Google Awards Funding to Shen for Machine Learning Research

Yanning Shen

July 7, 2022 – Google has named Yanning Shen, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, a winner of its Research Scholar Program for her research titled Addressing Unfairness in Learning over Social Networks.

The award provides professors from around the world with $60,000 in funding for up to one year to support their cutting-edge research in fields relating to computer science. 

Shen, whose award falls under the area of machine learning and data mining, researches bias in machine learning algorithms across social networks, specifically machine learning that may lead to biased results toward underrepresented groups. Her project seeks to design algorithms to address this issue. 

Shen hopes to draw more awareness to the importance of machine learning and how it should not only be a source of concern to large tech companies, but also to society as a whole. Machine learning is widely used in learning tasks across social networks, and decisions and policymaking depend on the trustworthiness of these algorithms. 

“I believe as a responsible researcher, especially as a researcher in a nonprofit educational institution, we should be aware of and help increase awareness of the potential threat of machine learning algorithms in a social aspect,” said Shen. “Therefore, I am thrilled to pursue this direction with my students to help address the unfairness in existing algorithms over social networks that are pervasively used and highly related to the benefit of the entire society.” 

Unfairness in machine learning is a topic garnering increasing attention, however, it is still underexplored within the realm of social networks. “Conventional fairness in machine learning mainly focuses on tabular data without considering social connectivities,” said Shen. “It is not sufficient for addressing unfairness in social networks. My research aims to address unfairness, a socially defined concept, by taking both individual data and social interactions into account.”

The goal of the Google Research Scholar Program is to create collaborations with early career professors and develop long-term relationships with them. 

“It is a great honor to win this highly selective award,” said Shen. “I am very grateful for the support, and I am also glad to see large companies like Google care about and support research in ethics in machine learning.”

– Yuika Yoshida