Protecting Citizens Online – invitation to workshop

Internet connected devices and online platforms are now a key part of daily life for most UK citizens dominating social and business interactions. There is, however, a growing body of evidence of serious social, economic, or physical harm caused by use of digitally-derived data and information in the wrong hands. These ‘on-line harms’ include privacy abuses, data breaches, cyber-attacks and inappropriate uses of personal data; malign influence and disinformation; online fraud and crime; fake identity; hate crime; and advocacy of self-harm/suicide. 

The need to tackle the negative consequences of being online for individuals, for social cohesion and for democratic society, has been recognised in the Online Harms White Paper published in April 2019. 

We wish to encourage research to reduce these harms and this requires better understanding of three elements:

  1. the technology mitigations possible
  2. the complex social environment in which they are operating
  3. the behaviours and modus operandi of those causing harm 

At the core of this challenge is understanding a human phenomenon that is technically mediated. Therefore a truly interdisciplinary and inclusive approach is needed. Crucially, this requires interdisciplinary research, which spans technical and social sciences, law and ethics (hence across the remits of EPSRC, ESRC and AHRC). 

Workshop to inform the community about the UKRI investment into Protecting Citizens Online activity

A workshop, to be held on 12 November, aims to explain the planned approach to a UKRI investment of £18m in Protecting Citizens Online. 

The first phase of this activity is to establish a UK Research ‘Hub’ for Protecting Citizens Online research, with an investment of £7m over a three-year period.  This interdisciplinary Research Hub will focus on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETS) and provide a clear single engagement point with enough critical mass to engage with government, industry and citizens.

The objectives of the hub are to:

  • Build a coherent multidisciplinary community through activities and pump-prime funding
  • Drive culture change around integrating privacy preserving techniques into the academic and industrial software engineering communities
  • Work with policy makers, regulators and other stakeholders to build a strong voice for research in government and to align research with regulation
  • Coordinate industrial engagement
  • Develop public engagement and dialogue, including schools & parents

The workshop will expose the initial scope and concept of the call to establish the Research Hub to an audience from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds. It will highlight the Government and policy dimensions, the research challenges, facilitate networking between different disciplines and stakeholders, and provide an opportunity to help build new connections and consortia formation. 

A call to establish the Research Hub will be issued soon after the workshop. 

UKRI anticipates that this event is likely to be very popular, and hence we are unlikely to be able to accommodate everyone who will want to attend. Please note that attendance at this Workshop will not be a pre-requisite to apply for funding, nor will attendance guarantee subsequent funding.  All attendees will be expected to share the information from the Workshop with colleagues in their institutions and broader networks to ensure that broadest possible engagement with this investment across stakeholders and disciplines. We may make decisions for attendance at the Workshop based on organisation to ensure representation across the country. Presentations used at the Workshop will be published alongside the call documents.

To register your interest in attending this Workshop please complete the online expression of interest through Smart Survey form below, fully answering all the questions within the form. The deadline for applications is 16:00 on 29 October 2019. The information provided through the Smart Survey will be used by an internal UKRI panel to select the attendees for the workshop, ensuring balanced representation across relevant research communities, institutions and sectors and based on the following assessment criteria:

  • Relevant expertise
  • The ability to work collaboratively and as part of a group
  • The ability to work at the interface between disciplines
  • The ability to approach research creatively
  • Ability and willingness to disseminate the information gained at the Workshop