Professor David Leslie

David Leslie


Director of Ethics and Responsible Innovation Research at The Alan Turing Institute and Professor of Ethics, Technology and Society, Queen Mary University of London

Research areas


David Leslie is the Director of Ethics and Responsible Innovation Research at The Alan Turing Institute. Before joining the Turing, he taught at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values, where he also participated in the UCHV’s 2017-2018 research collaboration with Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy on “Technology Ethics, Political Philosophy and Human Values: Ethical Dilemmas in AI Governance.” Prior to teaching at Princeton, David held academic appointments at Yale’s programme in Ethics, Politics and Economics and at Harvard’s Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, where he received over a dozen teaching awards including the 2014 Stanley Hoffman Prize for Teaching Excellence. He was also a 2017-2018 Mellon-Sawyer Fellow in Technology and the Humanities at Boston University and a 2018-2019 Fellow at MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.

David has served as an elected member of the Bureau of the Council of Europe’s Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI). He is on the editorial board of the Harvard Data Science Review (HDSR) and is a founding editor of the Springer journal, AI and Ethics. He is the author of the UK Government’s official guidance on the responsible design and implementation of AI systems in the public sector, Understanding artificial intelligence ethics and safety (2019) and a principal co-author of Explaining decisions made with AI (2020), a co-badged guidance on AI explainability published by the Information Commissioner’s Office and The Alan Turing Institute. He is also Principal Investigator of a UKRI-funded project called PATH-AI: Mapping an Intercultural Path to Privacy, Agency and Trust in Human-AI Ecosystems, which is a research collaboration with RIKEN, one of Japan’s National Research and Development Institutes founded in 1917. Most recently, he has received a series of grants from the Global Partnership on AI, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and BEIS to lead a project titled, Advancing Data Justice Research and Practice, which explores how current discourses around the problem of data justice, and digital rights more generally, can be extended from the predominance of Western-centred and Global North standpoints to non-Western and intercultural perspectives alive to issues of structural inequality, coloniality, and discriminatory legacies.

David was a Principal Investigator and lead co-author of the NESTA-funded Ethics review of machine learning in children’s social care (2020). His other recent publications include the HDSR articles “Tackling COVID-19 through responsible AI innovation: Five steps in the right direction” (2020) and “The arc of the data scientific universe” (2021) as well as Understanding bias in facial recognition technologies (2020), an explainer published to support a BBC investigative journalism piece that won the 2021 Royal Statistical Society Award for Excellence in Investigative Journalism. David is also a co-author of Mind the gap: how to fill the equality and AI accountability gap in an automated world (2020), the Final Report of the Institute for the Future of Work’s Equality Task Force and lead author of “Does AI stand for augmenting inequality in the COVID-19 era of healthcare” (2021) published in the British Medical Journal. He is additionally the lead author of Artificial intelligence, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law (2021), a primer prepared to support the CAHAI’s Feasibility Study and translated into Dutch and French, and of Human rights, democracy, and the rule of law assurance framework for AI systems: A proposal. In his shorter writings, David has explored subjects such as the life and work of Alan Turing, the Ofqual fiasco, the history of facial recognition systems and the conceptual foundations of AI for popular outlets from the BBC to Nature.

David’s recent and upcoming invited lectures, talks, and public appearances include:

  • ‘Intercultural and global approaches to AI ethics and governance,’ Panel Chair, AI UK Conference, The Alan Turing Institute, 2022
  • ‘Global Partnership on AI Report launch: Advancing data justice research and practice,’ Invited Speaker, AI UK Conference, The Alan Turing Institute, 2022
  • ‘AI Governance and Regulation Roundtable,’ Institute for the Future of Work, 2022
  • ‘The future of AI governance and regulation through an international lens,’ Invited Talk and Panel Participation, Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange, 2022 
  • ‘A public dialogue on location data ethics,’ Chair, Launch Event for the UK Geospatial Commission, The Alan Turing Institute, 2021
  • ‘Protect children’s data, privacy and prioritize fairness,’ Invited Panel Participation, UNICEF Global Forum on AI for Children, Panel, 2021
  • ‘Remarks on UNESCO’s Recommendation,’ UNESCO General Conference, Paris, 2021
  • ‘Addressing the Challenges and Maximizing the Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence: UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI,’ Invited High-Level Panel Participation, UN General Assembly, 2021
  • ‘UK’s National Data Strategy a year on,’ Invited Panel Participation DCMS Leeds Digital Summit, 2021
  • ‘Governing AI effectively: What does it take?,’ Invited Panel Participation, DCMS/CDEI Leeds Digital Summit, 2021
  • ‘The Ethical hazards of voice tech and deepfakes,’ BBC Radio 4 Interview with Elaine Moore, 2021 
  • ‘Standardization in emerging technologies: challenges and opportunities,’ HMG-BSI High Level Panel, 2021
  • ‘Advancing data justice research and practice,’ Session Lead, UK-Canada Joint Science and Technology Coordinating Committee, 2021
  • ‘Sustainable, resilient, and ready: creating a responsible data innovation ecosystem for Digital Pathology,’ Invited Keynote, PathLake Conference, 2021 
  • ‘AI and the civilisational tipping point,’ Conference on the importance of the ethical and human rights aspects in the regulation of AI, Slovenian Presidency to the Council of the EU, 2021
  • ‘New technologies for law enforcement,’ Evidence given to the House of Lords, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Chair Baroness Hamwee, 2021
  • ‘The ethics behind AI and deepfake technology,’ Interview with Paul Henley, BBC World Service Newshour, 2021
  • ‘Building ethics and safety into pervasive intelligent systems: policy perspectives,’ Invited Keynote, Ethics of AI in Public Sector Workshop, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, 2021
  • ‘Ethics in data science,’ Invited Lecture, Data Science for Social Good summer programme, Warwick University, 2021
  • ‘International perspectives on the importance of ethical and human rights aspects in the regulation of Artificial Intelligence,’ Invited Panel Participation, Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, 2021 
  • ‘Reframing infrastructural platforms as global public utilities,’ Invited Lecture, Association for Artificial Intelligence's International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM), The Alan Turing Institute and École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, 2021
  • ‘5 Challenges to public trust in the COVID-19 era of AI governance,’ Invited Lecture, PATH-AI Workshop on AI governance in the UK and Japan in the COVID-19 Era, RIKEN and The Alan Turing Institute, 2021
  • ‘Sustainable and ready: Creating a responsible data innovation ecosystem for digital pathology,’ Invited Lecture, Symposium on the JPC repository enhancement, US Defense Digital Service and The US Joint Pathology Center, 2021
  • ‘Launching the £50 note, Turing’s Legacy,’ Radio Interviews, BBC Lancashire, BBC Cumbria, BBC Cornwall, BBC Leicester, BBC H&W, BBC Lincolnshire, BBC Humberside, 2021
  • ‘Ethics and ubiquitous AI in the society of tomorrow,’ Invited Lecture, Symposium on AI and ethics, ECLAS project, Church of England, 2021 
  • ‘Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the UK & Germany: Synergies, Opportunities and the Future,’ Invited Panel Participation, Global Expert Missions, KTN and Innovate UK, UKRI, 2021
  • ‘Can AI help us talk to the dead? Is this ethical?’ Radio Interview with John Pienaar, Times Radio, 2021
  • ‘The proliferation of pervasive AI as a sociotechnical tipping point,’ Invited Lecture, Ethics in AI conference, Tech UK and The Ministry of Defence, 2021
  • ‘Doing ethics at The Alan Turing Institute,’ Bristol University Working Group, 2021 
  • ‘Animating principles in practice: creating responsible ecosystems for data work,’ Invited Lecture, Research in Real Worlds Lecture for the Oxford Internet Institute. 2021
  • ‘Explanation-aware AI system design in practice,’ Invited Talk, TechUK Workshop on Explaining decisions made with AI, 2021
  • ‘Digital Medicine and Electronic Healthcare Records: Ethical Tensions and Solutions,’ Invited Talk, Ethics of Precision and Preventative Psychiatry Workshop, 2021 
  • ‘AI as Global Public Utility,’ Invited Keynote, London Business School, Reinventing the Mainstream Conference, 2021
  • ‘Data science for the society of tomorrow,’ Invited Keynote, INEGI- Tecnológico de Monterrey, México, 2021
  • ‘Process-based explanation for complex algorithmic models,’ Invited Lecture and Panel Participation, The National Institute for Standards and Technology (US), 2021
  • ‘Human rights in the era of AI,’ Invited Panel Participation, Conference hosted by Germany’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, 2021 
  • “Interdisciplinary work in AI ethics and governance at the Turing Institute,” Global Expert Mission to Germany on AI, UKRI/Innovate UK, 2020
  • “‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’: A Conversation with Dr David Leslie,” Monday Science Podcast, 2020
  • “Is education AI ready?,” Host and Discussant for Professor Rose Luckin’s Turing Lecture, 2020
  • “Why AI ethics and responsible data science?” Invited Lecture, Leaders of Tomorrow in Tech, Pilot School Programme, 2020
  • ‘Tackling COVID-19 through responsible AI innovation,’ DECOVID Knowledge-Share Lecture. Presented to data analytics teams from Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, UCL and Leeds as well as to clinical staff from UCLH and UHB, 2020
  • ‘Boots-on-the-ground AI governance in the era of COVID-19,’ Invited Lecture, Research in Real Worlds Lecture for the Oxford Internet Institute, 2020
  • ‘Responsible AI innovation in the context of COVID-19,’ Conference Presentation, Data for Policy Conference, 2020
  • ‘AI/ML ethics and governance in research and practice,’ Invited Lecture to the UKRI CDT in Modern Statistics and Statistical Machine Learning, Imperial and Oxford, 2020
  • 'Changing Shapes of Psychic Life in the Prediction Society,’ Invited Lecture, The Open University Psychological Society, 2020
  • ‘Ethics, Explainability and Interpretability in Decision Support Systems and Recommender systems,’ Panel Chair, DSRS, Bristol University
  • ‘AI Ethics and the Digital Transformation of Public Service,’ Invited Lecture, Norwegian Directorate of Labour and Welfare, 2019
  • ‘Four Principles of AI Explainability,’ ICO Roundtable on Auditability in AI, 2019
  • ‘Focusing on care, need, and context: machine learning ethics in children’s social care,’ Roundtable co-chair talk, NESTA/Turing/Rees Centre Roundtable on the ethics of machine learning in children’s social care, 2019
  • Alan Turing, On the £50 note, Radio Interview: BBC Northern Ireland, 2019
  • ‘The Geopolitics of a Cyber-Physical Reality,” Invited Lecture, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Cyber, Data Analytics, and Crime Department (CDACD), 2019
  • ‘AI Explainability with a Human Face’ Invited Lecture, The Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design, City University of London, 2019
  • ‘AI explanation and the content lifecycle,’ Driving Data Futures Lecture, The Alan Turing Institute, 2019
  • ‘Banging at the Gates of Technological Power: AI as a Global Public Utility,’ Keynote Address to Connected Life Conference, Oxford University, 2019
  • 'Towards a Human-Centred Platform for AI Ethics and Safety,’ Invited Lecture, CogX Conference, 2019
  • ‘Towards a Human-Centred Platform for AI Ethics and Safety,’ Invited Lecture, The Technical Cooperation Program UK/US/Australia/Canada/New Zealand, 2019
  • ‘The Responsible Implementation of Interpretable AI,’ Invited Lecture, AI & society: From principles to practice, CIFAR-UKRI-CNRS workshop, 2019
  • ‘A Framework for Process Transparency in the Use of Automated Decision-Making Systems,’ STIS Guest Speaker Series Seminar, University of Edinburgh, 2019
  • ‘Building a Responsible Data Innovation Ecosystem from the Cultural Ground Up,’ Keynote Address to the Insurance Supper Club, UK, 2019
  • ‘The Co-Evolution of Exploitation and Power in an Age of Algorithmic Ubiquity,’ Panel Chair, Data Power Conference, Bremen University, Germany, 2019
  • ‘The Fifth Face of Power: A Critique of Algorithmic Violence,’ Data Power Conference, Bremen University, Germany, 2019
  • ‘Self-Sovereign Identification as a Tool for Digital Identity Rights: Towards Empowering Individuals Online,’ (with Christina Hitrova), Data Power Conference, Bremen University, Germany, 2019
  • Expert Roundtable, Technology and Artificial Intelligence Commission (Sue Black OBE FBCS FRSA, Chair), Liberal Democrats, Parliament 2019
  • ‘Critical Thresholds in the Prediction Society: New Frontiers in Data Ethics,’ ICO, Data Protection Practitioners Conference, 2019
  • ‘Project ExplAIn,” Panel Chair, ICO, Data Protection Practitioners Conference, 2019
  • ‘Alan Turing as Teacher: How Turing Taught Us to Count,’ Cambridge University, EiM2, Conference on Ethics and Mathematics, 2019
  • ‘Are We at a Tipping Point?,’ Oxford University Conference on AI and the Law, 2019
  • ‘Mapping Explainability: An Actionable Taxonomy for Explanable AI,’ ICO/Turing Institute Roundtable on Project ExplAIn, 2019
  • ‘Driving Responsible Innovation in a Complex Data Ecosystem,’ Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group/Home Office Panel, 2019
  • Alan Turing, Greatest Person of the 20th Century, Radio Interviews: BBC Scotland; BBC Cornwall; BBC Oxford; BBC Coventry and Warwickshire; BBC Cambridge; BBC Solent; BBC Cumbria; BBC Three Counties, 2019
  • ‘Artificial Intelligence as a Global Public Utility and Gatekeeper Technology,’ The Alan Turing Institute, Data Ethics NHS Advisory Sub-Group, 2019
  • ‘De-Automating the Crowd: Data Ethics and the Future of Work,’ Automating the Crowd Conference, Invited Lecture, The Alan Turing Institute, January 2019
  • ‘From ‘Black Box’ to Bottleneck and Back Again: Finding the Way to Principles-Based Regulation in the Age of Machine Learning,’ Invited Lecture, 2018 IOSCO Workshop Hosted by the UK Financial Conduct Authority, December 2018

Research interests

David's current research focuses on digital ethics, algorithmic accountability, explainability, and the social and ethical impacts of machine learning and data-driven innovations. In his wider research, David studies the moral and ethical implications of emerging technologies. In particular, he is keen to question how the biospherically and geohistorically ramifying scope of contemporary scientific innovation (in areas ranging from AI and synthetic biology to nanotechnology and geoengineering) is putting pressure on the conventional action-orienting categories and norms by which humans, at present, regulate their behaviour.