Researcher biography

Professor Paul Henman’s research exists at the intersection of public governance and technology. His research focuses on the benefits and misuses  of technology by governments in social policy and services. His work addresses emerging concerns related to accountability and transparency, and reproduction of bias, discrimination, and inequalities in technological and automated systems. 

Complex legal and administrative systems have been developed over time to ensure government decision making by humans is accountable, transparent and appealable. As the foregoing observations highlight, translating such systems to AI-based decision making is not always straightforward … Who (or what) has responsibility or liability for the error: the machine, the creators of the machine, the coders, the managers who decided to deploy the machine? This situation is further exacerbated when AI tools are developed by external organisations or companies, and deployed by governments, a situation that is likely to increase as AI becomes more mainstream and used in an “off the shelf” manner.- Improving public services using artificial intelligence: possibilities, pitfalls, governance (Henman, 2020).

Henman is leading the UQ node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. The Centre aims to improve the knowledge and strategies necessary for responsible, ethical, and inclusive automated decision-making (ADM), in an attempt to mitigate serious failures. Combining social and technological disciplines in an international industry, research and civil society network, Henman and the Centre will formulate world-leading policy and practice; inform public debate; and train a new generation of researchers and practitioners. The potential benefits extend to uses of technology across a variety of everyday applications, including news and media, transport, social services, and health.

Henman’s work includes the use of new digital research methods, including web-crawling, social network analysis, and online user experiments. An example of this work is in Henman and Tim Graham’s 2018 article Webportal vs google for finding government information on the web: From a website-centric approach to a web ecology perspective. To investigate the effectiveness of webportals (like used by governments, Henman and Graham conducted an online quasi-experiment of the effectiveness of the British government’s webportal,, comparing the time taken for participants to find information about public services with commercial web search tools like Google. Henman and Graham found that governments should focus less on creating large webportals, and more on small functionally-defined units that offer enhanced opportunities for commercial search engine discoverability. If these recommendations were to be applied, citizens would be able to better access assistance.