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Initiatives and Support Protocols

This document is a draft of the protocols to be followed by projects and teams to get official recognition and support from the U of Alberta AI4Society (Artificial Intelligence for Society) Signature Area. 

Types of Initiatives

The AI4Society Signature Area (SA) was set up to support interdisciplinary research and teaching initiatives at the University of Alberta. The types of initiatives we anticipate include (in order of priority):

  1. Collaboratories. These are interdisciplinary research activities, involving large research teams across campus (at least 2 faculties and at least 3 departments) interested in developing and pursuing major federal and international grants 
  2. Teaching and Training Programmes. These are teaching and learning initiatives aimed at developing new materials, workshops, courses, or programmes in the area. We use the word “programme” to cover any initiative aimed at improving teaching and learning.
  3. Partnerships. These would be with other units including Signature Areas at the University or with organizations outside the University.
  4. Research/Learning/Commercialization Projects. These might be single researcher or team projects broadly in the area.

We will call these different types of activity “initiatives”.

It should be noted that AI4Society is particularly committed to supporting projects, collaboratories and initiatives that cross research and teaching. We can imagine a collaboratory that might lead not to learning initiatives while also developing research.

Criteria for Recognition

AI4Society aims to be inclusive, but for reporting and for resource allocation reasons we need to know who is part of the SA and we need to have ways to select Projects, Collaboratories and Initiatives for support. Here are some of the criteria that will be used.

1 General Criteria

  • Is the initiative about artificial intelligence and society broadly construed?
  • Is the initiative interdisciplinary in its goals and membership?
  • Are the key U of A members of the initiative members of AI4Society?
  • Has the team behind the initiative made a good faith effort to be equitable, diverse and inclusive?
  • Is the initiative of the appropriate level of academic excellence?
  • Are the goals of the initiative clear and appropriate?
  • Is there appropriate leadership?
  • Would AI4Society recognition and support make a difference?

2 Collaboratory Criteria

  • Are there at least 4 full-time faculty members (across at least 2 Faculties) at the U of A in the collaboratory?
  • Are there HQP involved?
  • Are there specific short- and medium-term plans (6 to 12 months) for securing ongoing resources through major grant proposals?

Find more details, here.

3 Learning Programme Criteria

  • Will the initiative lead to meaningful improvements in the learning environment at U of A?
  • Does the initiative have the right mix of people?
  • Will the programme be appropriately assessed?
  • Is the programme self-funded?
  • What is the potential audience of the programme?

4 Partnership Criteria

  • Will the partnership bring value to the University?
  • Will the initiative support initiatives on campus in the area?
  • Are there AI4Society members willing to facilitate the partnership?
  • Is the partnering organization appropriate to the partnership?

5 Project Criteria

  • Will the project advance research, teaching, or both in the broad area of AI4Society?
  • Is the project feasible? 
  • Is the project socially responsible?
  • Are there specific short- and medium-term plans for securing ongoing resources? What grants might the project go after?

Forms of Support

AI4Society as a Signature Area gets support from the Vice President Research and Innovation and other sources in order to be able to support initiatives. We can also seek out new sources of support where reasonable and needed.

  • Space on the AI4Society web site
  • Communications support more generally
  • Administrative support for organizing
  • Grant writing support
  • Advancement support
  • Student support
  • Funding (Cash)


In order to properly recognize and support initiatives AI4Society is developing a processes for identifying and support initiatives.

1 Pathways

Initiatives will be recognized and supported in three ways

  1. AI4Society will initiate key initiatives in consultation with appropriate stakeholders.
  2. AI4Society will recognize and support already existing projects that could benefit from affiliation with the SA.
  3. Members of AI4Society are encouraged to propose initiatives
  4. People or organizations outside AI4Society (like other SAs) or outside the University are encouraged to propose partnerships 

2 Recognition

Any initiative to be considered a AI4Society initiative and to get support needs to be formally recognized. The process to get your project recognized is simple and involves:

  • The initiative lead is encouraged to talk to the Director or Associate Director before applying.
  • The initiative lead should then submit a short application in writing (email is fine) to the Executive Manager. The application should describe:
    • What type of initiative is proposed,
    • Who will lead it and their suitability,
    • Key participants, both in the university and outside,
    • Goals of the initiative and how success would be evaluated,
    • Activities the initiative hopes to facilitate,
    • Timeline for the initiative, and
    • Forms of support needed (both from AI4Society and other needs that AI4Society might be able to help with). Plans for securing support.
  • The Director (or in certain cases the Associate Director) will consult with the relevant stakeholders and try to provide an answer in a timely fashion.
  • Should the initiative be recognized you will get an email formally recognizing the initiative as affiliated with AI4Society. Initially there may be no commitment for support.
  • Discussions about support will usually take place on an ongoing basis once recognized. In other words initiative leads are encouraged to continue to talk with the Director/Associate Director about their needs.
  • Initiatives will be expected to report at least once a year for the duration of the initiative and to participate in key AI4Society Signature Area activities like an annual symposium.

3 Discussion

  • We don’t expect all proposals, especially those aimed at building collaboration, to be fully fleshed out. Talk to us sooner rather than later.
  • Once recognized we encourage initiatives to communicate with us, both to report activities and to help us understand the initiative in order to promote it.
  • We should note that we expect all initiatives to have a time limit after which the initiative should provide a final report and be evaluated if appropriate. Initiatives can, of course, apply to continue.
  • We expect initiatives will secure support from other sources, whether from internal sources or from external grants. AI4Society support that can lead to getting external support will be prioritized.
  • We can adapt the letter of recognition into a formal Letter of Support as needed by initiatives applying for grants.

Last updated: September 22