In this section we present the results of the survey starting with participants’ demographic information. The survey reached around 150 academic institutions and 61 of them completed it. This shows a response rate of 41%.
Section A—participant demographics
What country is your institution primarily based in? (choose only one answer)
Twenty-three countries were represented in the 61 responses. It is worth noting that the majority of EU member countries are represented here, as well as several other European countries. Respondents from Italy are in the majority, and as discussed responses were analysed and no significant impact of this overrepresentation was found (Fig. 1).
Does your institution teach all subjects or focus on technical ones? (choose only one answer)
As show in in Table 1, almost one third (31%) of academic institutions focus on technical subjects, whereas the remaining institutions (69%) are general universities that teach a broader range of subjects.
What is your role within your institution? (choose all that apply)
The majority of the respondents identified as Professor (62%). 14.75% identified as Lecturers. Please note that in European counties, lecturers and professors are both full time academic staff who carry out teaching and research duties. Therefore 77% (Table 2) of respondents have direct teaching experience at an academic institution. It is also helpful that other respondents identify themselves as having academic management roles, given that they would be more acutely aware of challenges associated to resource allocation, which has been identified as a key challenge to the teaching of computer ethics in Computer Science programmes (Grosz et al., 2019; Johnson, 2010; Pease & Baker, 2009).
Respondents could also provide other roles additionally to those shown in Table 2. The following roles were also provided:
Vice dean of the faculty
Vice rector and former Head of School
Head of ethics committee; Research integrity officer
Teaching and Research Assistant
Approximately how many students attend your institution? (choose only one answer)
A wide range of academic institutions sizes were represented in the survey (Table 3). The majority of institutions (74%) had between 10,000 and 50,000 students.
Approximately how many students are studying on Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes (e.g. Informatics, Information Systems, Analytics, Computing for Business, Computer Engineering, etc.)? (choose only one answer)
All academic institutions reported students studying on Computer Science or related programmes. 30% of institutions surveyed report having between 1001 and 2500 students (Table 4) enrolled in Computer Science and related programmes.
NOTE: A “programme” refers to a complete collection of subjects a student had to study before achieving a qualification, e.g. a BSc in Computer Science.
At what level does your institution teach Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes? (choose all that apply)
Of the 61 academic institutions surveyed, only 3 exclusively teach postgraduate programmes, and 1 exclusively teaches undergraduate programmes, with majority (90) teaching a combination of both (Table 5).
Section B—Institutions that do not teach ethics as part of their Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes
A total of 22 responses from 61 countries were received from academic institutions that do not teach computer ethics on their Computer Science (and related) programmes. Of those responses, 21 came from institutions that teach all academic subject areas and only 1 from an institution that focuses on technical subjects. In our dataset, almost one third (7 out of 22) of those responses were from Italian institutions. In response to this overrepresentation, Jackknife resampling was applied to estimate the bias of the sample and no significant impact was found. The rest of the institutions were spread geographically across Europe.
How important do you think it is that ethics is taught on Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes?
In academic institutions that do not teach computer ethics, almost two-thirds (63%) of the respondents’ consider the teaching of computer ethics as either being “Important” or “Very Important” for Computer Science (and related) programmes (Table 6).
Please explain in a sentence or two why you answered the previous question the way you did
The respondents gave a range of reasons as to why the teaching of computer ethics is important. The.
most common was the ever-growing impact that computers have on society which was mentioned by almost 50% of the respondents. Some of the respondents highlighted specific areas within Computer Science where they believe computer ethics is important—Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Security and Ubiquitous Computing were mentioned multiple times.
In terms of content delivery, some respondents felt that computer ethics should be taught by incorporating it into existing modules, whereas others felt it should be delivered as an optional module. Specific content that respondents suggested included Codes of Ethics, Intellectual Property rights, privacy, as well as the broader areas of software design and development and where computer ethics fits into those processes.
Those who felt that there was not a need to teach computer ethics suggested it was because employers don’t ask for it, it’s not the most important thing to teach on a Computer Science (or related) programme, and that teaching it is not cost effective. Others claimed that teaching computer ethics would not help students become more ethical as they should already know about ethics before they come to university – from previous schooling and their family. One respondent claimed that ethics isn’t taught in other non-natural science programmes, so wondered why Computer Science should be different; and another suggested it is only relevant in Computer Science research, not teaching.
Rate the following as reasons why ethics is not taught on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes
Respondents were asked to select from a number of possible options outlining why computer ethics is not taught (see Table 7). The main reasons the academic institutions do not teach it is a lack of time (73%) and a lack of staff availability (73%). Half of the respondents suggests a lack of staff expertise was also a factor. The responses reaffirm the notion that the majority of respondents do believe that teaching computer ethics is important event though it is not taught on Computer Science (or related) programmes at their institutions (71%).
Are there plans to teach ethics on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes?
The responses were evenly split between academic institutions that planning to begin teaching computer ethics on their Computer Science (and related) programmes and those who aren’t (41% each). 18% of respondents did not know (Table 8). Respondents were asked to comment on their answer to this question. For those respondents whose institutions are planning to teach computer ethics, the main subject areas mentioned were Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Security, Health Informatics & Bioinformatics, Requirements Engineering, and CSCW (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work). One respondent mentioned that their institute are launching an Ethical-Legal stream on their MSc in Data Science programme. For those from institutions with no plans to teach computer ethics, they stated it was due to either a lack of interest or a lack of expertise in the topic. One respondent did mention that students at their institution have the option of doing an ethics module in another faculty as part of their programmes.
Section C—Institutions that do teach ethics as part of their Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes
A total of 39 responses were collected from academic institutions that teach computer ethics in their Computer Science (and related) programmes from 17 countries. Of those responses, 18 came from institutions that only focus on technical subjects and 21 came from institutions that teach all academic subjects areas.
How important do you think it is that ethics is taught on Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes?
From the institutions that are teaching computer ethics in Computer Science (and related) programmes, 95% of the respondents rate the teaching of computer ethics as either being “Important” or “Very Important” (Table 9).
Do you think your institution/department is teaching enough ethics on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes? (choose only one answer)
Over one-third (36%) of the participants responded that do not believe that their intuitions are teaching enough computer ethics in their Computer Science or related programmes (Table 10). Almost half felt enough computer ethics is being taught “to a certain extent”.
At what level is ethics taught as part of your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes? (choose all that apply)
Computer ethics is taught in 26% of the surveyed institutions at BSc level only (Table 11). In 23% of the surveyed institutions it is taught at both BSc and MSc level. In 28% of institutions it is taught at BSc, MSc, and PhD level. The final 23% represents other combinations, such as “BSc and PhD level” or “MSc level only”.
How is ethics taught on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes? (choose only one answer)
NOTE: in this case, a “module” refers to a single topic that a student studies over one or two semesters, e.g. Databases, Computer Networks, etc.
This question explores if computer ethics is being taught as a stand-alone module, or distributed throughout several modules, or a combination of both (Table 12). In the majority of institutions (38%), computer ethics is taught as a standalone module.
Which background does the person or people who teach ethics in your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes have? (choose all that apply)
The results presented in Table 13 show that staff teaching computer ethics at the surveyed institutions come from a wide variety of backgrounds, with many coming from multiple disciplines. The most represented discipline is Computer Science at 72%. However, a large number of those teaching computer ethics have backgrounds in Ethics, Philosophy and Law. Please note that respondents could choose more than one background and as such the percentage sum is higher than 100%.
Other backgrounds were provided by respondents in free text answers and included: “Economics”; “Linguistics, Cognitive Science”.
Which of the following teaching methods are used to teach ethics on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes?
Traditional approaches to teaching, such as “Lecturing” and “Case Studies” are the popular approaches to teaching computer ethics, with “Debates” and “Problem Based Learning” the next most popular pair of approaches (see Table 14). Guest Lectures are also relatively popular. Other methods listed in respondents comments includes:
Groupwork, Peer Instruction (using PeerWise), Student Discussions
Seminars and Guest lecturers from the Arts
Interviews with Researchers
How many teaching hours per semester is devoted to ethics on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes? (choose only one answer)
Just under half of all respondents (48%) indicated that they teach between up to 5 h per semester, in contrast to 18% of respondents who indicated that they teach computer ethics for 20 + hours per semester (Table 15). There is clearly a large difference to the amount of time the surveyed institutions devote to the teaching of computer ethics in Computer Science (and related) programmes Table 16.
Which ethical topics are taught on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes?
The most common topic is ethical issues with respondents commenting that these are topics specific to subjects (e.g. Data Science). Just over half of the respondents (51%) said that Code of Ethics from a professional body are taught at their institutions and exactly half (50%) teach Ethical Theory. Other topics mentioned in respondents comments included:
How is ethics assessed on your Computer Science and/or Computer Science related programmes? (choose all that apply)
The top three methods of assessing students’ understanding of computer ethics are Exams, Essays, and Presentations; three quite standard approaches to assessing Computer Science content. With much lower representation we find Quizzes, Portfolios, and Rubrics (Table 17). Some other approaches mentioned by respondents included methods such as Debates, Peer Instruction, and Discussion, and dynamic and real-world approaches such as Risk Analysis, Real Use Cases, and Videos.
Does your institution teach ethics as part of any of the computing topics outlined below? (These classifications are based on criteria by ACM – Association for Computing Machinery)
The survey used the European Research Council’s Peer Evaluation (PE) panel classifications of Computer Science (PE6) disciplines. The categories are as follows:
PE6_1: Computer architecture, pervasive computing, ubiquitous computing
PE6_2: Computer systems, parallel/distributed systems, sensor networks, embedded systems, cyber-physical systems
PE6_3: Software engineering, operating systems, computer languages
PE6_4: Theoretical computer science, formal methods, and quantum computing
PE6_5: Cryptology, security, privacy, quantum crypto
PE6_6: Algorithms, distributed, parallel and network algorithms, algorithmic game theory
PE6_7: Artificial intelligence, intelligent systems, multi agent systems
PE6_8: Computer graphics, computer vision, multi-media, computer games
PE6_9: Human computer interaction and interface, visualization and natural language processing
PE6_10: Web and information systems, database systems, information retrieval and digital libraries, data fusion
PE6_11: Machine learning, statistical data processing and applications using signal processing (e.g. speech, image, video)
PE6_12: Scientific computing, simulation and modelling tools
PE6_13: Bioinformatics, biocomputing, and DNA and molecular computation
Respondents to indicate “Yes” or “No” as to whether or not they taught ethical content for each topic. The results are presented in Fig. 2.
The PE6 areas considered to be most important in terms of teaching computer ethics were:
PE6_7 Artificial Intelligence, Intelligent Systems, Multi Agent Systems
PE6_5 Cryptology, Security, Privacy, Quantum Crypto
PE6_9 Human Computer Interaction and Interface, Visualization and Natural Language Processing
The PE6 areas considered to be least important in terms of teaching:
PE6_8 Computer graphics, computer vision, multi-media, computer games
PE6_1 Computer architecture, pervasive computing, ubiquitous computing
PE6_12 Scientific Computing, Simulation and Modelling Tools
It is perhaps not surprising that Artificial Intelligence, Security and Privacy ranked highly in topics that are taught as these are mentioned frequently by respondents as areas where there are important computer ethics issues to be considered, for example as indicated by responses outlined in Sect. 4.3.3 and Sect. 4.3.8. It is surprising however that pervasive and ubiquitous computing and simulation and modelling ranked so lowly on the list of topics taught given the important ethical dimensions to these topics.