Cornell joins federal AI Safety Institute Consortium

Cornell has joined a U.S. Commerce Department initiative to support development and deployment of trustworthy and safe artificial intelligence technologies. Established by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the AI Safety Institute Consortium (AISIC) will bring together AI creators and users, academics, nonprofit organizations, and government and industry researchers.

“Cornell is a community of AI developers and users, including researchers who are creating new ways to use the knowledge, ideas and tools that we develop to have positive global impact,” said Krystyn J. Van Vliet, vice president for research and innovation. “Across our campuses in Ithaca and New York City, we are pleased to be an inaugural member of AISIC and to contribute to this wider consortium of experts in advancing safe and trustworthy methods, practices and policies that aim to do the greatest good.”

The consortium includes more than 200 members, including companies and startups of all sizes that are developing and using AI systems; research teams that are building the foundational understanding of how AI can and will transform our society; creators of advanced AI systems and hardware; representatives of professions with deep engagement in AI’s use; and state and local governments.

“By joining the NIST consortium on AI safety, Cornell is contributing to the urgent needs of millions of Americans affected by AI,” said J. Nathan Matias, assistant professor of communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The Citizens and Technology Lab and other labs across Cornell have pioneered techniques to test AI safety, evaluate the fairness of decision-making systems and analyze the compliance of AI firms with transparency requirements. We are also training students who can take leadership roles in emerging professions and public-service roles dedicated to AI safety.”

“Safe and trustworthy AI is a critical and urgent need for the future of society,” said Kavita Bala, dean of the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science and lead dean for the Cornell AI Initiative. “Cornell is uniquely positioned to address this challenge by bringing together world-class researchers in a broad range of disciplines, including technologists, humanists, social scientists, and legal and policy experts. We are excited to be part of this important initiative for our future.”

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, AISIC will develop evidence-based guidelines and standards for AI measurement and policy that will help address the capabilities of the next generation of AI systems with appropriate risk management strategies.

“An increasing number of clinicians are conducting research on AI at Weill Cornell Medicine. As clinicians, we are particularly concerned about our patients’ well-being, including their health outcomes and ability to make informed decisions,” said Dr. Anaïs Rameau, director of new technologies in the department of otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “It is very exciting for us to engage in the important task of the NIST consortium on AI safety and ensure our patients’ interests take center stage.”

“We are experiencing a rapid increase in the use and marketing of nonregulated AI systems in veterinary medicine,” said Parminder Basran, associate research professor of medical oncology in the Department of Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Efforts to develop and deploy trustworthy and safe AI technologies, such as those described by the U.S. Commerce Department, will benefit researchers, clinicians and patients.”

The consortium will work with strategic global partners that have a key role to play in setting interoperable and effective safety around the world.

“The AISIC consortium aligns very well with how we are conceptualizing AI through a deep integration of algorithms, human-centered design, and the social science to guide sustainable AI development,” said Thorsten Joachims, director of the AI Radical Collaboration at Cornell and associate dean for research at Cornell Bowers CIS. “It is a strength we have been building at Cornell for a long time.”

J. Edward Anthony is a writer for the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

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