Teaching and Small Grants Project Aims for “Ethical Competence” in Machine Learning and AI

A new collaboration between the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems (DINS) and the Department of Computer Science (CS) has set its sights on cultivating “ethical competence”, diversity and inclusion, and assessing usability of the AI models in machine learning and artificial intelligence fields.  

The Teaching and Small Grants project, titled “Cultivating Ethical Competence in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence”, was developed by Dr. Malihe Alikhani, Assistant Professor in CS, and Dr. Yu-Ru Lin, Associate Professor with DINS. 

Dr. Alikhani and Dr. Lin, both principal investigators, plan that their project will target students who aspire to enter AI-related fields at the University of Pittsburgh. They plan to offer ethical seminars to broader Pitt communities including faculty, Pittsburgh-area communities, activist groups, and students in other fields across the University to facilitate a growing awareness of bias in AI and build knowledge of emerging technical and societal solutions.  

The idea for this project came about when both faculty members considered teaching classes about the same topic. Once the DINS and CS department chairs initiated a discussion between the groups, brainstorming about the class and the two Teaching and Mentoring Small Grants began.  

SCI is always forward-thinking, and this project is no exception. According to Dr. Alikhani, the broader impact of this project goes beyond SCI, involving the “ethical competence” to tackle ethical regulation, fairness assessments, and interpretability of modeling issues. Overall, this project aims to lay the foundation for cultivating this competence in machine learning and AI for all students at SCI.  

Dr. Alikhani and Dr. Lin have already received very positive feedback from their pilot courses. As for next steps, Dr. Alikhani and Dr. Lin are planning to share their lessons and experiences of developing and teaching the courses to the broader academic community.