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The challenges of responsible research and innovation in contemporary ICT research. Marina Jirotka Grace Eden Bernd Stahl ESRC Research Methods Festival St Catherine’s College Oxford 2-5 July 2012. Introduction. Why address ethics in ICT research? Examples / instances

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the challenges of responsible research and innovation in contemporary ict research
The challenges of responsible research and innovation in contemporary ICT research

Marina Jirotka

Grace Eden

Bernd Stahl

ESRC Research Methods Festival

St Catherine’s College Oxford

2-5 July 2012

  • Why address ethics in ICT research?
  • Examples / instances
  • The Human Subjects Model
  • An alternative: Responsible Research and Innovation
why address ethics in ict research
Why Address Ethics in ICT Research?
  • Accountability of research
  • Scale and breadth of teams
  • New media and audiences
  • New sources of data and aggregation
instance 1
Instance 1
  • Automation
    • More computational power, more machine processing methods, increasing presence in social life - military, scientific research, health....
    • the extent to which we create software agents that can possess autonomy
    • Freedom to make choices
instance 2
Instance 2
  • Digital self harm and rationing resources
    • Born digital vs digitally mature?
    • Power of attorney?
    • Digital inheritance?
    • Access to services?
who has ethical responsibility
Who Has Ethical Responsibility?
  • Funding councils
  • Researchers
  • Product developers
  • Corporations
  • Abstract - ethical issues and dilemmas
human subjects research model
Human Subjects Research Model

Must try to benefit people and try not to do harm

  • Responsible for small numbers of people - protects individuals in quite a direct way
  • Thresholds of risk
  • Formal approval process
  • Strike balance - for society’s benefit vs protecting individuals
a broader model
A Broader Model
  • Is clinical model suitable?
    • what does it mean in a broader domain
    • paternalistic, unidirectional
    • relationship with public and citizens
    • not clear always dealing with human
    • process not product
    • tick box approach
  • Should be flexible, open to change, participation from public
Research Councils have a responsibility to scrutinise the potential impacts and risks of emerging technologies and encourage the researchers to do likewise....The challenge will be to define an approach that promotes creativity and innovation in research underpinned by a commitment to its responsible development.

David Delpy 2011

  • David Delpy, 2011
‘…collective care for the future through the stewardship of innovation in the present’

Owen and Stilgoe 2011

  • David Delpy, 2011
project objectives
Project Objectives
  • For the research community the project will create:
    • a network of researchers with shared understanding of RRI in ICT
    • a self sustaining ICT observatory that serves as a community portal and provides access to all outputs of the project
    • a body of resources e.g. information, guidelines, methods, techniques, curriculum materials, lists of relevant expertise, case studies
    • a set of recommendations and good practice to be adopted by EPSRC and the community
  • Beyond the research community the project will engage with:
    • disciplines that use ICT as an enabling technology to foster a joint understanding of the implications of responsible decision making within the ICT domain
    • key policymakers to influence the shaping of legislation and policy
    • major ICT companies to explore the implications of the recommendations for their corporate statement for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility
the observatory for responsible research and innovation torri
The Observatory for Responsible Research and Innovation (TORRI)
  • A dynamic community resource to exchange experience and good practice and to provide a basis for developing structures and procedures for the governance of responsible research and innovation in ICT.
    • Open to the community, transparent, demonstrable interest to the community and community owned
      • Provide a repository for material having to do with responsible innovation in ICT.
        • Case studies of problems / solutions
        • Conceptual issues / positions
        • Guidance on addressing specific issues (e.g. privacy, intellectual property)
        • Provide access to teaching material
        • Facilitate discussion of issues within the ICT community between ICT and external stakeholders
  • Launched Case Study Call
the observatory for responsible research and innovation torri1
The Observatory for Responsible Research and Innovation (TORRI)
  • Technical platform
  • Working on the development of layout, use cases, and data structures to present a first prototype
  • Ethics Retreat underlined importance of the observatory and the commitment of the community to it
  • Market Assessment for business model
landscape study
Landscape Study
  • Interview cross-section of the ICT community
  • What are ICT researchers’ current perceptions of responsible research and innovation in ICT?
    • Interviews conducted and analysed using combination of Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and Action Research (Greenwood & Levin, 1998) research strategy
    • Participants from EPSRC “The Next Decade” event 2011
    • Interviews completed
    • EPSRC ICT Portfolio Managers
landscape study epsrc
Landscape Study – EPSRC

All eight ICT portfolio managers who, between them, manage thirty research areas within the EPSRC ICT portfolio :

  • Theory of computation
  • Software engineering
  • Maths of computing
  • Programme languages and compilers
  • Verification and correctness
  • Architectures and operating systems
  • Music and acoustic technology
  • Artificial intelligence technologies
  • Natural language processing
  • Human communication in ICT
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Information Systems
  • Databases
  • Biological Informatics
  • Image and vision computing
  • Computer graphics and visualisation
  • Speech technologies
  • Vision, hearing and other senses
  • Optoelectronic devices and circuits
  • Optical devices and subsystems
  • Optical communications
  • Displays
  • Digital signal processing
  • ICT networks and distributed systems
  • Mobile computing
  • RF and microwave communications
  • Microelectronics design
  • CMOS Device Technology
  • Non CMOS Device Technology
  • RF and Microwave Devices
emerging themes 1
Emerging themes (1)

Responsibility as devolved

  • RRI perceived as necessarily devolved away from the EPSRC and towards:

The universities:

The ICT researchers:

The peer review process:

“We don’t actually do anything active, we expect that all research submitted to us has gone through an ethics panel” (EP03).

“Larger grants are meant to have a risk management strategy, that may be part of it but it’s not for me to manage” (EP07).

“Peer reviewers will comment on the reviewer form of any risky parts” (EP05).

emerging themes 2
Emerging themes (2)

Including the general public in the feedback loop

  • General distrust towards involving the general public in decision-making processes

“It wouldn’t be appropriate to put [the general public] into peer review. The idea that someone in the general public could know whether something in [portfolio research area] is going to transfer into their lives is ridiculous because I barely understand sometimes. ... So it would be more appropriate for them to be involved in the higher levels, e.g. Council, or SAN. ... When you’re talking about high-level strategies then there probably is a role for the general public to play” (EP03).

emerging themes 3
Emerging themes (3)

Contributing to ‘the public good’

  • Even with a general uncertainty towards including the public:

“That’s our main driver. We have these themes set-up with perhaps specific funding calls which would encourage people to move towards them. ... Yea, it may not be as explicit as saying at the level of a particular call. But the reason for having the programmes and the strategies of funding would have been driven by: these are here for public good” (EP01).

emerging themes 4
Emerging themes (4)

Responsible research and innovation

  • ‘pathways to impact’ may not provide an opportunity to discuss the controversial areas of research:

“It would be very hard to put something in place that was meaningful but that didn’t effect funding decision or wasn’t seen to effect funding decision. ... ‘is it going to reflect my funding decision and if it is I’m not going say!’ ... how do you encourage people to do this properly .. ‘is it going harm my chance of getting funded?’ ... I can see where it would be useful if it’s not in a decision making capacity, but if it’s not a decision maker is it worth doing? ... In theory it’s a nice idea, [but] once you get down to that detail of how? (EP05).

preliminary issues 1

“I don’t think I’ve come across an unethical scientist. … if a problem occurs it’s maybe that they just haven’t considered the true implications of where there could be problems down the line. I think it’s more that it hasn’t occurred to them rather than they’ve considered it and decided to go with it for the hell of it anyway”

Preliminary Issues (1)

We are already ethical

  • not framed in terms of RRI - varying beliefs on who responsible to
    • self, data, participants, project, institutions, public
      • ‘no unethical scientists’
    • ethical approval process and committees
    • often impose conflicting requirements
    • appreciation that goes beyond process but unclear in ICT
    • issues covered by methodology and research design
      • inherent in experimental design and notions of reproducibility
      • qualitative research - anonymisation, privacy
preliminary issues 2

“The things that- the research that we do, doesn’t inherently tell you how to use this research. So, we built a robot that can throw balls 6 meters compared to 1 meter for previous versions. So, there is not kind of moral value associated with that, it’s more of a performance. We’re focused on the performance. How you use that performance is not our part”

Preliminary Issues (2)

Technology is agnostic (or value-free)

  • division between research, products and use
    • basic research vs applied research - no immediate impact
    • a neutral activity -for its own sake
    • far removed from the chain that leads from discovery to product.
    • performance not use of that performance
    • Values can only be identified within a context of use - difficult to predict use
  • long term and generic
    • no immediate implications to society
    • applied to different usage scenarios
emerging implications
Emerging Implications
  • Recalibrate the detachment of ‘long-term’ and ‘generic’ to use and impact on society
  • Readjust notion that basic research is divorced from broader society
  • Reposition foresight exercises from ‘prediction’ to ‘projection or envisioning’ activity
  • Refine definitions of ICT areas that are applicable to RRI and provide justification
  • Acknowledge skepticism around RRI and the limits of foresight exercises
    • both ‘use cases’ and ‘misuse cases’ are deterministic and contrived
  • Develop scenarios within each ICT area, e.g. public security vs. individual privacy, monitoring for heath vs. surveillance,

Engagement with RRI in NanoTechnology, Geo-engineering and Biomedical Sciences

  • Process, product and purpose
  • Need for training in reflective thinking
  • Engagement with the skeptics
  • Concept of ethics too constraining
  • Informed Consent
  • ‘Contextual Integrity’
  • Matrix rather than a single model
  • Need for Global Collaborations
  • Launched Case Study Call
  • First Wider Network Workshop Event 6th December 2011
    • Participants from - geo-engineering, psychology, HCI, privacy and security, digital economy, social network analysis, biomedical sciences, robotics, computer science.
    • Topics
      • Ethics of personal information repositories (PIRs)
      • Notion of informed consent
    • Launch Case Study Call
    • Ethics Retreat Jan 2012
    • 2nd Workshop September 2012
funded case studies
Funded Case Studies
  • Personal Privacy & The Web of Linked Data, David Corsar, University of Aberdeen
  • Being Responsible from the Start: Involving subjects in developing responsible research proposals, Nick Pearce, University of Durham
  • Ethical Issues of Research in a ‘Living Lab’, Mark Rouncefield, University of Lancaster
  • Ethics and informed consent in online social network research, Tristan Henderson, University of St Andrews
  • The ABCD approach to working ethically with children in ICT research and development, Janet Read, University of Central Lancashire
  • Assuring effective personal choice in a world of open data: Identifying ethically collected recordings of people, Megan Quentin-Baxter, University of Newcastle
  • Ethical Issues in Designing Dynamic Consent Mechanisms in ICTs: Lessons in User Engagement and Notification, Nadja Kanellopoulou, University of Oxford