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AMIA Urges Continued Development of National AI Research Plan

In recent comments, AMIA advised policymakers to proceed with developing and enhancing the current national artificial intelligence research and development strategy.

AMIA urges the continued development of the national AI research plan

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has expressed approval of the direction and goals of the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan and recommended that federal authorities continue in the direction laid out in the 2016 document.  

In comments to the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD), AMIA added that federal leaders should invest in research that will further examine the interactions between AI and healthcare providers.

The letter was issued in response to a request for information about potentially updating the 2016 National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan. The Plan included several strategic aims for federal R&D investment, as well as recommendations to develop an R&D implementation framework and to maintain an educated AI R&D workforce.

AMIA pointed out that much of the 2016 AI R&D strategy is still relevant, including its emphasis on federal AI investments, and advised the Select Committee to make sure these investments benefit clinicians instead of private sector profit.

“In medicine, we tend to frame AI as ‘augmented intelligence,’ given that there is surely no better example of a scientific discipline so enmeshed with and influenced by the human condition,” AMIA stated.

“Given this view, the art and science of medicine will surely be impacted greatly by AI. Questions regarding how clinicians interact with AI or how AI will influence clinical decision-making represent daunting challenges for which federal R&D funding should be leveraged.”

In addition to making sure that investments focus on clinician-AI interaction, AMIA stressed that federal research should prioritize the development of ethical, bias-free AI.

“The possibility that a malicious goal may be built into an AI program, leading it to make subtle undermining decisions (e.g. in the field of security), should remain a source of concern. Methods and tools for building AI free of biases and ethical AI that can explain and justify its decisions should be promoted,” the group wrote.

AMIA also urged the Select Committee to carry out the Plan’s recommendations to develop an R&D implementation framework and maintain a strong AI workforce.

AMIA suggested that cabinet-level Departments deliver annual reports describing how their efforts contribute to the Strategic Plan. These reports should identify areas of investment and highlight gaps in research.

“Department-level reports will provide the Select Committee with a sense of progress to-date and illuminate areas for needed guidance so key agencies can align and implement the strategy articulated in the AI R&D Plan,” the organization said.

Moreover, to maintain an educated AI workforce, the Select Committee will need to train general-purpose AI R&D experts, as well as AI experts with knowledge in a specific area of application.

“Domain independent AI experts will be necessary to advance R&D, but as is the case with a strategy that goes unimplemented, research that goes unapplied is useless. We believe the best AI R&D work will come from those scientists who are knowledgeable in specific domains and are able to make appropriate decisions about how to apply their craft,” AMIA wrote.

By issuing these comments, AMIA is expressing its support for the existing AI R&D plan, and the organization expects that leveraging this plan will improve healthcare AI research.

“We commend the administration for designating Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Information Sciences, and Strategic Computing, as Administration R&D priorities in its FY20 Budget, and for chartering a Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence under the National Science and Technology Council,” the association concluded.

“After reviewing the 2016 AI R&D Plan, AMIA strongly supports the existing strategic areas and associated aims. Therefore, we recommend that any updates to the 2016 strategy be informative to the existing R&D strategic areas, rather than a wholesale rework.”

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