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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Making Smart Fairer: Investigating Bias in Data-Centric Infrastructure Delivery


Engineering, it is claimed, is on the cusp of a ‘major step change’ (Turing Institute 2109). Formidable advancements in new technologies and AI are changing the profession’s working practices, while the government is implementing new policies to embed these in all aspects of infrastructure design and performance. Data science and AI promise vast improvements in monitoring, detecting and responding quickly to engineering system errors and enable ‘smarter decision-making’ to improve the resilience, efficiency and environment of cities and people’s engagement with these.

While some efforts are being made to develop foundational principles to guide future data -centric infrastructure delivery, these are primarily framed in terms of economic efficiency rather than positive social impact. Yet planning just how data-centric infrastructure delivery will ‘make smart fair’ and transform public lives is not only an engineering and computational task but a deeply sociological one.

This pilot project aims to make a sociological contribution to making smart engineering fair. By undertaking a critical review of contemporary work futures and policy thinking on new digital technologies and inclusion with specific reference to the infrastructure industry and conducting case study research on the recruitment and selection of designers and engineers and technologies-in-use, we will assess the extent to which diversity and inclusion are included in current data-centric infrastructure planning. Identification of gaps in policy and practice will help to shape the design of future research to make smart engineering fairer.


Principal Investigator: Professor Pauline Leonard

Co Investigator: Professor Mike Wald

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