New ARC centre for automation to be based at RMIT

A new Australian Research Council (ARC) centre co-funded by the federal government and universities will examine the possible uses and potential risks of autonomous decision-making technologies.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society will be based at RMIT University and led by Professor Julian Thomas.

The federal government will contribue $31.8 million to the research centre to investigate responsible, ethical, and inclusive automated decision making.

Federal education minister Dan Tehan said that because automated decision making has great potential to transform the efficiency of industry, as well as public and private services, it is prudent to explore how to mitigate any possible risks.

“Our government is funding research into automated decision making to ensure this technology provides the best possible outcomes for society and industry,” Tehan said.

Federal industry and science minister Karen Andrews said the new Centre of Excellence will play an important role in making sure Australians benefit from cutting-edge technology.

“Automated decision-making, like all technology, is making a significant difference to the way we work and the way we live, and it’s important that we get the settings right,” Andrews said.

“It’s easy to fear technology when it comes to how it will impact industry and jobs, but embracing technology like this and investing in this Centre of Excellence will grow our economy and create Australian jobs.”

“Researchers will formulate world-leading policy and practice, inform public debate, and train a new generation of researchers and practitioners.”

RMIT University vice-chancellor and president Martin Bean said this substantial investment would position Australia at the forefront of global research.

“This exciting new centre will be the only one of its kind, and RMIT is proud to host it,” he said.

“We have a long history of operating at the intersection of technology and the human experience and, working closely with industry and other partners around the world, we’re focused on improving life for our communities in a time of constant change.”

Researchers from RMIT University will collaborate with experts at seven Australian universities, and 22 academic and industry partner organisations from Australia, Europe, Asia and America. Together they will provide an additional $39.3 million in cash and in-kind support to the centre.

Director of Swinburne’s Data Science Research Institute, Professor Timos Sellis, and Dean of Swinburne Law School, Professor Dan Hunter, will each co-lead one of the four research programs that focus on the safe, ethical and responsible use of decision-making technologies.

Professor Sellis’ specific research will address how systems that support data management, sharing and analysis are augmented with built-in support for fairness, accountability and transparency.