13 October 2020

Negotiated procedure for a middle value contract: Providing evidence on bias when using algorithms – simulation and testing of selected cases


Negotiated procedure
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA or the Agency) is looking to contract an economic operator to provide evidence and research on bias when using algorithms.

Open until :

28 October 2020 17:00
Publication date
13 October 2020

The contract falls into the framework of FRA’s research in the area of artificial intelligence, big data and fundamental rights. The objective of this contract is to provide FRA with concrete evidence of potential bias when using algorithms, which could amount to discrimination as defined in Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter).

The study should provide FRA with evidence on ethnic and/or gender bias in algorithms based on simulations of algorithms by employing state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms. The study should exemplify how feedback loops could occur based on a simple simulation and how racial and gender bias is enshrined in algorithms that might be used for hate speech detection and/or sentiment analysis. The results should be compiled in a report in an easy to understand language and presentation of results for communication to a wider audience.

The contractor is expected to work on four tasks including (1) participation in at least three meetings with FRA and availability for regular phone calls with FRA to update on the progress of the research, (2) a report including a simulation of feedback loops when using algorithms for decision making, (3) a report including an analysis of examples of bias in algorithms against minorities and/or women in hate speech detection tools and/or sentiment analysis software, and (4) the preparation of a report including the results of Task 2 and Task 3 in an easy to understand language.

Selection criteria - Technical and professional capacity

Candidates must propose a project team consisting of one project manager, at least one expert in data science/machine learning, and at least one expert in human rights and technology, meeting the minimum qualifications and professional experience, as specified below.

Project manager:

  • University degree;
  • At least two (2) years of proven experience of managing social science research on topics linked to digitalisation, artificial intelligence, algorithms or machine learning, proven by one (1) publication/report or one (1) completed project in the area;
  • Excellent knowledge of English (Common European Framework of Reference (CEF) level C1).

Data science expert:

  • University degree;
  • At least four (4) years of proven experience of research in machine learning, or statistics, or computational social science or related fields;
  • Good programming skills in the area of machine learning and/or statistics, for example using Python, R or similar programming languages, proven by two (2) publications or projects involving computer code (this could include a scientific analysis using programming, or the publication of computer code, or unpublished sample code);
  • Proven experience of carrying out simulation studies of algorithms, proven by at least one (1) publication on the results or completion of one (1) project involving computer simulations;
  • Good knowledge of English (Common European Framework of Reference (CEF) level B2).

Expert in technology and human rights:

  • University degree;
  • Experience and knowledge about the use of algorithms and algorithmic bias, proven by two (2) publications analysing ethical or human rights issues dealing with the use of algorithms, machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI);
  • Excellent knowledge of English (Common European Framework of Reference (CEF) level C1).

Note: one of the two experts could also take over the role of the project manager, if the minimum requirements for each profile are met.

Important information for candidates:

In order to get a better understanding of different ways of carrying out simulation studies and analysing algorithms, FRA concluded in 2019 a negotiated procedure for a low value contract to provide research input to FRA. The reports produced under this contract provide a general overview of accessing online services, carrying out online experiments and simulation studies. These reports supported FRA’s assessment of the feasibility of conducting more research in the area.

With the aim of avoiding any potential distortion of competition and to ensure equal treatment and transparency, in compliance with Article 141(1) second subparagraph of the Regulation 2018/1046 of 18 July 2018 on the Financial Rules applicable to the general budget of the Union (the Financial Regulation), FRA will share the reports above with all potential candidates as soon as they express their interest to participate in the negotiated procedure in the way indicated below. The content of these reports do not present the views or position of FRA and do not contain any specifications or guidance linked to the current procedure. Potential contractors should propose their own approach for conducting the research in line with the contract specifications.

In addition, FRA reserves the right to assess, at the time of awarding the contract, and on a case-by-case basis, whether the participation in the current negotiated procedure of the economic operator that provided the research input mentioned above could entail a breach of the principle of equal treatment, including distortion of competition. In that case, and subject to the provisions of Article 141(1) and 2 of the Financial Regulation, FRA reserves the right to reject the candidate concerned form the award procedure.

No documents proving the fulfilment of these criteria are requested at this stage.

Participation in this negotiated procedure for a middle value contract is open to natural and legal persons falling within the scope of the EU Treaties (this includes all economic operators established in the European Union) and to all natural and legal persons established in a third country which has a special agreement with the Union in the field of public procurement on the conditions laid down in that agreement. FRA is not part of the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) concluded within the World Trade Organisation. Therefore, the procurement procedure is not open to candidates from GPA countries.

For British candidates:

Please be aware that following the entry into force of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement on 1 February 2020 and in particular Articles 127(6), 137 and 138, the references to natural or legal persons residing or established in a Member State of the European Union are to be understood as including natural or legal persons residing or established in the United Kingdom. UK residents and entities are therefore eligible to participate under this call.

If you would like to participate in this negotiated procedure, please register your interest by sending and e-mail to procurement@fra.europa.eu, including your contact details (name, organisation, address, country and e-mail) before 28/10/2020 (17:00 CET [GMT +02:00]).

Please note that registration of interest to participate in the above-mentioned procedure does not give rise to any legitimate expectations to be invited.