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Behind the MTG Values and Guiding Principles

Behind the MTG Values and Guiding Principles

by Xavier Serra

10.06.2020

 

At a time of crisis like the current one, many of us reflect on what we do and try to make sense of our personal and professional lives. At the MTG we have been talking about it, realizing that we rarely verbalize the values that we all share and that made most of us work in a place like the MTG. Out of these discussions we have written the “MTG Values and Guiding Principles.” Let me give some context on each of them.

At the institutional and governmental levels (e.g., EU, Spain, Catalonia, ...) there have been efforts to raise the ethical issues of research and some calls for action have been formulated. In particular, there have been a lot of issues raised concerning AI-based research and the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence by the EU is a good document covering the relevant issues and propossing guidelines to address them. We want that everyone at the MTG considers the implications of their research work, even before they start a particular project, and make explicit the critical elements and their societal impact. 

Our MTG Values and Guiding Principles is a humble attempt to highlight our position with respect to these types of issues. The opening statement captures the big picture, our socially driven research goals:

At the MTG we aim to conduct cutting-edge research within the field of Sound and Music Computing while considering its social, economic, legal, ethical, cultural, and artistic implications. We emphasize the idea that our research has to be guided by the principles surrounding wellbeing and social good.

Most of us are at the MTG because we love music and want to combine our passion for music with our technology research interests. We believe that music can help change the world:

1. Music as a driving force for social change

Music makes it possible to gather, unite or even synchronize humans from different countries, cultures and socio-economic status. We believe in the power of music as a personal, emotional, moral, social and cultural positive driving force. With our work on music technology we aim to enhance all this music potential and promote values such as freedom, equality, diversity, and multiculturality.

We want to carry out research that has a direct social impact. When we started the MTG, most of our research was oriented towards supporting music creation (e.g., the research that resulted in Vocaloid or the Reactable), but through the years, our research has expanded a lot, working on a wider variety of topics. We work on music description (e.g., Essentia), facilitating the understanding of all kinds of music (e.g., Dunya). We work on music education topics (e.g., MusicCritic), on supporting health and wellbeing applications (e.g., Eyeharp), and we also work on non-music topics that relate to our sound environment (e.g., Freesound):

2. Research with impact

We wish to contribute to a number of strategic topics of significant social and economic impact:

  • Artistic creation: We develop tools aiming to empower people's creativity. 

  • Cultural preservation: We work to understand, access and preserve our music heritage.

  • Education: We develop technologies for enhancing musical practice, thus promoting music learning.

  • Health and wellbeing: We investigate the benefits of music as regulator, inductor, companion, or enhancer in individual and social contexts and in daily regular activities.

  • Sustainable development: We analyze, describe, and monitor our sonic surroundings, aiming to contribute to the preservation and improvement of our environment.

We want to have a positive impact in our society, thus our technologies should not be used in harmful, malicious, or unethical contexts. 

We have always been interested in technology transfer, creating spin-offs (e.g., BMAT, Reactable Systems, VoctroLabs, MusicMuni) and collaborating with many companies and institutions (e.g., Yamaha, Google, Pandora, …). We have been emphasizing more and more the idea of open collaborations, thus opening up the way of interacting with the outside and being part of all kinds of networks. The idea of Open Innovation captures quite well our approach to Technology Transfer:

3. Technology transfer through open innovation

We want to engage in networks of individuals, entities, resources, and structures, joining forces to catalyze new products, ideas, methods, systems, and even ways of life.

We are at a university and our main mission is to educate people (i.e., undergraduate, Master, PhD students). Our success is completely dependent on the success of the students that we educate, our alumni. We want to leverage our research strengths to best train our students. We also want to educate outside the university, all kinds of people, and for that we organize many outreach activities (e.g., through Phonos):

4. Research-driven education and outreach

We want to educate people through our research activities and set of values. We want to open minds, open ears, and to help to become aware of the world by means of acoustic, and more in general, of music information.

Since the very beginning of the MTG, we have been sharing as openly as possible, our research results. First was the idea of Open Source, but through the years the context of Open Science has been maturing and we have been very proactive in all its different aspects:  

5. Open science

We emphasize open and collaborative ways to produce and share knowledge, using: 

  • Open access: We make our publications freely available online.

  • FAIR data: We promote Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable data.

  • Open source: We promote the use and development of open source software.

  • Reproducibility: We strive for reproducibility and replicability of our research.

  • Citizen science: We promote public participation in our research.

A University offers a great context within which to carry out and promote our socially driven research goals. The UPF, in particular, was created with and has always defended principles that we embrace completely. The Code of Ethics is a good document that captures our core university principles. More recently the university made public the UPF Planetary Wellbeing Manifest which is also very much in line with our goals:

6. University principles

We embrace the ethical principles of our public higher education context (UPF Code of Ethics): Integrity, Academic freedom, Professional responsibility, Honesty, Equality, Privacy and confidentiality, Respect, and Behaviour involving personal and social risk.

This will be an evolving set of values and principles that we will update as the MTG evolves and the context changes. For now this is what we have.

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