Holding the Project Accountable: Research Governance, Ethics, and Democracy

INDECT is the most extensive surveillance project ever planned or established. It is not limited to monitoring the internet. People on the street won’t escape INDECT either. What sounds like weird science fiction could become disturbing reality as soon as 2013. Science fiction was yesterday. INDECT will be tomorrow. INDECT combines all data from forums, social networks and internet search engines with government databases, communication data and feeds from street surveillance cameras. INDECT will know where we are, what we do, why we do it and what we are going to do next. INDECT will know our friends and our places of work. INDECT will judge whether we are behaving normally or irregularly.

Abstract

This paper seeks to address research governance by highlighting the notion of public accountability as a complementary tool for the establishment of an ethical resonance space for emerging technologies. Public accountability can render development and design process of emerging technologies transparent through practices of holding those in charge of research accountable for their actions, thereby fostering ethical engagement with their potential negative consequences or side-effects. Through practices such as parliamentary questions, audits, and open letters emerging technologies could be effectively rendered transparent and opened up to broader levels of scrutiny and debate, thereby contributing to a greater adherence of emerging technologies to ethics and moral consensus. Fundamental democratic practices could thus not only lead to better informed choices in design and development processes, but also contribute to more morally substantive outcomes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.indect-project.eu/ (accessed 2 December 2016).

  2. 2.

    It should however be noted that in recent years, methodologies of Privacy Impact Assessments (Clarke 2009; Wright 2012; Wright and de Hert 2012) and Ethical and Social Impact Assessments (Hempel et al. 2013; Wright and Friedewald 2013) have been put forward.

  3. 3.

    http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/index_en.htm (accessed 2 December 2016).

  4. 4.

    http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/89374_en.html (accessed 2 December 2016).

  5. 5.

    http://www.stopp-indect.info/index.php/en/about (accessed 2 December 2016).

  6. 6.

    http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/89374_en.html (accessed 2 December 2016).

  7. 7.

    http://www.indect-project.eu/public-deliverables (accessed 2 December 2016).

  8. 8.

    http://cordis.europa.eu/result/rcn/148236_en.html (accessed 2 December 2016).

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Acknowledgements

The research for this paper was not supported by any specific grant. It was however motivated by my own work in multiple publicly funded (EU and national) research projects. A first draft of this paper had been presented at the EISA conference in Giardini-Naxos, Italy, in September 2015. Much appreciation goes to Andrew Neal and Andreas Baur-Ahrens for constructive feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript, as well as to three anonymous referees and the editors at Science and Engineering Ethics whose comments and critique have been invaluable in developing the paper further.

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Leese, M. Holding the Project Accountable: Research Governance, Ethics, and Democracy. Sci Eng Ethics 23, 1597–1616 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-016-9866-y

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Keywords

  • Research governance
  • Ethics
  • Technology
  • Accountability
  • Responsible innovation