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Ethics of data

Baillie Gifford is funding research into the use of AI

Baillie Gifford is supporting research at the University of Edinburgh into the ethical challenges that come with the growing use of data and artificial intelligence.

The research program is being supported by a 5 million ($6.6 million) gift from the Edinburgh-based money manager, which will create the Baillie Gifford Chair and Research Programme into Data and AI Ethics at the university. Although independent from the government, the research will help to inform policy, laws and industry standards, the university said in a notice on its website.

The support extends to a new senior research fellowship and up to 18 doctor of philosophy degrees over the next 10 years.

Charles Plowden, joint senior partner at Baillie Gifford, said in an interview that he was approached by one of the academics involved in research at the university a few years ago.

He said the arrangement is "slightly larger in monetary terms and longer" than the firm's previous work with academic institutions, normally around a five-year involvement.

Mr. Plowden said Baillie Gifford will benefit from access to the work being done in the program, either through lectures, talks or working with Ph.D. students, but there are "no conditions attached to our financial support at all."

The research could include the use and regulation of personal data by industry and government; the understanding and mitigation of the impact of increased automation in the labor market; and the challenge of building an ethical framework for self-driving vehicles, the university said.

"We really are a firm that's driven by curiosity — this is part of that. It's pursuing curiosity," Mr. Plowden added.

The firm has 11 other relationships with academic institutions around the world.