As I start my first Oxford term as Director, I am delighted to be starting what for me is a dream job, working with such outstanding colleagues and students across some of the most pressing matters of our time, in a world-leading institution. And all of this as the OII celebrates its 20th birthday.
This last year has been a challenge for us all at the OII, and I know it has been a challenge for many of our partners. We have operated in ways we never thought possible or necessary, we have learned some incredibly valuable lessons, and we have achieved some great successes. All of this has only been possible due to the extraordinary hard work and commitment of my colleagues, which must be recognised and applauded.
The relevance of our research agenda
Looking at what is currently happening in the world there is immense synergy with the research agendas of our faculty. The A-level exams debacle and the use of track and trace apps for Covid-19 brought to the fore the debate about the ethical use of algorithms and tracking tools and their potential for exacerbating existing social inequalities. The discussion over screen time and how we think about the benefits and potential harms from technology has become ever more important as we spend more time online. The role of workers in the gig economy and online marketplaces and the move towards remote working raises big questions about the rights of individual workers and the future economies of our cities and towns. And the way in which disinformation is generated and spread on topics such as healthcare and climate change continues to be a threat to democracy, public health and traditional modes of governance.
My first few weeks and months as Director will be about listening and talking to colleagues and our partners about what we are doing well and where we could be doing things differently. In terms of my personal priorities, I think the themes of equality and fairness, producing world-class research, and community building will be central to my aims as I lead the department.
Of course, engaging with external partners is crucial and I want to build on the great work we’ve done in this space in recent years. I look forward to meeting with as many existing and potential partners and funders as possible in the months ahead.
Join us to kick-off our 20th birthday celebrations
In the meantime, please do join me and some of my wonderful predecessors for our first virtual event to celebrate 20 years of the OII on Wednesday 5 May.