The public policy programme works alongside policy makers to explore how data-driven public service provision and policy innovation might solve long running ‘wicked’ policy problems and to develop the ethical foundations for the use of data science and artificial intelligence in policy-making.

Our aim is to contribute to the Institute's mission – to make great leaps in data science and artificial intelligence research in order to change the world for the better – by developing research, tools, and techniques that have a positive impact on the lives of as many people as possible.

Programme challenges

The public policy programme has four challenges.

Use data science and artificial intelligence to inform policy-making

In a world of changing and interlinked policy measures, data science and AI can provide policy makers with unprecedented insight: from identifying policy priorities by modelling complex systems and scenarios, to evaluating hard-to-measure policy outcomes. Our aim is to equip policy makers across all levels of government with the tools they need to not only design effective public policy, but also to track and measure policy impacts.


Improve the provision of public services

Governments today are major holders of data which data science and AI can harness to improve the design and provision of public services. The public policy programme brings researchers and policy makers together in order to develop innovative ways to provide public services. Our aim is to change everyday life for the better: from allocating resources in the fairest and most transparent way, to designing personalised public services that are tailored to people's individual needs and situations.


Build ethical foundations for the use of data science and AI in policy-making

Understanding the ethical and societal implications of data science is one of The Alan Turing Institute's key research priorities. Our Data Ethics Group leads research in this area. The public policy programme will work with the Data Ethics Group to develop the ethical foundations for the use of data science and AI in policy-making, with the aim of securing the benefits and addressing the risks these technologies pose.


Contribute to policy that governs the use of data science and AI

The effects of data science and AI on society are already being felt, and their impact will only grow in the years to come. Our aim is to ensure that this impact is as beneficial and equitable as possible. The public policy programme will work with policy makers to develop well-crafted laws and sensible regulation, using the ethical principles and norms developed with the Data Ethics Group that clarify the socially acceptable uses of these powerful technologies.


Understanding artificial intelligence ethics and safety: A guide for the responsible design and implementation of AI systems in the public sector

In order to manage the impacts of AI responsibly and to direct the development of AI systems toward optimal public benefit, The Alan Turing Institute's public policy programme partnered with the Office for Artificial Intelligence and the Government Digital Service to produce guidance on the responsible design and implementation of AI systems in the public sector. 

The guide, Understanding Artificial Intelligence Ethics and Safety, is the most comprehensive guidance on the topic of AI ethics and safety in the public sector to date. It identifies the potential harms caused by AI systems and proposes concrete, operationalisable measures to counteract them. The guide stresses that public sector organisations can anticipate and prevent these potential harms by stewarding a culture of responsible innovation and by putting in place governance processes that support the design and implementation of ethical, fair, and safe AI systems.

The guidance is relevant to everyone involved in the design, production, and deployment of a public sector AI project: from data scientists and data engineers to domain experts, delivery managers and departmental leads. Our aim -- and hope -- in writing the guide is to encourage civil servants interested in conducting AI projects to make considerations of AI ethics and safety a first priority.

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Policy submission: DCMS consultation on the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation


The creation of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation was announced in late 2017. The Government launched its Consultation on the Centre in June 2018, seeking the views of interested groups from across society regarding how the Centre should operate, and which work it should prioritise.

Summary of the Turing’s submission

The Institute’s response addresses each question posed by the Consultation, and focuses on two areas that we feel we are particularly suited to advise on: how the new Centre should work, and which issues in data ethics it should focus on.

On how the Centre should work, we raise questions around the overall resources that the Centre will have at its disposal, how it is structured, and to what extent research will be undertaken by the Centre itself versus by outside groups on the Centre’s behalf. We argue that amongst the Centre’s proposed functions, its mandate to “publish recommendations to Government” and to “provide expert advice and support to regulators” will allow it to differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded field of digital ethics.

On which issues it should work on, we agree that the Centre’s identification of six areas of interest represents a good overview of the current state of the field. We also highlight other areas, including accountability, proportionality, and consent, which we feel are relatively underemphasised in the Consultation, and argue that some of the existing themes require more conceptual clarity.

Our response also includes comments on the legal and political basis of the new Centre, the ways in which it might engage with stakeholders, and how it should deliver its recommendations to Government.

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Policy submission: House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee Inquiry: Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy

Call for Evidence

The UK life sciences sector is high-tech, research-intensive, diverse and innovative. A strong life sciences sector can simultaneously benefit the UK’s economy and help improve the nation’s health. This inquiry investigated issues such as whether the Government has the necessary structures in place to support the life sciences sector; how the NHS can use procurement to stimulate innovation and the contents of the forthcoming new life sciences industrial strategy. A Call for Evidence was made on 20 July 2017.

Summary of the Turing’s submission

The response addresses questions 2 and 12 of the Call for Evidence, concerning how to stimulate innovation in the life sciences sector, and how to improve collaboration between researchers and the NHS, respectively.

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Contact info

For more information, please contact the public policy programme's team at:

[email protected]