UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Safe and Trusted AI (STAI) PhD student, Mackenzie Jorgensen (2020 cohort) undertook a six-month internship with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI). We spoke to Mackenzie about her internship experience and how it links to her PhD at the STAI CDT.
What projects did you work on?
While at the Centre, I worked on the Responsible Demographic Data project and an arm of the Bias Review project. I worked both independently on projects and collaboratively with teams from whom I learned a great deal. I sat in on and contributed to stakeholder conversations with academics, KC (King’s Counsel) barristers, and government officials in the UK and the US.
The Responsible Demographic Data project investigates ways that demographic data can be collected to be used for the purpose of bias detection in algorithmic systems. I researched and wrote parts of the landscape review for that project. You can find out more about the project from a blog post I co-wrote here. The Bias Review project piece involved investigating what bias mitigation methods are legal under UK/EU law.
What did you gain from your internship?
Since technical academic writing is quite different from policy writing, I learned on my feet how to shift my writing style for a policy audience. PhDs are extremely individual so having the opportunity to work in a team again was invigorating. My CDEI colleagues are brilliant, down-to-earth, kind people who genuinely enjoy what they do and care about the impact of their work. I fostered friendships while at the CDEI which have continued on since my time there.
How has your internship influenced your PhD?
I learned so much about the ever-changing and growing tech and data ethics policy space. I had fresh motivation for my research and a deeper understanding of how my research connects to the policy world and the lives of real people. I plan to bring my Bias Review work into my thesis and am seeking a postdoc that combines my AI, ethics, and policy interests for after my PhD.
What would you say to other students thinking about taking on an internship?
I would highly recommend students undergo an internship and encourage them to complete it during their second year. The real-world experience you will receive outside of academia can truly open-up your perspective and benefit your research. An internship will also help you grow your network dramatically–I’ve already leaned on the CDEI’s alumni network!
How did your internship link to safe and trusted AI?
Combining data ethics and tech innovation with policy are crucial aspects of the CDEI’s work which connects incredibly well with the safe and trusted AI theme of the CDT. The CDEI takes a more policy and applied ethics focus which is crucial to consider when working on safe and trusted AI.