Dr Neil McBride

Job: Reader in IT Management

Faculty: Technology

School/department: School of Computer Science and Informatics

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

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

T: +44 (0)116 207 8500

E: nkm@dmu.ac.uk

W: https://www.dmu.ac.uk

 

Research group affiliations

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)

Publications and outputs 

  • Is Information Systems a Science? Rejoinder to Five Commentaries
    Is Information Systems a Science? Rejoinder to Five Commentaries McBride, Neil This paper concludes the debate on the nature of the information systems discipline and its academic practice. I initiated the debate in a paper which I questioned the view of information systems as a scientific discipline. Ten information systems academics responded to this initial paper over five separate papers. In this final rejoinder, I critique and respond to those five papers. 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 DOI link.
  • Is Information Systems a Science?
    Is Information Systems a Science? McBride, Neil The information systems discipline has been compared with the physical and biological sciences, suggesting that information systems sits in the same academic space as physical and natural sciences. This suggestion supported by the language and perception expressed in journals such as the Transactions for Replication Research, which refer to “scientific consensus” and the involvement of information systems researchers in “the quest for scientific advancement”. This paper suggests that the view that information systems is a science in which general laws can be developed through the application of statistical surveys, laboratory experiments run and expressed as mathematical equations has negatively affected the development of information systems. It is argued that the nature of information systems is such that it cannot be pitched as a science. Following a brief discussion of the motivation and philosophy that might underlie the perception of information systems as a science, an alternative view of information systems is offered as a deep, complex and multi-layered discipline within the humanities. Dance studies is proposed as an appropriate discipline to twin with information systems. The paper ends with a call for the remobilising of information systems, the positioning of information systems as a social humanity. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version
  • Bridging the Ethical Gap: From Human Principles to Robot Instructions
    Bridging the Ethical Gap: From Human Principles to Robot Instructions McBride, Neil; Hoffman, R. R. Asimov's three laws of robotics and the Murphy-Woods alternative laws assume that a robot has the cognitive ability to make moral decisions, and fail to escape the myth of self-sufficiency. But ethical decision making on the part of robots in human-robot interaction is grounded on the interdependence of human and machine. Furthermore, the proposed laws are high-level principles that cannot easily be translated into machine instructions because there is an immense gap between the architecture, implementation, and activity of humans and robots in addressing ethical situations. The characterization of the ethical gap, particularly with reference to the Murphy-Woods laws, leads to a proposal for a shift in focus away from the autonomous behavior of the robot to human-robot communication at the interface, and the development of interdependence rules to underpin the process of ethical decision-making. 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 DOI link.
  • The Ethics of Driverless Cars
    The Ethics of Driverless Cars McBride, Neil This paper critiques the idea of full autonomy, as illustrated by Oxford University’s Robotcar. A fully autonomous driverless car relies on no external inputs, including GPS and solely learns from its environment using learning algorithms. These cars decide when they drive, learn from human drivers and bid for insurance in real time. Full autonomy is pitched as a good end in itself, fixing human inadequacies and creating safety and certainty by the elimination of human involvement. Using the ACTIVE ethics framework, an ethical response to the fully autonomous driverless cars is developed by addressing autonomy, community, transparency, identity, value and empathy. I suggest that the pursuit of full autonomy does not recognise the essential importance of interdependencies between humans and machines. The removal of human involvement should require the driverless car to be more connected with its environment, drawing all the information it can from infrastructure, internet and other road users. This requires a systemic view, which addresses systems and relationships, which recognises the place of driverless cars in a connected system, which is open to the study of complex relationships, both networked and hierarchical.
  • The Application of an Extended Hierarchy Theory in Understanding Complex Organizational Situations: The Case of FIReControl
    The Application of an Extended Hierarchy Theory in Understanding Complex Organizational Situations: The Case of FIReControl McBride, Neil Hierarchy theory is a fundamental systems approach that offers rich perspectives in understanding the flow of matter and information between different levels of control. This paper offers an extended view of hierarchy theory, which can be used to illuminate complex organizational environments. Firstly, the characteristics of a hierarchy are explored, and the flow of information and resources, the perception of space and time and changing purposes and perspectives are explored. Secondly, the importance of networks, nodes and hubs is examined as a necessary element of understanding hierarchies. Thirdly, the properties of boundaries, which act as filters both maintaining the hierarchy and enabling effective organizations, are discussed. A context for exploring the application of extended hierarchical theory is provided in an exploration of a large-scale information technology failure in the UK government. The failure of FIReControl, a project which was to provide a nationwide system to manage disasters and terrorist attacks, is explored using the range of extended hierarchy theory concepts. The paper offers an iterative process for applying extended hierarchy theory and calls for a greater attention in systems research to boundaries, filters and networks.
  • Virtuous Business Intelligence
    Virtuous Business Intelligence McBride, Neil This paper examines three approaches to ethics and focuses on the development of character and the practice of virtue in business intelligence (BI). The paper describes BI as a tool for mediating the relationships between pairs of stakeholders such as management and customer. Three aspects of the relationship which benefit ethically from the practice of virtues are discussed: the purpose of the BI, the prejudices behind the BI and the power of the stakeholders. The connection between the ethics of BI and the corporate ethics is discussed. Without the practice of virtues, BI may be recruited to support corporate vices of exploitation, exposure, exclusion, coercion, control and concealment. The paper seeks to highlight the importance of ethical issues in BI practice and suggests the development of an ethical balanced scorecard as a vehicle for developing ethical senstitivity. 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 DOI link.
  • The Ethical Implications of Personal Health Monitoring
    The Ethical Implications of Personal Health Monitoring Mittelstadt, Brent; Fairweather, N. Ben, 1966-; Shaw, Mark Christopher; McBride, Neil Personal Health Monitoring (PHM) uses electronic devices which monitor and record health-related data outside a hospital, usually within the home. This paper examines the ethical issues raised by PHM. Eight themes describing the ethical implications of PHM are identified through a review of 68 academic articles concerning PHM. The identified themes include privacy, autonomy, obtrusiveness and visibility, stigma and identity, medicalisation, social isolation, delivery of care, and safety and technological need. The issues around each of these are discussed. The system / lifeworld perspective of Habermas is applied to develop an understanding of the role of PHMs as mediators of communication between the institutional and the domestic environment. Furthermore, links are established between the ethical issues to demonstrate that the ethics of PHM involves a complex network of ethical interactions. The paper extends the discussion of the critical effect PHMs have on the patient’s identity and concludes that a holistic understanding of the ethical issues surrounding PHMs will help both researchers and practitioners in developing effective PHM implementations.1
  • Developing Responsible Research and Innovation for Robots
    Developing Responsible Research and Innovation for Robots McBride, Neil; Stahl, Bernd Carsten, 1968- This paper develops a framework for responsible research and innovation (RRI) in robot design for roboticists from a study of the processes involved in the design and engineering of a range of robots including standard manufacturing robots, humanoid robots, environmental scanning robots and robot swarms. The importance of an iterative approach to design, the nature of transitions between design phases, and issues of uncertainty and complexity are examined for their ethical content. A cycle of RRI thinking based on reconnoitre, realisation, reflection, response and review is described which aligns with the general characterisation of robot engineering processes. Additionally the importance of supporting communities, knowledge bases and tools for assessment and analysis is noted. 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 DOI link.
  • Business Intelligence in Magazine Distribution
    Business Intelligence in Magazine Distribution McBride, Neil This case discusses the use of business intelligence systems in the running and optimisation of magazine distribution by a UK company. The company collects a wide range of data to help it monitor and optimise a supply chain involving subcontractors. The case study raises a number of issues which are discussed. It illustrates the variety of forces which are driving companies to adopt business intelligence systems. It demonstrates how business intelligence systems can help run business processes. It explores the problems and issues with sourcing, collecting and cleaning data. Issues around anonymisation and the concept of a ‘single version of the truth’ are discussed and ethical issues highlighted. It concludes that an understanding of the role of interpretation in data collection, collation and subsequent decision making is critical to business intelligence and calls for more research in this area. 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 DOI link.
  • ACTIVE Ethics: An Information Systems Ethics for the Information Age
    ACTIVE Ethics: An Information Systems Ethics for the Information Age McBride, Neil Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a novel mnemonic, ACTIVE, inspired by Mason's 1985 PAPA mnemonic, which will help researchers and IT professionals develop an understanding of the major issues in information ethics. Design/methodology/approach – Theoretical foundations are developed for each element of the mnemonic by reference to philosophical definitions of the terms used and to virtue ethics, particularly MacIntyrean virtue ethics. The paper starts with a critique of the elements of the PAPA mnemonic and then proceeds to develop an understanding of each of the elements of ACTIVE ethics, via a discussion of the underpinning virtue ethics. Findings – This paper identifies six issues, described by the mnemonic, ACTIVE. ACTIVE stands for: autonomy, the ability of the individual to manage their own information and make choice; community, the ethical effect of an information systems on the community which it supports; transparency, the extent to which the derivation of content and process in an information system is made clear; identity, the social and ethical effect of an information system on the definition and maintenance of the distinctive characteristics of a person; value, the value or moral worth placed on information associated with an individual and hence on the relationship with the individual; and empathy, the ability of the information systems professional to emotionally connect with the user and the extent to which the information system distances or connects. Originality/value – The paper applies virtue ethics to developing a tool to help information professionals reflect on their ethical practice in developing and supporting information systems.



Click here to view a full listing of Neil McBride's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

IT service management

Systems approaches to information systems in organisations

Application of virtue ethics to IT

Qualifications

BSc (Hons) Microbiology

PhD (Microbiology)

CertEd (Distinction)

Courses taught

Social Contexts of ICT

Systems Thinking and Strategy

IT Service Management

Research Methods

Membership of external committees

2010 Advisor to the International Baccalaureate Computer Science curriculum developer. Not Current

2012 Member of the OCR IT and Computing Consultative Forum Current

Conference attendance

McBride, N (2010) ICT Service Quality: Qualitative and Quantitative. Keynote Talk at 7th International Conference on the Quality of Information and Communication Technology, Porto, Portugal, 29th September – 2nd October 2010.

McBride, N. (2010) Understanding Data Transparency: Towards an Interpretation through Hierarchy Theory. Poster Presentation at the UK Systems Society Conference, St Anne’s College, Oxford, August 31- September 2 2010.

McBride,N. (2010) From Compliant IT Service to Virtuous IT Service. Invited talks at Service Desk International day conference on “Create a Best Practice IT Service Centre”, Maple House, Birmingham, 18 August 2010.

McBride,N. (2011) From Social Machine to Social Commodity: Redefining the concept of social machine as a precursor to creating new web development approaches ACM Web Science Conference, Koblenz, June 14-17 2011

McBride, N. (2011) Meltdown Creative Science 2011, Nottingham, July 25-26
Alvarez, I and McBride N. (2011) The Ethics of Speckled Computing. Ethicomp, Sheffield, 14-16 September 2011.

Mittelstadt,B, Fairweather,B, Shaw, M. and McBride, N. (2011) Ethical Issues in Personal Health Monitoring: A Literature Review. Ethicomp, Sheffield, 14-16 September 2011.

McBride, N. (2012) Designing for Society: A Systems Ethics for Speckled Computing 10th Workshop on Speckled Computing University of Edinburgh 18th January.

Professional esteem indicators

Member of the Editorial Review Board of Journal of Global Information Management. 2002 - Present

Member of the Editorial Review Board of the International Journal of Information Technology and the Systems Approach. 2009 – Present

Programme committee for 7th International Conference on the Quality of Information and Communication Technology and Chair of Quality in ICT Service Management Track 2010

Case studies

Quoted on Big Data Insight Group March 5th 2012 : http://www.thebigdatainsightgroup.com/site/article/big-data-talk-001-objective-data-analytics

Computing 11th May 2010 It’s Time for Systems Thinking http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/opinion/1859799/its-systems-thinking 

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