Designing inclusive technologies for aged care: a sociological study

Project supervisors

Prof Alan Petersen, Facuty of Arts (Main Supervisor)
Dr Barbara Barbosa-Neves, Faculty of Arts
Dr Mor Vered, Faculty of IT
A/Prof Adrian Carter, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

PhD project abstract

Are you interested in undertaking sociological research that advances the wellbeing of older citizens? Do you wish to explore the role that technology, specifically AI (artificial intelligence), may play in assisting their care? If so, we encourage you to apply for an exciting new PhD scholarship offered by Monash Data Futures Institute for a project on investigating the different aspects of existing AI technology for aged care, so as to increase trust in and engagement with the technology. AI, if used responsibly, offers great potential in improving the quality of aged care. Yet, this potential will only be fulfilled if citizens trust the technology, including the way data used for its operations is collected, secured and analysed, and are confident that it will benefit the community as a whole. In order for AI to be trusted, it is crucial that key stakeholders, particularly researchers, developers and end users, collaborate in its co-design. This project will engage with stakeholders and end-users to examine their views and attitudes towards current and future AI technology as applied to aged care. It will shed light on how AI may be designed to ensure that it is trusted by the public to serve the common good. Your role will be to design and undertake fundamental research on this topic, engage with relevant stakeholder communities, and contribute to communicating the findings to scholars with an interest in this field and the wider community. Through undertaking your PhD, you will have the opportunity to contribute to research of critical importance to the community; develop your professional networks, including with our research partners at University of Oxford and University of Copenhagen and with the National Centre for Healthy Ageing; gain training in the use of different research methods; and be well positioned to build your career in a rapidly expanding field. The project will be sociological, but draw on interdisciplinary perspectives, and supervised by a team comprising researchers from Sociology, IT and Medicine at Monash University. While the scholarship is not restricted to particular fields, we believe it is likely to be especially appealing to those with an interest in sociology of health and medicine, sociology of ageing, science and technology studies, and/or human-agent interactions.

Areas of research

Sociology or cognate discipline

Project description

This project aims to understand how technologies, and specifically AI, may be designed for aged care to ensure that the public can trust that the technology will benefit its users and the wider community. Establishing trust is critical to the acceptance and uptake of AI technology (ACOLA, 2019). This includes trust in how data is collected, analysed and used, trust in the algorithms will produce the desired output, trust in way data is protected and secured, and trust that the system has been developed for the good of all stakeholders (2019: 181). Achieving trust in AI is of crucial importance in aged care where ‘technology’ is often proposed to help redress, or even substitute for, inadequacies in the provision of care. Preliminary findings from our IDR-funded project (‘AI for older Australians in aged care facilities: challenges and opportunities’) indicate that AI practitioners are concerned that the public’s fear and failure to understand what constitutes AI, and unrealistic expectations about what it may achieve, may undermine trust in technology. If AI is to be trusted and meet community consent, it is crucial that key stakeholders, particularly researchers, developers and users, collaborate in its co-design. By focusing on AI technology currently in use, in development, or on the horizon in aged care in Australia, and gaining the views of these stakeholders, the project will shed light on how AI may be designed to ensure that it is trusted by the public to serve the common good. The project will involve collaborations with staff at ETHOX, a multidisciplinary bioethics research centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities at University of Oxford, UK, and the Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The main supervisor has strong links with staff at each institution who work on AI and data analysis, thereby ensuring that the project will build valuable international collaborations for MDFI. The project will also provide the opportunity to develop links with and draw on the expertise of the National Centre for Healthy Ageing, based at Monash.

PhD student role description

We are seeking a sociologist or social scientist working in a cognate area with an interest in the applications of new technologies—and specifically AI and data science—to assist the care of older people. The PhD will employ a co-design, user-centred approach, and will involve collaborations with relevant stakeholder communities, especially those working in the aged care sector. Ideally, the candidate will have an established interest in aged care issues and/or experience working in the aged care sector, although this is not essential. Crucially, we are keen to attract applicants who are committed to the co-design approach and have the skills to engage with a range of stakeholders and scholars working in different fields. You will be required to have quantitative and qualitative social research skills; demonstrate interest or expertise in studies of aged care; have strong communication skills; and have the ability to work independently under the direction of the supervisors. The project will involve collaborations with staff at ETHOX, a multidisciplinary bioethics research centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities at University of Oxford, UK, and the Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. It will also provide the opportunity to develop links with and draw on the expertise of the National Centre for Healthy Ageing, based at Monash.

Required skills and experience

Quantitative and qualitative social research skills; demonstrated interest or expertise in studies of aged care; strong communication skills; ability to work independently under the direction of supervisors

Potential start date

November 2021

Submit your Expression of Interest