The story of WASP-HS

The vision of The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program – Humanities and Society (WASP-HS) is to realize excellent research and develop competence on the opportunities and challenges of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems with a strong investment on research in social science and humanities.

WASP-HS research tackles the challenges and impact of upcoming technology shifts as well as contributing to the development of theory and practice of human and societal aspects of AI and autonomous systems, and in particular, focus on potential ethical, economic, labor market, social, cultural and legal aspects of technological transition. The Wallenberg Foundations are investing up to SEK 660 million in the WASP-HS research program.

WASP-HS includes an extensive national graduate school with up to 70 doctoral students, the creation of least eleven new research groups across Sweden, support for twelve visiting professors to strengthen Swedish research and networking activities, and a number of research projects.

A major national initiative

In the past years, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has made significant investments in research on autonomous systems, software and AI through the program WASP. There is no doubt these technologies will have major effects on our society. The WASP-HS program aims at extend and complement technological research and advances on AI with a strong investment on research in social science and humanities.

This multidisciplinary approach will advance our understanding of the challenges and impact of intelligent and autonomous technology, as well as contributing to the development of theory and practice of human and societal aspects of AI and autonomous systems. This knowledge will be for the benefit of Swedish society and industry.

WASP-HS components

The WASP-HS program is planned to run 2019 – 2028 and forms an independent and parallel program to WASP, while maintaining a close dialogue with the WASP program. WASP-HS includes the following components:
• A research program aiming at forming an interdisciplinary community across the funded projects
• A national graduate school
• Recruitment of junior and visiting faculty across disciplines
• International partnerships and activities.

28 research projects

A call for grants related to consequences of autonomous systems, software and AI was issued in the spring of 2019. This call resulted in 16 funded projects focusing on ethical, societal and behavioral aspects of AI and autonomous systems. These 16 projects are distributed across nine Swedish universities and institutions.
In 2020 a new call was opened with the result of 12 more funded projects.

National graduate school

The WASP-HS graduate school addresses challenges and consequences of autonomous systems and AI in society, providing integrated training in philosophy, social science, policy research, organisational science, psychology, and other humanities and social science disciplines, together with a sound knowledge of the technical aspects of AI, software and autonomous systems.

The graduate school takes a cohort-based approach bringing together students from a wide variety of backgrounds in interdisciplinary teams to address real problems taking account of the individual, societal, and ethical implications. WASP-HS will contribute to the diversity and inclusion of AI related expertise and as such strengthen Sweden’s and Europe’s much needed ‘soft-skills’ on AI and autonomous systems.

In 2020, a first cohort started with 35 students. The school aims to achieve an active community of researchers across Sweden through courses, joint study trips and summer- and winter seminars. PhDs in the WASP-HS program are expected to work together with researchers on the WASP-AI and WASP-AS programs. The graduate school will work in close interaction with industry and a number of the participants are expected to be industrial PhDs.

New faculty

The objectives of WASP-HS require a strong and internationally recognised faculty researching and teaching the social, ethical, legal, economic and cultural impact of AI and autonomous systems. To achieve this, WASP-HS will work closely with universities across Sweden to extend current faculty with junior faculty and visiting professors working on these topics.

Starting in 2020, the program will start the process of appointing up to 10 assistant professors (biträdande lektor) across Sweden. From 2021, we will also appoint visiting professors across the participating universities. In all these appointments, special attention is given to the strengthening of Swedish excellence across the core disciplines of WASP-HS and to a strong embedding of these positions in the academic programs and visions of the universities involved. Training and support for these positions as well as for the PIs and supervisors of the projects supported by the program is an important priority of the program. Regular meetings and workshops will be held, to facilitate interaction and the establishment of cross-discipline and cross-university collaborations as well as close interaction with industry and public sector. Where relevant, we will also develop a mentorship program through which senior researchers will support program members, possibly involving our international partners.


WASP-HS is establishing international contacts with leading groups and institutions across the world. Exchange of faculty and a postdoc program and part of these collaborations.