UKRI’s Global Research and Innovation Programme (GRIP) has supported a three-week visit by ART-AI student Deborah Morgan to research centres, summits and academics across the US working in fields directly related to her PhD and wider research interests.
The trip, originally scheduled for February 2022, had to be rearranged for April and May 2022 due to a positive COVID test preventing me from flying as planned! Whilst this resulted in one visit not happening, happily other visits opened up. For wider context, my research investigates the role of anticipatory regulatory instruments within the regulation of AI systems and, hopefully, is planned to be a comparative study of regulatory sandboxes within the financial and data sectors.
Regulatory sandbox projects are being developed and explored in the US and the theoretical framework underpinning my work originated, in part, from the institutional change work of Professor Kathleen Thelen who is based in the Political Science group at MIT. In addition, wider work spanning responsible AI and AI governance has been written by some of the US scholars and research centres that I planned to meet/visit. Therefore, the opportunity to meet academic colleagues and research centres was unique to support discussion of shared interests and potential collaboration. In a wider sense, the trip was also highly impactful to my own work, development as an AI researcher and to form UK/US links with other AI research centres for the CDT at Bath.
At the University of Michigan, I met with two academics – Professor Nicholson Price in the law department and Dr Ben Green of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. These meetings discussed their existing work and research along with further possible collaboration, particularly around Dr Green’s work regarding human oversight.
I also attended and met with many participants at a collaborative RegTech policy summit exploring regulatory policy and regulatory technology convened in New York. This was attended by both academics from Yale Information Project and commercial companies including large international organisations and start-ups. The range of organisations and discussion have influenced my understanding of the wider Reg Tech developing landscape, the impact of emerging AI standards and of developing stakeholder perspectives. Such contacts will prove potentially useful for my empirical work and also for developing the CDT network.
At the Centre for Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET) at Georgetown University in Washington DC, I met with the AI Standards and Policy team and the wider CSET community. As part of these meetings, I presented my research on regulatory sandboxes and took questions in an open “brown-bag” session. This meeting was highly effective in both making contacts and possible future collaboration potential with CSET. It was also great to discuss their work on classification which has been part of my research. The opportunity to present my work to an interdisciplinary team with wide AI knowledge was also incredibly helpful to my wider development as an AI researcher. The smaller more informal meetings also presented further opportunities to discuss AI governance.
I met with Professor Thelen at MIT. This meeting was vital to my PhD work as her work on institutional change is a key theory within my research. We had a very fruitful discussion regarding my research and her emerging work within the American Political Economy group.
I also held additional meetings with informal contacts working at companies in the AI healthcare sector, researchers in public health and with contacts met through the Political Economy of Reinforcement Learning group within UC Berkeley.
Overall, the trip was extensive and involved a great balance of academics, research centres and wider stakeholders within AI governance. I personally gained a wider perspective on my own research and gained so much from the in-person discussions and presentations that were arranged. The value of in-person meetings facilitated by the funding was considerable and I hope that further collaboration and continued discussion will occur.