RobotRepublic — Today our Foundation for Responsible Robotics delivered an open letter to the UK government protesting the lack of diversity in its new Science and Technology Committee. It claims to have a strong policy on diversity, yet the committee itself comprises eight white men.

To sign our petition, click here. Check out the letter below.

Dear Mr Williamson MP, Nick Brown MP, Alistair Carmichael MP,

We are writing this open letter to you in your capacity as Chief Whip of your party about the Membership of the Science and Technology Committee.

While we applaud the committee for its statement that, “the Science and Technology Committee is currently monitoring the diversity of its witnesses. The Committee values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible”, we have concerns about the constituency of the committee itself and the potentially damaging impact this could have on the UK technology sector.

In the midst of the new technological revolution we are seeing considerable diversity problems in two main ways:

  1. the recruitment and retention of under-represented groups in the UK technology Sector eg. only 17% of employees in the technology sector are women, while the number of women entering computer science degrees is falling year on year.
  2. considerable evidence is emerging to suggest gender and ethnicity bias in decision algorithms from both academic research and from emerging cases of injustice in everything from selection of job candidates through to mortgage evaluations,  insurance, and sentencing of individuals, and so on.

There is also evidence that diversity increases innovation, maximises growth and drives success in the executive management boards of corporations and other institutions..

We believe that a Science and Technology Committee that is not itself diverse does nothing to help alleviate the diversity problems in the UK technology sector, and could actually amplify them. This leaves the committee compromised in its ability to innovate and lead in ways that will not only benefit business but also the wider society.

We support the letter from Mr Lamb MP written on the 13th of September and would like to add our support that you use, at the very least, the last two seats available to ensure a slightly more diverse group of members. We believe that adding three more members of a different gender or ethnicity is still insufficient to represent the needed gender and ethnic diversity of the committee. As such, we urge you to consider adding further members.


Name                                          Position, Company/Institution                       

Professor Noel Sharkey             Co-director, Foundation for Responsible Robotics

Tabitha Goldstaub                     Co-founder, CognitionX

Mustafa Suleyman                     Co-founder, DeepMind

Jody Williams                             Nobel Women’s Initiative Chair and 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate

Joanna J. Bryson                         Reader, University of Bath Dept. of Computer Science

Kate Devlin                                 Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London

Amanda Sharkey                       Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield, Department of Computer Science

Tracey Groves                            Founder and Director, Intelligent Ethics

Vanessa Evers                            University of Twente, the Netherlands Full professor and chair HMI Scientific director DesignLab

Dr. Jutta Weber                          Media, Culture and Society / Mediensoziologie Dept. of Media Studies / Institut für Medienwissenschaft University of Paderborn

Dr. Mary Cummings                  Duke University, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science

Dr Shannon Vallor                     William J. Rewak, S.J. Professor of Philosophy at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA USA.

Patrick Lin, Ph.D.                        Professor, Philosophy Dept. Director, Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group California Polytechnic State University

Lucy Suchman                            Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology, Lancaster University, UK.

Ian Kerr                                      Canada Research Chair in Ethics,  Law & Technology, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe      Co-director, Foundation for Responsible Robotics, TU Delft

Prof. Dr. Kerstin Dautenhahn Adaptive Systems Research Group, School of Computer Science, University of Hertfordshire

Click here to access the petition.

For RobotRepublic, I’m Noel Sharkey.