Achieve Diversity in the UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee

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Achieve Diversity in the UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee

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Why this petition matters

The Foundation for Responsible Robotics delivered an open letter to the UK government, Sept 13 2017, protesting the lack of diversity in its new Science and Technology Committee. It claims to have a strong policy on diversity, yet the committee itself comprises eight white men. We are urging them to increase their diversity both in the remaining three available seat. But even that is insufficient and we have requested them to add new members.

We sent the letter to MPs Mr Williamson, Nick Brown, and Alistair Carmichael MP.

It read:
We are writing this open letter to you in your capacity as Chief Whip of your party about the Membership of the Science and Technology Committee.

While we applaud the committee for its statement that, “the Science and Technology Committee is currently monitoring the diversity of its witnesses. The Committee values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible”, we have concerns about the constituency of the committee itself and the potentially damaging impact this could have on the UK technology sector.

In the midst of the new technological revolution we are seeing considerable diversity problems in two main ways:

  1. the recruitment and retention of under-represented groups in the UK technology Sector eg. only 17% of employees in the technology sector are women, while the number of women entering computer science degrees is falling year on year.
  2. considerable evidence is emerging to suggest gender and ethnicity bias in decision algorithms from both academic research and from emerging cases of injustice in everything from selection of job candidates through to mortgage evaluations,  insurance, and sentencing of individuals, and so on.

There is also evidence that diversity increases innovation, maximises growth and drives success in the executive management boards of corporations and other institutions..

We believe that a Science and Technology Committee that is not itself diverse does nothing to help alleviate the diversity problems in the UK technology sector, and could actually amplify them. This leaves the committee compromised in its ability to innovate and lead in ways that will not only benefit business but also the wider society.

We support the letter from Mr Lamb MP written on the 13th of September and would like to add our support that you use, at the very least, the last two seats available to ensure a slightly more diverse group of members. We believe that adding three more members of a different gender or ethnicity is still insufficient to represent the needed gender and ethnic diversity of the committee. As such, we urge you to consider adding further members.

SIGNATORIES of the original letter:               

  • Professor Noel Sharkey (Co-director, Foundation for Responsible Robotics)
  • Tabitha Goldstaub (Co-founder, CognitionX)
  • Mustafa Suleyman (Co-founder, DeepMind)
  • Jody Williams (Nobel Women’s Initiative Chair and 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate)
  • Joanna J. Bryson (Reader, University of Bath Dept. of Computer Science)
  • Kate Devlin (Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • Amanda Sharkey (Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield, Department of Computer Science)
  • Tracey Groves (Founder and Director, Intelligent Ethics)
  • Vanessa Evers (University of Twente, the Netherlands Full professor and chair HMI Scientific director DesignLab)
  • Dr. Jutta Weber (Media, Culture and Society / Mediensoziologie Dept. of Media Studies / Institut für Medienwissenschaft University of Paderborn)
  • Dr. Mary Cummings (Duke University, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science)
  • Dr Shannon Vallor (William J. Rewak, S.J. Professor of Philosophy at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA USA)
  • Patrick Lin, Ph.D. (Professor, Philosophy Dept. Director, Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group California Polytechnic State University)
  • Lucy Suchman (Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology, Lancaster University, UK)
  • Ian Kerr (Canada Research Chair in Ethics,  Law & Technology, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa)
  • Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe (Co-director, Foundation for Responsible Robotics, TU Delft)
  • Prof. Dr. Kerstin Dautenhahn (Adaptive Systems Research Group, School of Computer Science, University of Hertfordshire)

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