Funding a revolution: How Artificial Intelligence might change the research system as we know it

Science has always had multiple funding sources, with industry funding playing an indispensable role. The presumed influence of private funding on science, however, has been an ongoing matter of concern for politicians and the public. Frequent points of criticism are conflicts of interest, the lack of governance, ethical and transparency issues etc. But as unduly corporate influence used to be concentrated on a few fields the general research system seemed largely unaffected. It rather benefited from the complementarity of its actors.

However, the rapid growth of predominantly privately funded research into the pivotal field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the last decade is fundamentally changing the balance of power between the private and the public sector. Given AI’s transdisciplinary importance, this has the potential to disrupt not only large parts of our economies and societies, but also the structure of the entire research system, the humanities included.

A set of fundamental questions arise: How does it affect our democratic societies if the entire research process in AI is dominated by private entities following a market logic instead of by independent researchers? If a significant part of – even basic – AI research is now being done in industry, how can we make sure that standards of transparency and other ethical standards are globally shared and research results are openly accessible? How can we build democracy into (private and public) AI research and prevent bias and discrimination? (How) do we need to address the current AI brain drain from academia to the private sector? And how do AI research dynamics affect the Global South?

Check out the discussion in the report.