Photo of CIFAR Launches Call for AI & Society Workshops

CIFAR Launches Call for AI & Society Workshops

Announcement 09.04.2018

Improved performance of AI systems – driven by research breakthroughs increased data availability, and improved computing power and new architectures – are leading to applications that outperform human beings in certain domains. Computer vision, natural language processing, and data-driven prediction are notable areas of rapidly increasing AI capability. The rapid increase in both the range of and accuracy of the tasks AI systems can perform has led to both excitement and concern.

Effects on labour markets and employment are popular areas of public concern and debate, but the potential societal effects of AI extend more broadly. Questions have been raised about fundamental and complex topics such as algorithmic biastransparencygovernance, and inclusion. AI has the potential to drive changes in policy and practice across many domains, from natural resources to healthcare to the arts. It also raises new questions for ethical and legal practices of all orders of government, business, and civil society.

To help advance discussions around these and other issues, CIFAR will build inclusive, international collaborations and engagements that bring together research perspectives from any discipline, including those in the social sciences, humanities, law, engineering, and the arts with policymakers and innovators.

We are soliciting proposals for international research workshops that explore the social, ethical, legal, and economic aspects of artificial intelligence (AI). Each proposal must include a plan for a publication targeted at non-academic audiences, such as policymakers and NGOs.

Supported through the Government of Canada’s $125 million investment in the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, these workshops will explore questions of global importance that can best be addressed through interdisciplinary, international teams.

Proposals related to any aspect of the intersection of AI and society are welcome; however, proposals exploring AI as it relates to the following themes are encouraged:

Policy Considerations: As the pace of development of AI technologies continues to accelerate, there is considerable debate as to the effects and potential responses across sectors and policy domains. CIFAR seeks workshops that examine a diverse range of policy considerations related to AI systems, such as urban planning, transportation, education, work, and law.

Global Dynamics of AI: AI technologies are increasingly being developed and deployed across borders and jurisdictions, despite significant regional differences. CIFAR seeks workshops that will explore questions about AI on a global scale, and as it relates to globalization, trade, development, international relations, culture, competition, inequality, and governance.

Discovery and Creation: While prediction and analysis are the primary functions of most AI systems, some AI technologies are creating new works of art, music, science, and journalism. CIFAR seeks workshops that will examine questions related to the nature of intelligence, creativity, authorship, art, bias, accountability, transparency, and scholarship.

Click here to begin your application.

Important Dates

  • Launch of Call – April 9, 2018
  • Application Due Date – May 28, 2018
  • Adjudication Completion – July 13, 2018
  • Workshop Planning Period – Through October 2018
  • Workshops take place – Through March 2019
  • CIFAR-facilitated publications – April 2019

(+) Eligibility

  • Workshops must be comprised of a core team of three to four international and interdisciplinary researchers or practitioners who intend to address topics of global importance. At least one core team member must be based in Canada. Other participants are expected to be geographically diverse. One of the core team members must serve as the lead applicant for the proposal. CIFAR will work with the core team to identify and recruit additional participants.
  • Workshops must address a new area of research, or a gap in the research agenda.
  • Workshop proposals submitted by existing CIFAR fellows must be outside the research scope and evolution of the current CIFAR programs.
  • Proposals should outline the plan for the workshop, including themes and anticipated outcomes, possible location(s), and length. A high-level budget (travel, accommodation, meals and onsite costs, pre- and post-meetings for planning) is required for up to a maximum of $50,000 CAD for a single workshop, or $80,000 CAD for two workshops. Proposals that exceed this cost will be excluded from consideration. CIFAR will work with selected applicants to further develop a detailed budget.
  • It is expected that all members of the core team will be internationally recognized leaders who are considered experts in their field.  
  • CIFAR does not provide sponsorship for workshops/conferences that are already planned. This program is intended for workshops that are in the earliest stages of planning. Note that CIFAR will work with the applications to further develop the workshop, including invite list and budget if awarded.
  • Workshops are intended to develop new collaborations. Proposals should demonstrate that this is a new group coming together to advance the proposed research topic.

(+) Proposal Requirements

 Submissions must be done through the electronic form found here, or at the bottom of this page. You may wish to draft your proposal in a word document and then copy and paste into the electronic form. 

Submitted proposals are required to answer the following questions:

1. What is/are the research question(s) or thematic area that this workshop will address? Why is this issue significant today (e.g. timeliness, global relevance)? (Max. 500 words)

2. How will this interdisciplinary workshop add value to the current state of knowledge and/or practice related to this area? Why is an international network beyond your established collaborators necessary for this workshop? (Max. 250 words)

3. What is the proposed format of this workshop? Please be sure to clarify what the expectations of participants are during the workshop (e.g. presentations, breakout sessions). (Max. 250 words)

4. What are the intended outcomes of the workshop? In your response, please consider potential CIFAR-supported outputs (e.g. policy brief, report, best practices or other recommendations, future research agenda) as well as target audiences. (Max. 400 words)

5. What is the strategy for expanding the workshop network beyond the core team of participants (e.g. what additional perspectives do you hope to add to the discussion)? (Max. 250 words)

6. If applicable, please list any proposed or existing partners. Include the level of support (committed, approached, proposed) and the type (direct financial, in-kind, expertise etc). (Max. 250 words)

7. Please list the proposed core international team (lead applicant, plus up to three others), including their expertise. At least one team member must be based in Canada.

8. Applicants will also be asked to submit as appendices:

Literature cited (max. 1 page).

i. Short CVs (max. 2 pages each) for each core member of the workshop.

ii. If applicable, letters of support from partner organizations or collaborators describing their contribution (in-kind, cash, expertise) to the proposed workshop.

iii. Workshop budget that includes travel, accommodation, meals, and onsite costs. Please provide a brief justification for each line item. The need for funds should be specified, along with any existing funds that would be used to offset workshop costs (direct or in-kind). Note: budgets over $50,000/$80,000 CAD will not be considered.

(+) Selection Criteria

1. Evidence of the unique nature or novelty of the proposal theme and its potential impact

  • Is this a new research area, or part of ongoing activities?
  • Will the workshop challenge existing paradigms, develop new methods or techniques, address an unexplored area, and/or is this a high-risk area with potential for breakthrough?
  • Does this workshop add value to what is currently being done internationally in the proposed research area?
  • Have the objectives been clearly defined? Are the potential outcomes or next steps clearly and logically outlined?

2. Need for an international and interdisciplinary approach and CIFAR involvement

  • Does the workshop require an international and interdisciplinary approach?
  • Does the applicant provide an accurate assessment of the current efforts in this area, including justifying why there is a need for the workshop?
  • Are the activities proposed the best methods or approaches for the proposed research question/area?
  • Is this a new collaboration and/or is this collaboration essential?
  • What is the nature and extent of the collaboration?
  • Is there a need to expand the researchers’ existing academic networks, and/or include partners and stakeholders in practice, business, policy, or civil society?
  • Has the need for CIFAR support in building networks been clearly and logically articulated?

3. Excellence of the research team

  • What does each participant add to the team in terms of her/his knowledge, expertise, and/or resources?
  • Have the pertinence of the expertise, role, and expected contributions of each member been satisfactorily described?
  • Is the expertise interdisciplinary, complementary, potentially synergistic, and well integrated?
  • Is the proposed research team international in composition?
  • Is this geographic distribution reflective of the scope of the research question(s) being explored?
  • Is there a clear logic for how/why the workshop will build new connections with researchers and non-academic stakeholders?

4. Workshop Plan

  • Is the workshop plan reasonable and efficacious?
  • Can the activities be completed in the estimated time?
  • Are the leadership and management of the workshop appropriate?
  • Are the proposed locations, length and number of participants appropriate?
  • Is the budget logical and reasonable?

(+) Selection Process

CIFAR will screen proposals for eligibility. Please note that proposals that are similar to, or natural extensions of, existing CIFAR programs will be eliminated at this stage. Eligible proposals will be sent for external peer-review by internationally recognized researchers. Additional review and advice may be provided by members of the CIFAR AI & Society Council. Final decisions rest with CIFAR.

(+) FAQ

1. What type of engagements will be funded?

CIFAR is interested in funding research workshops that promote short-term, time-limited interactions of approximately 10 to 20 people. The format of the workshop is dependent on the research question(s) being explored. Workshops may be a one-time meeting or may involve multiple engagements over a short period of time. 

Proposals should be focused on a fundamental research question of global importance. Successful proposals will put forward compelling research questions and demonstrate why it is necessary for the research area to be explored by the academic community. Note that application- or implementation-based research is not within the scope of this call for proposals. These workshops are not intended for research dissemination. Where relevant, participation by policy, not-for-profit, or industry stakeholders is encouraged.

2. Does the research question/area need to be Canadian-focused?

The proposed topic should address a question of global importance.  

3. Can I submit more than one proposal and/or be listed on multiple proposals?

Individuals can only be the lead applicant for one active proposal at a time. However, they can be team members on more than one proposal.

4. How long do I have to organize and execute the workshop?

From the date of notification of acceptance, the organizing team has 8 months to implement the workshop unless agreed upon in advance by CIFAR.

5. What is CIFAR’s role in the development and execution of the workshop?

CIFAR will work closely with successful applicants throughout the planning process to expand the participant list to include additional academic researchers, and/or to include partner organizations and other stakeholders. CIFAR staff will be in attendance at the workshop.

6. Can this funding support work I am currently undertaking? 

While a workshop can be an extension of work currently underway, the proposal should clearly articulate how this workshop is a new project for the proponents. Proposals should also address how a research workshop will provide a unique opportunity to explore the proposed research questions that would otherwise not be possible through existing collaborations. The need for CIFAR should be made explicit in proposals.

7. How competitive is the call for Research Workshops?

The program is competitive, and it is expected that only a limited number of workshops of the highest calibre will be funded.

8. Can the workshops take place outside of Canada?

Yes, workshops can take place outside of Canada. Workshops should take place in a location that is consistent with the research question(s) being asked, that is feasible within the budget, and that is logistically convenient for a majority of workshop participants.

9. Can I receive feedback on my proposal? 

If requested, CIFAR can provide feedback on administrative questions or issues. However, we are unable to provide substantive feedback on workshop proposals.  

1o. Are indirect costs or overhead costs permissible?  

It is CIFAR’s policy that indirect costs of a project (including institutional overhead) are not eligible.

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