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UMSI assistant professor Abigail Jacobs earns Microsoft Research AI and Society Fellowship

Microsoft Research AI and Society Fellowship. Abigail Jacobs. Assistant professor.

Monday, 02/26/2024

University of Michigan School of Information assistant professor Abigail Jacobs has earned a 2024 Microsoft Research AI and Society Fellowship. Jacobs’ research, which focuses on developing standards of measurement for artificial intelligence systems, will be supported by a team of Microsoft researchers. 

By the end of the fellowship, Jacobs and her team hope to produce “collaboratively authored research papers, as well as a shared language and a set of approaches that Microsoft and other organizations could use to measure harms caused by AI systems.” 

The year-long fellowship topic is in conversation with the Biden administration’s comprehensive executive order, which establishes new standards for AI safety and security, and encourages regulation for companies. 

“It’s really exciting that Microsoft is prioritizing in this direction and want to work with us to do this,” Jacobs says. “I think these issues are a core challenge for modern AI systems, and I’m thrilled they’re investing in this work.” 

Jacobs explains “a lot of people are talking about harms caused by AI systems, but they’re not talking about how we measure those harms.” This leads to researchers attempting to fix the algorithms behind those harms, rather than thinking about the social impacts. 

“The way that people fight about algorithms or AI is often discussed at a technical level,” she says. “This excludes people that are impacted by decisions. We have to think about the social decisions being made, how we measure those harms and what we can do to mitigate them.” 

Most recently, Jacobs published a paper on assumptions AI systems make about the human body. She has also been working closely with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Trustworthy AI in Technology (TRAILS), the Northwestern Center for Advancing Safety of Machine Intelligence (CASMI) to lead workshops on impacts of AI and measuring and mitigating sociotechnical harms.  


Learn more about UMSI assistant professor Abigail Jacobs


— Noor Hindi, UMSI public relations specialist