Kian Schmalenbach

Who are You and what do You do? With whom are you collaborating (Partner)?

Hi, I am Kian, a doctoral researcher at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. I am collaborating with Merck on my project “REVISE – Realisierung Ethisch Verantwortungsvoller Informationssyteme für Strategische Entscheidungsfindung,” which translates to “Realization of Ethically Responsible Information Systems for Strategic Decision Making.” Besides my Software Campus project, I am writing my doctoral thesis on the societal implications of algorithmically personalized information consumption at the Institute of Information Systems at FAU.

Since when are You a participant at Software Campus and why do you attend this program?

My Software Campus project did start in April 2023, and I chose to apply for Software Campus for three reasons. First, the program provides excellent funding for my project work as PhD student, which heavily facilitates my research activities. Second, leading my own project already as PhD student allows me to gain early experience regarding applying for funding, guiding, and supervising co-workers, and budget handling. And third, I heavily enjoy the knowledge exchange with my industry partner and other Software Campus participants as well as the soft skills taught during the trainings.

What is your IT-Project about – core topic – and how could it be used on a long run?

My project is not really a technical IT-project, which makes me a bit of an “outsider” in the Software Campus. As an Information Systems researcher, my goal is to investigate how data-driven approaches – in strategic decision making – affect stakeholders from an ethical perspective. Together with my industry partner Merck, I try to conceptualize and evaluate an intervention aimed at making a data-driven decision process, for example in automated recruitment, more ethically responsible. In the long run, such technical realization of ethical requirements is likely to become very important as there are both more and more use cases for automated decision making as well as more legal regulation and stakeholder expectations regarding ethical concerns.

Do you have some funny/exciting/surprising memories linked with computer science? What exactly does inspire and fascinate you about computer science?

Having attended school in Germany, I was very used to the idea of doing writing, math, and even coding manually using pen and paper all the way until graduation. When I then studied computer science at the University of Bonn, I saw a big poster inside the building that read: “Do you remember all these people telling you that you will not always have a calculator around to solve your problems? Well, we proved them wrong…” In my opinion, this nicely illustrates that computing and the digital transformation have fundamentally changed how we arrange our lives, our businesses, and our society, and I am still very fascinated about how basically anyone can contribute to this fundamental transformation from a small device in your living room or even in your pocket.

Next to your job and Software Campus, what makes your heart beat faster?

First, I love teaching content related to digitalization and data science. Having done so, almost throughout my studies in multiple different classes and formats, teaching and coordinating study programs still occupies a large share of my time within and beyond my job as research assistant. Moreover, I volunteer in several organizations, including local associations in my city as well as the doctoral researcher representation network of Bavaria. And finally, having a passion for culture and especially theater, I am actively engaged in FAU’s improvisation theater group “FAUst aufs Auge.”


Source language of this interview: English