Public Policy and Research England.