WMU research team awarded National Science Foundation grant for AI readiness through cyber training

Contact: Stacey Anderson

Dr. Kuanchin Chen

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A Western Michigan University interdisciplinary team has been awarded a four-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to research artificial intelligence (AI) readiness through cyber training. The project is responding to the calls from the National Science and Technology Council to link psychology and behavioral and technical disciplines in AI research. The research team brings together expertise from both the Haworth College of Business and WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“The uniqueness of this project involves innovations surrounding key AI and cyberinfrastructure (CI) that specifically address two focus areas: encouraging broad adoption of AI and CI techniques to enhance researchers’ abilities and integrating core literacy and discipline-appropriate skills in data-driven methods for advancing research,” says Dr. Kuanchin Chen, director of WMU Haworth’s Center for Business Analytics and professor of computer information systems. “The project will build a skill set in areas such as safe, secure and reliable AI; human-AI interactions and the impact on society; machine learning paradigms; smart technologies; AI techniques for STEM professionals; explainable AI; trust in AI; and scientific discovery with AI.”

Dr. Alvis Fong

The project assembled expert partnerships that are working together to promote workforce development in the age of AI.

“The abundance of available technologies, such as chatbots, has accelerated the need for an AI-ready workforce,” says Dr. Alvis Fong, principal investigator for the grant and associate professor of computer science. “The project directly involves 18 science and engineering faculty members and over a thousand students across partner universities and colleges. Experts from companies, including Google and Amazon, will provide guidance throughout the project. All training artifacts will have ease-of-use built in to facilitate adoption by a broad range of learners, including those who are not currently attending college or otherwise have limited access to traditional training opportunities.”

WMU research team

The interdisciplinary research team is comprised of computer science and information systems experts who will fuse technical and behavioral knowledge.

  • Dr. Shameek Bhattacharjee, assistant professor of computer science, is a cybersecurity expert.
  • Dr. Steve Carr, associate dean for graduate programs at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and chair of the Department of Computer Science, focuses his research on computer security education.
  • Dr. Kuanchin Chen, professor of computer information systems and director of the Center for Business Analytics, has expertise in IT psychology and behavior, theoretical implications, human-AI symbiotic opportunities and technical AI training.
  • Dr. Alvis Fong, principal investigator and associate professor of computer science, has extensive research and consulting experience in various aspects of AI: knowledge representation and reasoning, knowledge discovery and applications of AI to industry.
  • Dr. Ajay Gupta, professor of computer science, is an expert in cyberinfrastructure.

Focus of the research

As AI technologies become increasingly pervasive, the American AI Initiative has called for workforce development with AI. Up to 47% of U.S. jobs fall in the high-risk category and could be affected by AI, according to Frey & Osbourne’s research in Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Routine tasks are being replaced by technology rapidly, and 94% of WMU students surveyed in Chen’s classes agree that their jobs will be affected by AI in some way. Numerous reports from private and government sources have consistently projected gaps in the supply and demand for skilled labor in AI.

Recent AI developments have shown AI’s potential for disruption and even harmful results. Chen explains how training is essential in readying the workforce to manage this rapidly-evolving technology. “Unfortunately, AI is not like other products where the functionality is well understood by the general public. Different vendors sell AI products with varying capabilities, but a trained eye is required to decipher the difference across these products.”

AI readiness is not just a technical solution, as technology failures are frequently due to non-technical issues. Often, tech products or platforms have promising features and capabilities, but lose steam due to competition, user behavior, or privacy and trust. To work toward preventing a similar outcome in AI where stakes are arguably even higher, the research project will demonstrate how social science theories can enrich methodologies to create a solution that goes beyond technological soundness alone—resulting in an AI-empowered workforce, backed by evidence-based theories.

“The awarding of this grant is an example of another successful collaboration between the Haworth College of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences,” says Dr. Satish Deshpande, dean, WMU Haworth. “As AI technologies become increasingly accessible and democratized, the need for a strong AI-ready workforce is critical. This project will not only enhance the AI research capabilities of faculty and students from multiple disciplines but also contribute toward future adoption of training resources across wider segments of cyber-infrastructure communities.”

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