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Legal study into responsible use of AI in heritage sector announced as part of nationwide initiative


Dr Paula Westenberger from Brunel Law School appointed as BRAID Fellow to work with Kew Gardens

A £2.4 million initiative has been launched to help organisations develop solutions for pressing questions around the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Researchers will address a range of AI-related challenges in industry, public organisations and the third sector through a series of fellowships announced today by the University of Edinburgh.

The Fellows, appointed from Brunel University London and other universities across the UK, will apply research expertise from humanities and arts including data ethics, copyright law, digital design and qualitative analysis to address questions around the responsible use of AI.

The Bridging Responsible AI Divides (BRAID) Fellowships are part of the BRAID programme. BRAID is led by the University of Edinburgh in partnership with the Ada Lovelace Institute and the BBC. The £15.9 million, six-year programme is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).

Each Fellow, numbering 17 in all, will partner with an organisation from the public, private or third sector to unite expertise for tackling existing, new or emerging AI challenges.  

Brunel’s Dr Paula Westenberger, Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law and newly appointed BRAID Research Fellow, will be partnering with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for her Fellowship. She will investigate how intellectual property law, and particularly copyright, can responsibly advance the use of AI in the heritage sector.Kew are increasingly using AI to promote and protect biodiversity, and with significant heritage projects and collections, Kew provides rich and diverse case studies for Dr Westenberger to consider.

“AI is revolutionising our relationship with cultural heritage in many ways, including enhancing research and management of heritage collections,” said Dr Westenberger. “However, copyright may become an obstacle to such AI deployments because copyright-protected materials may be used in the process of AI training. So during my Fellowship I will investigate how intellectual property law, and particularly copyright, may be interpreted or amended to achieve an appropriate balance between allowing important AI uses in the heritage sector and preserving legitimate interests of creators.”

In addition, Dr Westenberger will investigate the impact of intellectual property law on socio-ethical issues in the context of heritage collections, such as inherent biases that might be replicated and amplified by AI.

“I feel extremely honoured to have received the BRAID Fellowship and to get the opportunity to work with Kew on this important project in such a crucial time for AI policy,” she said.

Commenting on what the 17 Fellows will address, AHRC Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith said: “The impact of AI can already be felt in many areas of our lives. It will transform our jobs and livelihoods, and impact on areas as diverse as education, policing and the creative industries. It is vital that we ensure its responsible development and use.

“The BRAID fellowships announced today will play an invaluable role informing the practice and tools crucial to ensuring this transformative technology is used responsibly to provide benefits for all of society.”

Project leads at the University of Edinburgh said the Fellowships will support the creation of an AI ecosystem which will enable researchers and industry and public sector leaders to develop a deeper understanding of AI and its challenges and opportunities.  

BRAID Co-director Professor Ewa Luger, Chair in Human-Data Interaction at Edinburgh College of Art, said: “The 17 Fellowships offer opportunities for deeper relationships and joint impact, moving towards a genuine embedding of arts and humanities knowledge within how we think about, develop and deploy AI in practice and in the world. It is our hope that with these connections, and working towards common challenges across sectors and diverse communities, we will take substantial strides towards a more responsible AI ecosystem."

BRAID Co-director Professor Shannon Vallor, Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI), said: “We are reaching a critical point in society where businesses and the public sector recognise that deploying AI systems safely and responsibly requires new kinds of knowledge and expertise, which can be challenging to access - the BRAID fellowships aim to bring together researchers with industry and the public sector to help bridge that divide between technical capability and the knowledge of how to use it wisely and well, to ensure that the benefits of AI are realised for the good of us all."

The full list of BRAID Fellows is available from the University of Edinburgh’s announcement.

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821