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2021 ECR Seed Funding Grants Announced

Author Sally Storey & Loren Dela Cruz
Date 4 August 2021

The ADM+S Centre’s Research Training Program has announced the recipients for round 1 of the 2021 ECR Seed Funding Grants. The ECR Seed Funding Grants aim to provide support to the Centre’s early career researchers by funding research projects across the Centre’s nodes, programs and focus areas.

“We are excited to support the first seed funding grants for early career researchers who are developing new ideas, projects and collaborations to further our understanding of the social, legal and technical implications automated decision-making at this critical stage of the centre and the field,” says Chief Investigator Heather Horst, co-leader of the research training program.

Out of the 11 project proposals submitted, 6 were awarded based on high impact outcomes, cross collaboration across ADM+S research groups, focus areas and nodes, and project teams).

The awardees of this funding round include:

  • Prioritising women’s safety: Intersections of automation, systems abuse and domestic violence.
    Project Lead: Dr Lyndal Sleep
    As automation increases across all sectors, the potential for automation to be harnessed in systems abuse by domestic violence perpetrators also increases. The proposed project aims to build capacity in the Centre to research the intersections of automation, systems abuse and domestic violence across multiple nodes, programs and research areas. This will be done by establishing a research group of ECRs to work on a series of workshops to produce a literature review of this new area, and draft a co-authored paper with all members of the research group as authors. The paper will be submitted to a high ranked academic journal. The research group involves ECRs from multiple nodes, streams and research focus areas. The funding is for a research assistant to support the literature review.
  • Precarious warehouse work and the automation of logistical mobilities: Understanding Amazon in the Australian context
    Project Lead: Dr Chris O’Neill
    This will be the first academic research project to analyse Amazon’s Australian ‘fulfilment centres’. We will study how automated mobility technologies are being deployed in Amazon’s new warehouses alongside other automated management and worker monitoring tools. Our research will combine interviews with warehouse workers and members of the communities proximate to Amazon’s Australian warehouses, alongside analysis of Amazon’s Australian corporate strategy and technology implementation, and a review of relevant workplace surveillance laws. The project will produce an integrated analysis of the use of automated mobility technologies alongside other automated management techniques, with a view towards developing recommendations for the responsible and ethical development of automated systems and sustainable labour practices, as well as canvassing the possibility of reform in Victoria’s workplace privacy regime.
  • Ethical Data Governance of Sex Tech
    Project Lead: Dr Zahra Stardust
    This project brings together industry, civil society and academia to workshop how innovative sexual technologies can be governed at scale in ways that prioritise public interest benefit and feminist data ethics, in order to reduce the harmful impacts of algorithmic sexual profiling. Comprised of two components – an industry workshop and a community hackathon – the project will operate in partnership between three ADM+S nodes (QUT, Swinburne and RMIT), global software consultancy firm Thoughtworks and the international Sex Tech School, an established private training academy for sextech start-ups and professionals. The workshop will involve facilitated conversations about ethical data governance as part of the Sex Tech School, while the hackathon will build on these insights to investigate how community stakeholders understand inclusive sex technologies for public benefit. With a built-in research component to collect data, we will produce two high impact Q1 journal articles, a community report and two podcast episodes, which will apply theoretical frameworks on data feminism, accountable governance, public interest technology and counter-surveillance to the contemporary sex tech field.
  • Hello Barbie! Voice recognition, cultural values, and privacy-by-design in entertainment voicetech for children
    Project Lead: Dr Jenny Kennedy
    This project examines entertainment products designed for children using voice-recognition software to identify products available on the global marketplace, and examine and compare their privacy controls, terms of service, and embedded cultural values within their design. A series of workshops with potential industry partners and scholars will be held to scope future research questions, directions and collaborations. The aim of the outputs identified in this application are to demonstrate a track record between the project team to support a future grant application.
  • Investigating and Mitigating Biases in Crowdsourced Data for Automated Decision-Making Systems
    Project Lead: Dr Danula Hettiachchi
    It is common practice for automated decision-making systems to use crowdsourced data. However, crowdsourcing data collection tasks require subjective judgement which is susceptible to biases held by crowd workers. Simultaneously, the environments and conditions under which crowd workers labour create additional influences and produce further biases. Whether held by the worker, or enforced by their employer, these biases can significantly impact the data quality with implications for models trained using labelled data. This project aims to conduct two crowdsourcing studies that use quantitative and qualitative methods to understand how crowd worker biases influence hate speech tagging task for automated content moderation. In addition, based on our study outcomes, we plan to develop a bias identification model for crowdsourcing that enable data fairness.
  • Gendered Harms Online: Conceptualising, Identifying, and Addressing Harms to Women on Digital Platforms
    Project Co-Leads: Dr Anjalee de Silva & Dr Rosalie Gillett
    Funding support for a virtual workshop to be held in February 2022 to bring together academic, civil society, and industry participants to discuss how gendered online harms are conceived of, regulated, and responded to by platforms, and to investigate ways that automated interventions might better address or mitigate such harms. Analysis of the data collected through the workshop will lead to the publication of an article in a high impact Q1 socio-legal journal, as well as the development of an online research tool that will summarise and visually represent conceptualisations of gendered online harms and platforms’ responses to them. Both the article and the online tool will inform the broader research projects that each of the leaders and collaborators listed in this application are currently working on. A primary focus of the workshop and its outputs will be to ‘map’ the gaps between scholarly and civil society perceptions of the harms to women of relevant online communicative conduct and platforms’ conceptions and regulation of and responses to such conduct.

The Research Training Program is borne from the Centre’s strategic objective to educate and train researchers skilled in responding to the cross-disciplinary challenges of next-generation automation. The program is designed with continuous, active industry engagement and international knowledge-exchange in mind, helping to deliver on the Centre’s outcomes, impacts and linkages, as well as to prepare the next generation of researchers to make world-leading contributions in an increasingly engaged and trans-disciplinary research environment.

For more information please contact Sally Storey, Research Training Coordinator.