Professor Odile Bellenguez

Professor Odile Bellenguez

Counting on the "ethics of algorithms". Professor Odile Bellenguez, a specialist in computer science, trained in philosophy in order to infuse her work with the contribution of  human sciences.

Odile Bellenguez (1), a professor in the Automation, Production and Computer Science department (DAPI) at IMT Atlantique, designs algorithms for organising work schedules for nurses, telephone switchboards or the fast-food sector. "In this field", she says,  "there are software tools, but in practice, there is always something that doesn't work quite right". That's why she's trying to build more kindness, respect and fairness into these tools. She calls this "the ethics of algorithms".

To achieve this, Odile Bellenguez not only draws on her expertise in computer science and discrete mathematics, but also adds concepts from the human and social sciences. Thanks to this approach, she has collaborated with colleagues in sociology, psychology and management science - both within IMT Atlantique and from outside. For example, she is currently co-supervising a thesis with a lecturer in psychology and sociology from the University of Adelaide in Australia on the inclusion of ethical and long-term issues in decision support systems. The researcher also turned to philosophy - a subject in which she obtained a University Diploma (DU) at Nanterre.

In 2021, Odile Bellenguez also tutored several interns, in particular one with a sociologist colleague, for a dissertation on the timetables of hospital staff. The work involved both algorithms and qualitative analysis. The result was the design of schedules that were more "fair and respectful" in the eyes of the group affected.

"Bringing together different perspectives in this way is very enriching - even if it's not always easy to talk to other disciplines, because everyone has their own concepts, language and methods," says Odile Bellenguez. "But the approach meets a real need in society. And in algorithmics, it is becoming more and more widespread." Odile Bellenguez plans to co-host a summer school on these subjects for computer science doctoral students .

(1) Odile Bellenguez is the author of « A la recherche du temps de travail perdu : peut-on s’en remettre aux algorithmes ? » (Presse des Mines)

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