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DMU to lead Europe-wide computer ethics project


De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is to lead a multi-million pound research project looking at ethics and human rights in relation to smart information systems (SIS).

The European Union-funded SHERPA project will examine the impact of smart information systems on ethics and human rights and enhance the responsible development of artificial intelligence and big data analytics.


SHERPA aims to work with researchers to find desirable and sustainable solutions that can benefit both innovators and society.

The project, which has received €2.8m of funding from the EU, will be co-ordinated by Professor Bernd Stahl, Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at DMU.

DMU will work with partners from across Europe including Universiteit Twente (Netherlands), the European Network of Research Ethics Committees (Germany), University of Central Lancashire (Cyprus), Depoorter Dries (Belgium), Trilateral Research (UK), Stichting Nederlands Normalisatie (Netherlands), Mutual Shoots Ltd (UK), Aequitas Ltd (Cyprus), European Business Summit (Belgium) and F-Secure OYJ (Finland).

Researchers will gather data by looking at existing case studies and scenarios as well as interviewing stakeholders and carrying out a large-scale online survey.

They will look at 10 case studies of current smart information systems and five scenarios of future smart information systems. They will also review relevant human rights frameworks and will carry out analysis of cyber threats, ethical impacts and social tension.

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The project will result in new guidelines for research and innovation with SIS with detailed reports of the findings.

A website and workbook on responsible development of smart information systems, standardisation, dissemination, exploitation, advocacy and communication activities will also be prepared.

SHERPA partners have identified a range of ethical and legal issues that will be addressed, such as equality, privacy, data protection, public security, duty of care to vulnerable members of society, transparency, fairness, justice, proportionality.

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Professor Stahl believes that while smart information systems can be of great benefit society, this project will be important in ensuring that their negative impact is minimised.

He said: “Artificial intelligence and big data analytics bring a variety of benefits to society, but at the same time have the potential to disrupt society, ethical values and human rights, and life as we know it.

“But it is also critical that research and innovation are acceptable, desirable and sustainable, in line with the Rome Declaration on Responsible Research and Innovation in Europe, 2014.

“One can't be a leader in AI or smart information systems and simultaneously override privacy concerns and human rights. How innovators should undertake research responsibly is the pressing topic to which SHERPA hopes to contribute.”

The SHERPA project - Shaping the ethical dimensions of smart information systems - a European perspective - has received grant agreement No 786641 under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


Posted on Thursday 31st May 2018

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