Smarter together in the age of AI

KIN Research’s Marleen Huysman wins prestigious NWO grant to follow AI from development in the lab to its use on the work floor, to develop a collaborative methodology for augmenting knowledge work.

09/10/2019 | 4:07 PM

Professor Marleen Huysman, head of the KIN group at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, was awarded a prestigious national grant from the NWO’s Open Competition. The research will follow AI from development in the lab to its use on the work floor to develop a collaborative methodology for augmenting knowledge work.

"We do not yet know what the unintended consequences are of leaving experts out of the loop of AI development,” says Professor Huysman.

“That’s why we need to immediately study both how AI systems are being developed and how they are used in organizations, with the ultimate goal of creating insights that build a bridge between these two contexts. AI should make work smarter, but stakeholders first need to learn to collaborate. Our goal is to facilitate that collaboration.”

Currently, AI applications that are intended for use in knowledge work can be developed without input from experts in that domain (e.g. HR or healthcare). This is very different from early forms of AI, also known as expert systems, which depended on experts willingly helping them to become ‘smart’. Now that AI instead relies on large training data sets, the domain expert is often cut out altogether.

A team of KIN researchers, including 2 new PhDs and a Postdoc funded by the grant, will work together to study AI development as well as its use in organizational contexts close up, over four years. The team will ultimately create a “Collaborative Methodology”, designed in close collaboration with practitioners who are involved in AI development and AI use. The Collaborative Methodology will facilitate interaction between experts before AI applications hit the ground in organizations.

Understanding and guiding the impact of AI is a national priority, and Professor Huysman’s project takes an innovative approach by contributing insights from a multi-stakeholder perspective,” says Professor Arjen Van Witteloostuijn, Dean of the School of Business and Economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

“We are enthusiastic to see such important research funded and look forward to following the results.”

Professor Huysman and the KIN group have been focused on how technologies impact knowledge work and organizations for over 15 years. The NWO agreed that Professor Huysman, along with KIN researchers, is therefore ideally suited to tackling the important topic of AI in knowledge work, bringing together multiple stakeholders to contribute to a human-centric future.
The committee was convinced of the project’s “great potential to be valuable for technology, business, society and science”, and commended the “active involvement of stakeholders in collaboration”, recognising the “strong and appropriate record of the main applicant and the team.”

The goal of the Open Competition for Social Sciences and Humanities is to fund excellent, curiosity-driven research on socially relevant issues. 41 projects were financed out of 279 applications. Professor Huysman was awarded the maximum budget of €750,000.

You can read the official NWO announcement here (in Dutch): https://www.nwo.nl/actueel/nieuws/2019/07/toekenningen-nwo-open-competitie-sgw.html