A team of University of Iowa researchers has received an $800,000 grant as part of an initiative with the National Science Foundation and Amazon to make machine learning less discriminatory. Algorithms learn to do their task and improve on accuracy by analyzing data, but the researchers said the algorithms can learn discriminatory things due to data that is not representative.

“Machine learning is used to make many high-stakes decisions, but it often discriminates against people who have protected characteristics,” said Qihang Lin, associate professor of business analytics in the Tippie College of Business and the co-lead primary investigator on the grant.

Tianbao Yang, associate professor of computer science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Mingxuan Sun of Louisiana State University are also co-primary investigators on the grant. They will use the three-year grant to follow up on research already underway to define fairness and look at different risk measures.