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Professor Bernd Stahl

Job: Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility

Faculty: Technology

School/department: School of Computer Science and Informatics

Research group(s): Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH, United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)116 207 8252




Personal profile

Bernd Carsten Stahl is Professor of Critical Research in Technology and Director the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. His interests cover philosophical issues arising from the intersections of business, technology, and information. This includes the ethics of ICT and critical approaches to information systems. 

Publications and outputs 

  • Artificial intelligence for human flourishing – Beyond principles for machine learning
    Artificial intelligence for human flourishing – Beyond principles for machine learning Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968-; Andreou, Andreas; Brey, Philip; Hatzakis, Tally; Kirichenko, Alexey; Macnish, Kevin; Laulhe Shaelou, Stephanie; Patel, Andrew; Ryan, Mark; Wright, David The technical and economic benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) are counterbalanced by legal, social and ethical issues. It is challenging to conceptually capture and empirically measure both benefits and downsides. We therefore provide an account of the findings and implications of a multi-dimensional study of AI, comprising 10 case studies, five scenarios, an ethical impact analysis of AI, a human rights analysis of AI and a technical analysis of known and potential threats and vulnerabilities. Based on our findings, we separate AI ethics discourse into three streams: (1) specific issues related to the application of machine learning, (2) social and political questions arising in a digitally enabled society and (3) metaphysical questions about the nature of reality and humanity. Human rights principles and legislation have a key role to play in addressing the ethics of AI. This work helps to steer AI to contribute to human flourishing. open access article
  • Framing governance for a contested emerging technology: insights from AI policy
    Framing governance for a contested emerging technology: insights from AI policy Ulnicane, Inga; Knight, William; Leach, Tonii; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968-; Wanjiku, Winter-Gladys This paper examines how the governance in AI policy documents have been framed as way to resolve public controversies surrounding AI. It draws on the studies of governance of emerging technologies, the concept of policy framing, and analysis of 49 recent policy documents dedicated to AI which have been prepared in the context of technological hype expecting fast advances of AI that will fundamentally change economy and society. The hype about AI is accompanied by major public controversy about positive and negative effects of AI. Against the backdrop of this policy controversy, governance emerges as one of the frames that diagnoses the problems and offers prescriptions. Accordingly, the current governance characterized by oligopoly of a small number of large companies is indicated as one of the reasons for problems such as lack of consideration of societal needs and concerns. To address these problems, governance frame in AI policy documents assigns more active and collaborative roles to the state and society. Amid public controversies, the state is assigned the roles of promoting and facilitating AI development while at the same time being a guarantor of risk mitigation and enabler of societal engagement. High expectations are assigned to public engagement with multiple publics as a way to increase diversity, representation and equality in AI development and use. While this governance frame might have a normative appeal, it is not specific about addressing some well-known challenges of the proposed governance mode such as risks of capture by vested interests or difficulties to achieve consensus. Open Access article
  • Ethical and Social Aspects of Neurorobotics
    Ethical and Social Aspects of Neurorobotics Aicardi, Christine; Akintoye, Simisola; Fothergill, B. Tyr; Guerrero, Manuel; Klinker, Gudrun; Knight, William; Kluver, Lars; Morel, Yannick; Morin, Fabrice O.; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968-; Ulnicane, Inga The interdisciplinary field of neurorobotics looks to neuroscience to overcome the limitations of modern robotics technology, to robotics to advance our understanding of the neural system’s inner workings, and to information technology to develop tools that support those complementary endeavours. The development of these technologies is still at an early stage, which makes them an ideal candidate for proactive and anticipatory ethical reflection. This article explains the current state of neurorobotics development within the Human Brain Project, originating from a close collaboration between the scientific and technical experts who drive neurorobotics innovation, and the humanities and social sciences scholars who provide contextualising and reflective capabilities. This article discusses some of the ethical issues which can reasonably be expected. On this basis, the article explores possible gaps identified within this collaborative, ethical reflection that calls for attention to ensure that the development of neurorobotics is ethically sound and socially acceptable and desirable. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.; open access article
  • Ethical Issues of Research Infrastructure: What are they and how can they be addressed?
    Ethical Issues of Research Infrastructure: What are they and how can they be addressed? Eke, Damian; Akintoye, Simisola; Knight, William; Ogoh, George; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968- E-infrastructures are emerging as novel and effective ways of increasing creativity and efficiency of research. As technological innovations, these virtual, ubiquitous, pervasive infrastructures offer possibilities of international collaborations through open, data-driven and high-quality computing environments. Particularly in Europe, the aim is to create an ecosystem of e-science where multiple disciplines converge to foster interoperable and open collaboration with the help of significant data processing and computing capacity. While most agree that these research infrastructures are crucial to scientific reproducibility and rigor, e-infrastructural literature lacks critical discussions on the ethical concerns they raise or potentially can raise. This paper argues that e-infrastructures can raise a number of ethical, legal and social concerns. Some of these relate to data privacy and data security but they also include issues around animal welfare, data bias, intellectual property rights, environmental sustainability, digital divide and other unintended uses/misuses. This paper also presents a practical way of thinking about ethics in e-infrastructures. The underlying argument here is that addressing e-infrastructure ethical issues should start from the design of the infrastructure and continue through to its lifecycle. It requires the integration of relevant ethical principles into its design to foster responsible use/application. We then propose that this can be done through the Responsible Research and Innovation approach as an ethics-by-design tool. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the URI link. open access
  • The need for responsible technology
    The need for responsible technology Jirotka, Marina; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968- open access article
  • The Ethical Balance of Using Smart Information Systems for Promoting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
    The Ethical Balance of Using Smart Information Systems for Promoting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Ryan, Mark; Antoniou, Josephina; Brooks, L.; Jiya, Tilimbe; Macnish, Kevin; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968- The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are internationally agreed goals that allow us to determine what humanity, as represented by 193 member states, finds acceptable and desirable. The paper explores how technology can be used to address the SDGs and in particular Smart Information Systems (SIS). SIS, the technologies that build on big data analytics, typically facilitated by AI techniques such as machine learning, are expected to grow in importance and impact. Some of these impacts are likely to be beneficial, notably the growth in efficiency and profits, which will contribute to societal wellbeing. At the same time, there are significant ethical concerns about the consequences of algorithmic biases, job loss, power asymmetries and surveillance, as a result of SIS use. SIS have the potential to exacerbate inequality and further entrench the market dominance of big tech companies, if left uncontrolled. Measuring the impact of SIS on SDGs thus provides a way of assessing whether an SIS or an application of such a technology is acceptable in terms of balancing foreseeable benefits and harms. One possible approach is to use the SDGs as guidelines to determine the ethical nature of SIS implementation. While the idea of using SDGs as a yardstick to measure the acceptability of emerging technologies is conceptually strong, there should be empirical evidence to support such approaches. The paper describes the findings of a set of 6 case studies of SIS across a broad range of application areas, such as smart cities, agriculture, finance, insurance and logistics, explicitly focusing on ethical issues that SIS commonly raise and empirical insights from organisations using these technologies. open access article
  • Is European Data Protection Regulation sufficient to deal with emerging data concerns relating to neurotechnology?
    Is European Data Protection Regulation sufficient to deal with emerging data concerns relating to neurotechnology? Rainey, Stephen; McGillibray, Kevin; Akintoye, Simisola; Fothergill, Tyr; Bublitz, Christoph; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968- Research-driven technology development in the fields of the neurosciences presents interesting and potentially complicated issues around data in general, and brain data specifically. The data produced from brain recordings is unlike names and addresses in that it may result from the processing of largely involuntarily brain activity, it can be processed and reprocessed for different aims, and is highly sensitive. Consenting for brain recordings of a specific type, or for a specific purpose, is complicated by these factors. Brain data collection, retention, processing, storage, and destruction are each of high ethical importance. This leads us to ask: Is present European data protection regulation sufficient to deal with emerging data concerns relating to neurotechnology? This is pressing especially in a context of rapid advancement in the fields of brain computer interfaces (BCIs), where devices that can function via recorded brain signals are expanding from research labs, through medical treatments, and beyond into consumer markets for recreational uses. One notion we develop herein is that there may be no trivial data collection when it comes to brain recording, especially where algorithmic processing is involved. This article provides analysis and discussion of some specific data protection questions related to neurotechnology, especially BCIs. In particular, whether and how brain data used in BCI-driven applications might count as personal data in a way relevant to data protection regulations. It also investigates how the nature of BCI data, as it appears in various applications, may require different interpretations of data protection concepts. Importantly, we consider brain recordings to raise questions about data sensitivity, regardless of the purpose for which they were recorded. This has data protection implications. open access journal
  • A Critical Perspective of Engagement in Online Health Communities
    A Critical Perspective of Engagement in Online Health Communities Hur, Inkyoung; Cousins, Karlene; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968- Many individuals go to online health communities to obtain emotional and information support. We employ critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine the discourse in five online childhood immunization forums to identify online practices related to engagement and emancipation. We identify four online engagement discourse types in online health communities: cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and political. Consistent with our critical perspective, we identify drivers and obstacles to emancipation. The obstacles to emancipation include the adverse consequences of building online knowledge and collective intelligence, shifts in patient-physician relationships, and “Big” institutional power. Members’ suggestions for empowering community members include encouraging members to conduct their own research on childhood immunization and to differentiate between facts and opinions. These findings suggest that sensemaking is one way to emancipate online health community members, while highlighting the challenges of using online communities to promote emancipation. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.
  • Intersectional observations of the Human Brain Project’s approach to sex and gender
    Intersectional observations of the Human Brain Project’s approach to sex and gender Fothergill, B. Tyr; Knight, William; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968-; Ulnicane, Inga Purpose – This paper aims to critically assess approaches to sex and gender in the Human Brain Project (HBP) as a large ICT project AQ: 1 case study using intersectionality. Design/methodology/approach – The strategy of the HBP is contextualised within the wider context of AQ: 2 the representation of women in ICT, and critically reflected upon from an intersectional standpoint. Findings – The policy underpinning the approach deployed by the HBP in response to these issues parallels Horizon 2020 wording and emphasises economic outcomes, productivity and value, which aligns with other “equality” initiatives influenced by neoliberalised versions of feminism. Research limitations/implications – Limitations include focussing on a single case study, the authors being funded as part of the Ethics and Society Subproject of the HBP, and the limited temporal period under consideration. Social implications – The frameworks underpinning the HBP approach to sex and gender issues present risks with regard to the further entrenchment of present disparities in the ICT sector, may fail to acknowledge systemic inequalities and biases and ignore the importance of intersectionality. Shortcomings of the approach employed by the HBP up to March, 2018 included aspects of each of these risks, and replicated problematic understandings of sex, gender and diversity. Originality/value – This paper is the first to use an intersectional approach to issues of sex and gender in the context of large-scale ICT research. Its value lies in raising awareness, opening a discursive space and presenting opportunities to consider and reflect upon potential, contextualised intersectional solutions to such issues.
  • Responsible Data Governance of Neuroscience Big Data
    Responsible Data Governance of Neuroscience Big Data Fothergill, B. Tyr; Knight, William; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968-; Ulnicane, Inga Current discussions of the ethical aspects of big data are shaped by concerns regarding the social consequences of both the widespread adoption of machine learning and the ways in which biases in data can be replicated and perpetuated. We instead focus here on the ethical issues arising from the use of big data in international neuroscience collaborations. Neuroscience innovation relies upon neuroinformatics, large-scale data collection and analysis enabled by novel and emergent technologies. Each step of this work involves aspects of ethics, ranging from concerns for adherence to informed consent or animal protection principles and issues of data re-use at the stage of data collection, to data protection and privacy during data processing and analysis, and issues of attribution and intellectual property at the data-sharing and publication stages. Significant dilemmas and challenges with far-reaching implications are also inherent, including reconciling the ethical imperative for openness and validation with data protection compliance and considering future innovation trajectories or the potential for misuse of research results. Furthermore, these issues are subject to local interpretations within different ethical cultures applying diverse legal systems emphasising different aspects. Neuroscience big data require a concerted approach to research across boundaries, wherein ethical aspects are integrated within a transparent, dialogical data governance process. We address this by developing the concept of “responsible data governance,” applying the principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to the challenges presented by the governance of neuroscience big data in the Human Brain Project (HBP). Open access article.

Click here to view a full listing of Bernd Stahl's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

Computer and information ethics

Emerging Technologies

Responsible Research and Innovation

Areas of teaching

Ethics and ICT

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in ICT

Critical approaches to information systems



DSc De Montfort University, UK

PhD University Witten/Herdecke, Germany.

MSc in Industrial Engineering: University of the German Armed Forces, Hamburg, Germany

MA in Philosophy and Economics: University of Hagen, Germany

MPhil in Philosophy: University Michel de Montaigne, Bordeaux III, France

LLM in Business Law: De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Membership of professional associations and societies

Fellow of the British Computer Society (BCS) (since 04/2010, Member from 2003)

Fellow of the International Information Management Association (IIMA) (from 2005);

President of the IIMA 2005-2006

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (from March 2007), registered practitioner since April 2006

Member of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), Working Group 8.2

Member of the Association for Information Systems (AIS)

Member of the United Kingdom Academy for Information Systems (UKAIS)

Member of the Information Resource Management Association (IRMA)

Member of the International Center for Information Ethics (ICIE)

Member of the European Business Ethics Network (EBEN)


I have or had significant leadership positions in the following projects:

SHERPA - Shaping the Ethical Dimensions of Smart Information Systems -a European Perspective (EU, SwafS, 2018-2021)

Human Brain Project (EU, FET Flagship, 2013-2023)
(report and video by Bloomberg and euronews)

ORBIT - The Observatory for RRI in ICT (EPSRC, 2017-2022, then spin-off company)

Responsible-Industry - Responsible Research and Innovation in Business and Industry in the Domain of ICT for, Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing (EU, SiS, 2014-2017)

CONSIDER - Civil Society Organisations in Designing Research Governance (EU, SiS, 2012 - 2015)

Framework for RRI in ICT (EPSRC, 2011-2013, precedecssor of ORBIT)

ETICA - Ethical Issues of Emerging ICT Application (EU, SiS, 2009-2011)

Consultancy work


Responsible Research and Innovation

Privacy Impact Assessment

Professional esteem indicators


Editorial work

Editor in Chief of the Journal of Responsible Technology (successor of the ORBIT journal)

PhD student supervision

I am interested in supervising high quality and motivated PhD students in my areas of interest, including:

  • Responsible research and innovation in ICT, notably questions like:
    • Industrial realisation of RRI
    • Success measures, impact of RRI
  • Responsible data governance
  • Ethical issue of emerging technologies, e.g. 
    • Brain-computer interfaces
    • Converging technologies (neuro, cognitive, ICT) 
Bernd Carsten Stahl

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