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Millions in funding allocated to research into ‘The Algorithmic Society’

In the framework of the Gravitation programme, the cabinet is awarding 21.3 million euros to the research project ‘The algorithmic society’, led by UvA University Professors Natali Helberger and Claes de Vreese. One of the focus points will be on the implications of the growing use of automated decision making and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

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) Helberger and De Vreese, along with fellow researchers within and outside the UvA, investigate how we can safeguard public values and human rights within the development of automated and semi-automated processes, including Artificial Intelligence.

Fundamental rights and public values
‘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 rights and public values within the ‘algorithmic society’, 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.’

De Vreese: ‘Good, interdisciplinary and systematic research into how digital technologies influence citizens and users in various sectors is badly needed in order to be able to safeguard a healthy algorithmic society in which the rules are clear. It’s a tremendous privilege to develop a new, interdisciplinary perspective together with a new generation of researchers.’

Helberger is University Professor of Law and Digital Technology, with special emphasis on Artificial Intelligence; De Vreese is University Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Society. They have been working together for some time, for example in the AI, Media & Democracy Lab of the research teams Human(e) AI and ICDS – Information, Communication and the Data Society. ALGOSOC is being carried out by a Dutch consortium: apart from the UvA, the partners are Utrecht University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Tilburg University and Delft University of Technology.

Karen Maex, Rector Magnificus of the UvA: ‘As a result of the data revolution and digital transformations, the impact of technology is growing at a rapid pace, which poses many challenges for society. The only way to find solutions is through independent, high-quality research based on interdisciplinary cooperation. The Gravitation funding awarded to ALGOSOC will be a great impetus for this research.’

Over 142 million
In total, in this round of the Gravitation programme, seven consortia with top scientists from various Dutch universities will receive funding for their research projects. Altogether, over 142 million euros of funding will be allocated.

About the Gravitation programme
The Gravitation programme allows research and work together across disciplines over a ten-year period. One of the pillars of the programme is that it enables cooperation across disciplines and across universities. The researchers set up excellent research programmes themselves, within consortia. The purpose of the programme is to encourage research programmes to achieve international breakthroughs, and it is carried out by NWO on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.