Google fired Satrajit Chatterjee, an AI researcher in the company's Brain group who criticized a research paper on computers designing computer chips that was published in the scientific publication Nature last year and involved work from researchers in Google's chip and Brain teams.
The paper presented a method for automatically generating parts of a computer chip more efficiently than humans. Chatterjee disputed parts of the paper, and was fired in March after Google told his research team that he couldn't publish a rebuttal of some of the claims made in the paper, sources told The New York Times. Researchers who had worked on a rebuttal argued that Google broke its own AI principles by rejecting the paper.
The company told The New York Times that Chatterjee was "terminated with cause," but didn't elaborate.
“We thoroughly vetted the original Nature paper and stand by the peer-reviewed results,” Zoubin Ghahramani, a vice president at Google Research, told The New York Times. Google did not immediately return Protocol's request for comment. “We also rigorously investigated the technical claims of a subsequent submission, and it did not meet our standards for publication.”
This isn't Google's first time firing an AI researcher. Timnit Gebru, an AI ethicist who previously co-led Google's ethical AI team, was forced out of the research group in late 2020 after expressing frustrations with the company's diversity promises and questioning an ethics research paper. The company later fired Margaret Mitchell, the other co-lead of the team, for publicly criticizing the way Google handled Gebru's departure.
Unrest within Google's AI research team appears to be ongoing. Google ethical AI researcher Alex Hanna published a resignation letter earlier this year describing a "whiteness problem" within Google and other tech companies. Hanna followed software engineer Dylan Baker in joining Gebru's Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute, which launched late last year.