Professor Ottoline Leyser puts the case for a stewardship body for data useMachine learning and artificial intelligence have the potential to make significant improvements to our lives in areas such as health and public services. However, as Ian Sample points out (Computer says no: why making AIs fair, open and accountable is crucial, 6 November), there are real concerns about fairness and accountability. The Royal Society and the British Academy, in Data Management and Use: Governance in the 21st century, make the urgent case for a stewardship body for data use. The governance response must be driven by the overarching principle of human flourishing – recognising that humans do not serve data, but that data must be used to serve humans and human communities. A number of principles follow from this, including the need to protect individual and collective rights and interests. We need an independent, interdisciplinary stewardship body that can identify where there are governance gaps, with the power to urge the right bodies to fill those gaps. Swift action is needed to ensure that this important area of technology operates in a way that deserves and secures public trust.
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser
Chair of the Royal Society Science Policy Advisory Group

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