Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 1437–1481 | Cite as

Methods for Practising Ethics in Research and Innovation: A Literature Review, Critical Analysis and Recommendations

  • Wessel ReijersEmail author
  • David Wright
  • Philip Brey
  • Karsten Weber
  • Rowena Rodrigues
  • Declan O’Sullivan
  • Bert Gordijn
Original Paper


This paper provides a systematic literature review, analysis and discussion of methods that are proposed to practise ethics in research and innovation (R&I). Ethical considerations concerning the impacts of R&I are increasingly important, due to the quickening pace of technological innovation and the ubiquitous use of the outcomes of R&I processes in society. For this reason, several methods for practising ethics have been developed in different fields of R&I. The paper first of all presents a systematic search of academic sources that present and discuss such methods. Secondly, it provides a categorisation of these methods according to three main kinds: (1) ex ante methods, dealing with emerging technologies, (2) intra methods, dealing with technology design, and (3) ex post methods, dealing with ethical analysis of existing technologies. Thirdly, it discusses the methods by considering problems in the way they deal with the uncertainty of technological change, ethical technology design, the identification, analysis and resolving of ethical impacts of technologies and stakeholder participation. The results and discussion of our literature review are valuable for gaining an overview of the state of the art and serve as an outline of a future research agenda of methods for practising ethics in R&I.


Practising ethics Research and innovation Ethics of technology Ethics assessment Ethical impact assessment 



This research was supported by the ADAPT Centre. The ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology is funded under the SFI Research Centres Programme (Grant 13/RC/2106) and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund. This research was partly conducted in the context of the project: Stakeholders Acting Together on the Ethical Impact Assessment of Research and Innovation—SATORI—which received funding from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement No 612231. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and are in no way intended to represent those of the European Commission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ADAPT CentreDublin City UniversityGlasnevin, Dublin 9Ireland
  2. 2.Trilateral Research and ConsultingLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Institute for Social Research and Technology Assessment (IST), OTH RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  5. 5.ADAPT Centre, Department of Computer ScienceTrinity College Dublin, O’Reilly InstituteDublin 2Ireland
  6. 6.Institute of EthicsDublin City UniversityGlasnevin, Dublin 9Ireland

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