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ELSA International panel encourages a new way of impact measurement and calls for more citizen engagement in AI Projects


Sokcheng Thai

Brussels, Belgium – FARI and CLAIRE led the International panel of the first-ever National Congress ELSA Labs on 1 December 2022 in Heerlen, the Netherlands. Moderated by FARI co-manager and CLAIRE Brussels chair Hans de Canck, the session focused on citizen engagement, partnerships, as well as the measurement of the impact from the perspectives of three institutions, FARI (Brussels), Knowledge Centre Data and Society (Flemish region), and DFKI (Germany). 

The panelists of the discussion included Pieter Duysburgh (Operational lead, Knowledge Centre Data and Society), Carl Mörch (Co-manager, FARI), and Gaurav Singhal (PhD senior researcher, DFKI Germany).

The discussion kicked off with the topic of citizen engagement. While it is crucial to gather and engage citizens’ ideas in AI projects, citizen engagement also triggers skepticism on the quality of ideas from citizens for the development of AI projects. Although Pieter Duysburgh, Operation of the Knowledge Centre Data and Society agreed on this, he shared a different view. “From a science communication perspective, the goal is to convince people to share their ideas and they would often surprise us with those ideas. I think having a quality of the idea is better, but getting to the point that people were convinced that they could contribute their ideas is a success,” said Duysburgh. On that note, Carl Mörch, FARI’s director, also emphasized the importance of having citizens’ ideas on the technology project: “Having inputs and feedback from the citizens on the project or technology that they use is sometimes critical because it’s like a wake-up call. It can feed new ideas of projects and maybe new ways of adapting it.”


Partnerships and Impact Measurements are two very important high-level assets, especially for institutions that are implementing social impact-driven projects or research. DFKI’s PhD senior researcher, Gaurav Singhal, shared his perspective on these two assets by stressing the importance for the organizations or institutions to find super connectors or networks who can get them the support and partner they need. In particular to measuring impact, Singhal showed his pessimism about the traditional way of quantifying impact (e.g: KPIs) by saying: “As scientists, we like to focus on numbers and focus on easy numbers, but the truth is they don’t exist.” He also offered a new way of looking at impact measurement: “I think the right way to actually measure this is to think the long-term view and actually think about culture change. Think of how all those projects are actually driving transformation within society’s cultures and institutions. The way to make sense of that is through stories, not through metrics,” added Singhal. 

The national congress ELSA Labs presented different developments from national ELSA Labs and related international ELSA activities that follow ELSA Approach (Ethical, Legal, and Societal Aspects) as a starting point to achieve a human-oriented AI approach. De Canck, closed the panel discussion by showing CLAIRE’s stand and support for the ELSA Labs: “CLAIRE as a network organization also have formally enforced the ELSA Labs as a concept and as a program. We are actually happy that we, as CLAIRE, can partner up with the ELSA’s team of Dutch AI coalition to bring the message to Europe and beyond on ELSA results.”




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