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Computer Science Seminar: Amélie Marian (Rutgers University)

Speaker: Amelie Marian (Rutgers University)
Title: Pursuing Transparency and Accountability in Data and Decision Processes

The seminar will be available for in-person and Zoom participation. If you would like to receive the Zoom link, please register using the “Register” button above.

Algorithmic systems and data processes are being deployed to aid a wide range of high-impact decisions: from school applications or job interviews to gathering, storing, and analyzing personal data, or even performing critical tasks in the electoral process. These systems can have momentous consequences for the people they affect but their internal behaviors are often inadequately communicated to stakeholders, leaving them frustrated and distrusting of the outcomes of the decisions. Transparency and accountability are critical prerequisites for building trust in the results of decisions and guaranteeing fair and equitable outcomes.

In this talk, I will present my work on making these opaque processes more transparent and accountable to the public in several real-world applications.  In particular, I will discuss how ranking aggregation functions traditionally used in decision systems inadequately reflect the intention of the decision-makers. Providing transparent metrics to clarify the ranking process, by assessing the contribution of each parameter used in the ranking function in the creation of the final ranked outcome, more accurately captures the true impact of each parameter in the ranking decision. Furthermore,  ranking functions that are used in resource allocation systems often produce disparate results because of bias in the underlying data.  I will show how a sample-based mechanism based on the use of compensatory bonus points can transparently address disparity in ranking applications.

Organizations and agencies do not have strong incentives to explain and clarify their decision processes; however, stakeholders are not powerless and can strategically combine their efforts to push for more transparency. I will discuss the results and lessons learned from such an effort: a parent-led crowdsourcing campaign to increase transparency in the New York City school admission process. This work highlights the need for oversight and AI governance to improve the trust of stakeholders who have no choice but to interact with automated decision systems.

Amélie Marian is an Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at Rutgers University, where she was Director of the Undergraduate program from 2014 to 2020. Her research interests are in Explainable Rankings, Accountability of Decision-making Systems, Personal Digital Traces, and Data Integration. Her recent public scholarship work on explaining the NYC School Admission lottery process to families, in collaboration with elected parent representatives, was instrumental in increasing transparency and accountability in the NYC high school application system. Amélie received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Columbia University in 2005. She is the recipient of a Microsoft Live Labs Award, three Google Research Awards, and an NSF CAREER award.

Milstein LL016 and Zoom


Apr 25 2023


11:00 am - 12:00 pm


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Formats (virtual, in person, hybrid)



Barnard College - The Milstein Center


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