SAS accelerates responsible innovation efforts with new partnerships, focus on trustworthy AI

The world has seen unprecedented artificial intelligence (AI) advances since AI and analytics company SAS launched its responsible innovation efforts one year ago. Amid this rapid disruption, SAS has increased efforts to bring trustworthy AI to customers, including a first-of-its-kind ethical AI healthcare lab in the Netherlands. SAS also expanded its Data Ethics Practice by integrating its successful Data for Good program, allowing the company to consider not just the risks of AI but also its potential to improve the world.

Ethical partnership sparks innovative AI healthcare lab

As part of its commitment to responsible innovation, SAS partners with organisations globally to explore ways to implement ethical AI within industries. A recent example is a SAS collaboration with two Dutch organisations: Erasmus University Medical Center (Erasmus MC), one of Europe’s leading academic hospitals; and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), home of the TU Delft Digital Ethics Centre. The three organisations jointly launched the first Responsible and Ethical AI in Healthcare Lab (REAHL).

(TOP: SAS responsible innovation efforts include a first-of-its-kind ethical AI health care lab in the Netherlands).

The REAHL aims to address the ethical concerns and challenges related to developing and implementing AI technologies in healthcare. With the rapid advancements in AI, there is a need to ensure that these technologies are designed and used in a safe, transparent and ethical way. The REAHL brings together multidisciplinary teams of experts in AI, medicine and ethics with policymakers to collaborate on developing and implementing AI technologies that prioritise patient safety, privacy and autonomy.

This includes ensuring that AI systems are unbiased, transparent and accountable, and used in ways that respect patients’ rights and values. The REAHL seeks to create a framework for ethical AI in healthcare that will serve as a model for medical centers and regions around the world.

The REAHL was just named an official lab by the Netherlands’ National Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI). An ICAI lab is a research collaboration between industrial, governmental or not-for-profit partners and knowledge institutes. ICAI labs must meet requirements for data, expertise and capacity, and have the expectation that outcomes will be operationalized in the real world.

“Together, we are not only building AI technologies, but also shaping the future of healthcare with a steadfast commitment to upholding ethical principles and prioritising the well-being of patients in every innovation,” said Assistant Professor Michel van Genderen, MD PhD, Attending Intensivist and Initiator and Co-Founder of Datahub at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. “With our pioneering work in establishing the first ethical AI lab in healthcare, we pave the way for a new era of patient care, where the deployment of AI technology is governed by transparency, safety and equity as fundamental pillars.”

SAS is also a founding member of the Coalition for Health AI (CHAI), a community of academic health systems, organisations, and expert practitioners of AI and data science. CHAI recently released a blueprint for trustworthy AI for healthcare, a result of coordination led by CHAI and the National Academy of Medicine with AI experts from academic medical centers and healthcare, technology and other industry sectors. In addition, SAS and fellow CHAI member Duke Health, a world-renowned academic medical center, recently announced they will explore innovative and collaborative healthcare solutions with data and analytics.

SAS and Microsoft have also partnered with Erasmus MC to develop, implement and monitor data-driven applications across the entire hospital to improve patient care and capacity and to optimise the use of operating rooms, intensive care units and bed capacity.

Expanded SAS Data Ethics Practice to explore promise of AI

The explosion of generative AI in the form of ChatGPT, Google Bard and others has taken to new levels the fierce debate around AI in society. To explore positive AI applications, SAS recently expanded the Data Ethics Practice by integrating the company’s Data for Good team.

“With the swift advancement of AI, we must remain diligent in keeping humans at the center of everything we do,” said Reggie Townsend, Vice President of the SAS Data Ethics Practice. “But it’s not just protecting the vulnerable, it’s seeking out opportunities to use AI to make peoples’ lives better.”

The SAS Data for Good team will seek out opportunities to partner with organisations to apply AI to causes that improve society. For instance, the team has previously collaborated with nonprofits to fight rainforest destruction in Brazil and explore housing discrimination in New York City. Additionally, SAS will work with the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies to apply crowd-driven AI and machine learning to help protect endangered sea turtles.

Putting responsible innovation into practice in- and outside SAS

Some of the many responsible innovation activities at SAS in the past year include:

  • The company continues to innovate and improve SAS Viya, the company’s flagship trustworthy AI platform. SAS Viya includes trustworthy AI capabilities like bias detection, explainability, decision auditability, model monitoring, governance and accountability, increasing confidence in government agencies’ responsible AI efforts.
  • The Data Ethics Practice has fulfilled more than 200 requests for counsel on responsible innovation questions from around the company.
  • SAS launched internal training for responsible innovation that teaches data analytics practitioners what it means to innovate responsibly. Attendees learn the principles of responsible innovation and how SAS software helps enable analysts to provide a duty of care in working with data. The training will be offered externally later this year.
  • At its world headquarters in Cary, NC, SAS hosted a meeting of the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee, on which Reggie Townsend, Vice President of the SAS Data Ethics Practice serves. He also serves on the board of EqualAI.
  • SAS contributed to the Business Roundtable’s Roadmap for Responsible Artificial Intelligence, which guides American businesses, policymakers and regulators on their shared journey toward responsible AI.


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