Aaron Roth Awarded 2023 Hans Sigrist Prize

Aaron Roth, a Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded the prestigious Hans Sigrist Prize by the University of Bern. This award, endowed with 100,000 Swiss francs, recognizes Roth’s pioneering work in the field of fair algorithms and his efforts to incorporate social norms into algorithmic decision-making processes.


Roth’s research, spanning over 15 years, has focused on critical issues such as algorithmic fairness and differential privacy. Algorithmic fairness is concerned with ensuring that algorithms do not perpetuate biases against specific demographic groups, particularly in areas like job applications. Roth highlights the importance of careful algorithm design to avoid unintentional bias based on historical data.


Differential privacy, another key aspect of Roth’s work, involves developing mathematical methods to analyze large datasets while preserving individual privacy. By combining data in a way that prevents the identification of specific individuals, Roth’s research contributes to the responsible use of data, particularly in fields like clinical studies.


The Hans Sigrist Prize committee commended Roth’s outstanding contributions, emphasizing that his work not only benefits society but also helps individuals maximize the benefits of data science while mitigating negative side effects.


Roth’s research aligns with the current initiatives at the University of Bern, which seeks to address digitalization in an interdisciplinary manner and as part of social transformation. The university’s focus on projects that transcend traditional faculty boundaries, as evident in the Bern Data Science Initiative BeDSI, aligns with Roth’s vision for tackling challenges in data science.


Christiane Tretter, Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Bern and Chair of the 2023 Hans Sigrist Prize Committee, highlights the significance of Roth’s work in bridging the perceived gap between fairness and algorithms. She notes that Roth’s achievements send a positive signal to the university and beyond, emphasizing the need for increased attention to topics like fairness and algorithms.


Roth, when asked about his plans for the prize money, expresses the importance of building a research community in the area. He recognizes the value of foundation funds, such as those from the Hans Sigrist Foundation, in supporting this goal and advancing research in algorithmic fairness and privacy. Roth’s commitment to creating awareness and addressing challenges in data analysis underscores the transformative potential of his work in shaping ethical and responsible data science practices.