Newcastle University Business School

Staff Profile

Dr Mhairi Aitken

Senior Research Associate

Background

Dr Mhairi Aitken is a Senior Research Associate in Newcastle University Business School. She is a Sociologist whose research examines social and ethical dimensions of digital innovation particularly relating to uses of data and AI.

Mhairi works on the EPSRC funded FinTrust project which explores the role of machine learning in banking, particularly in the context of automated lending decisions and whether these lead to bias and financial exclusion: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/latest/2018/11/fintrust/

Prior to joining Newcastle University, Mhairi worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh where she undertook a programme of research and public engagement to explore social and ethical dimensions of data-intensive health research. She held roles as a Public Engagement Research Fellow in both the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research and the Scottish Health Informatics Programme (SHIP). Her work in this area has been influential in informing research and governance practices and shaping emerging good practice around public engagement with data-intensive health research.

Public Engagement

Mhairi has performed shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Science Festival, Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and the Festival of Physics. She also dabbles in stand-up comedy and has performed sets in Bright Club (academic comedy night).

In 2018 she featured on an episode of Ed Milliband and Geoff Lloyd's "Reasons to be Cheerful" podcast where she discussed the opportunities for health research using big data: https://play.acast.com/s/reasonstobecheerful/49.bigdatacanimproveyourhealth

Mhairi is committed to finding creative ways of engaging members of the public in discussions around the future roles of data and AI in society, facilitating dialogue and deliberation and seeking opportunities for public views to inform innovation and governance. Mhairi has experience of a range of deliberative engagement methods including citizens' juries, deliberative workshops, focus groups and coordinating a public panel.

Links

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=9KXOhdoAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao

Twitter: @mhairi_aitken

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMFHHhrvIaHsASyztIH2zjA 

Research

Current Research

Currently I work on the EPSRC funded FinTrust project which explores the role of machine learning in banking, particularly in the context of automated lending decisions and whether these lead to bias and financial exclusion: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/latest/2018/11/fintrust/ 

Previous Positions

Between June 2010 and November 2018 I was a Research Fellow in the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. In that role I worked on two large research programmes:

  • June 2010 – April 2013: Scottish Health Informatics Programme: Public Engagement. I was responsible for conducting a series of public engagement activities to explore public attitudes, concerns and preferences for the ways in which personal medical data is used in health research and working with the scientific management group to ensure that public views and interests were taken on board in the development of the Scottish Health Informatics Programme.
  • April 2013 – November 2018: The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, Scotland: Public Engagement. My research examined social and ethical dimensions of health-related data science. I was responsible for the planning, delivery and analysis of a programme of public engagement activities relating to data-linkage research. I worked closely with representatives of the Scottish Government and the NHS.

July 2009 – June 2010: ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship held in the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation (ISSTI) at the University of Edinburgh

June 2007 – Sept. 2007: ESRC Funded Research Fellow, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), Houses of Parliament, Westminster

Oct. 2005 – Dec. 2008: PhD (awarded December 2008), The Robert Gordon University ESRC CASE Studentship (in collaboration with Scottish and Southern Energy Plc).Title: “Power and Wind Power: Exploring experiences of renewable energy planning processes in Scotland”


Other Research Projects and Consultancy Work

March – April 2016: Evaluation of the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) (Commissioned by the Scottish Government) Role: Principal Investigator

Sept. 2014 – Dec. 2014: Community Benefits from Offshore Renewables - Good Practice Review (Funded by ClimateXChange on behalf of the Scottish Government) Role: Project Manager (jointly with Clair Haggett, University of Edinburgh)

April 2014 – Sept. 2014: Community Investment in Commercial Energy Projects (Funded by ClimateXchange on behalf of the Scottish Government) Role: Project Manager/Lead Researcher

Oct. 2013 – Feb. 2014: Wind Farms Community Engagement Good Practice Review (Funded by ClimateXchange on behalf of the Scottish Government). Role: Project Manager/Lead Researcher

May 2013 – September 2013: Public Acceptability of Data-Sharing between the Public and Private Sector (Tendered contract from the Scottish Government) Working in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and at Ipsos-MORI.

March 2011 – July 2011: Linking social care, housing and health data: Social care clients’ and patients’ views, (Tendered contract from the Scottish Government). Role: Principal Investigator


Publications