Newswise — Dr Maria Liakata, Associate Professor in Natural Language Processing at the University of Warwick’s Department of Computer Science, has received a Turing Artificial Intelligence (AI) Fellowship.

The Fellowships from The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and AI, aim to attract and retain exceptional researchers in artificial intelligence. Covering a broad view of AI, including applications of foundational disciplines across mathematical sciences, statistical sciences, computational sciences and engineering, Fellows collaborate across disciplines and have the opportunity to collaborate with academia, industry, government and the third sector.

Dr Liakata’s Fellowship will focus on creating time sensitive sensors from language and heterogeneous user generated content. Commenting on the research she said:

“Wide spread use of digital technology has made it possible to obtain language data (e.g., social media, SMS) as well as heterogeneous data (e.g., mobile phone use, sensors) from users over time. Such data can provide useful behavioural cues both at the level of the individual and the wider population, enabling the creation of longitudinal digital phenotypes.

“Current methods in natural language processing (NLP) are not well suited to time sensitive, sparse and missing data, collected over time or personalised models of language use. The Turing AI fellowship will allow me to establish a new area in NLP on personalised longitudinal language processing.

“I plan to develop sensors for capturing digital biomarkers from language and heterogeneous user generated content to understand the evolution of an individual over time. I want to make a significant contribution to mental health by working with clinical experts to create new tools based on the sensors, making it possible to assess and measure conditions in between clinician appointments.”

Commenting on Dr Liakata’s Turing AI Fellowship Professor Pam Thomas, the University of Warwick’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, said:

“I wish to offer my congratulations to Maria for her success in securing a prestigious Turing AI Fellowship. As one of the Turing’s founding institutions, I’m delighted that a Warwick academic is leading the way in this vital sector.”

Dr Liakata’s proposed work will address these challenges within NLP and will also provide an important application of AI to mental health allowing personalisation and longitudinal monitoring. Generic apps geared to mental health and wellbeing fall short of meeting an individual's needs as different people suffer for a variety of reasons with recovery unique to them.

Major outputs of this project include novel tools for personalised monitoring behaviour through language use and user generated content over time (language sensors) and the co-creation with experts of new cost effective tests to support monitoring and diagnosis based on the language sensors. To achieve these goals Dr Liakata will engage experts in NLP, statistics, mathematics, psychology, psychiatry and data ethics.

The work has received support by the following industrial partners: Clinvivo, Facebook, Google Deepmind, Mumsnet, TalkLife.

Digital Minister Matt Warman said:

“The UK has a long-standing reputation for innovation. We are the birthplace of artificial intelligence and home to technology pioneers such as Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace. We are determined to see this continue.“Today we are announcing a bumper investment in skills training to strengthen our workforce and attract, nurture and retain the best talent so we can lead the world in research and development.“AI is already being used to improve lives by helping detect fraud quicker and diagnose diseases more accurately. With the brightest minds at the helm we will be able to explore this cutting-edge technology further."

Adrian Smith, Institute Director and Chief Executive of The Alan Turing Institute, said:

“We look forward to what this talented group of Turing AI Fellows will bring to our vibrant research community and we welcome their contributions to our growing Institute. There is vast potential for their diverse work to be transformative in both the foundations and applications of AI and I am confident they will push the boundaries of what these new technologies can do for the good of society.”

The challenges involved include how best to represent and combine asynchronous language, multi-modal and heterogeneous data and create dynamic models capturing subtle changes in language use over time, addressing data sparsity and privacy issues in real-world heterogeneous data, the definition of meaningful longitudinal tasks and the methods to support them, especially since most NLP work does not involve predictions over time and the appropriate evaluation settings for systems deployable in a real-world setting.


24 OCTOBER 2019 


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The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

The Institute is named in honour of Alan Turing, whose pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computing is considered to have laid the foundations for modern-day data science and artificial intelligence. The Institute’s goals are to undertake world-class research in data science and artificial intelligence, apply its research to real-world problems, drive economic impact and societal good, lead the training of a new generation of scientists, and shape the public conversation around data.