Ethics in Computer Sciences

On day 2 there will be 2 Ethics in Computer Sciences sessions in the Afasroom from 9.15 till 10.05 and from 11.30 till 12.20.

Computers are omnipresent these days, almost everyone carries a smartphone, browses the web and uses cloud services. The wide-spread use of computers creates interesting opportunities for computer science research. Performance of devices and services can be measured, data flows can be monitored, and security of software can be studied.


What many researchers do not yet realise is that these studies may also impact users. This can be directly by monitoring their behaviour, or impacting performance, but also indirectly by breaking security measures such as vulnerabilities, or encryption. This could mean that there are ethical aspects to computer science research.

This session explores how theses ethical aspects of computer science research can be identified and assessed. Existing initiatives for ethics committees in computer science will be presented, along with recommendations on how to initiate new ethics committees. The second session will focus on aligning existing and new initiatives of ethics committees in computer science.



Jan Bergstra 

Jan Bergstra studied mathematics at Utrecht University, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1976.  Subsequently he was employed as a theoretical computer scientist, initially at Leiden University, and afterwards at CW&I, Amsterdam. Next, he was employed for 32 years at the UvA until 2016. 
Presently, he is program manager of the UvA Master's Forensic Science. In parallel he is active as independent project advisor.


Title: Ethical and Legal Aspects of Informatics Research​

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has recommended the installation of ethical review boards for informatics research (abbreviated as ERBI). Cooperation, mutual learning and knowledge-sharing between ERBIs  would give rise to a common review mechanism that is both transparent and distinguishable  as such. According to the advisory report, the presence of an ERBI would not discharge individual researchers from the responsibility of addressing potential ethical and legal dilemmas in their work. The report recommends a number of ways to raise awareness among researchers, for example by drawing up a code of conduct, appointing an ethical adviser, and making training in ethics and academic integrity a desirable part of a researcher’s education. 


Thamar Zijlstra

Ms. Zijlstra, political scientist by education and is consultant standardization in, among others, csr and management at NEN. NEN is the Dutch standardization organization, national member of the CEN and ISO networks. Within the European project SATORI, NEN facilitates the development of a pre-standard on ethics assessment for research and innovation. Connect on LinkedIn.


Title: Ethics committees: good practices set the standard

EU FP7 SATORI project aims to develop a harmonized approach towards ethics assessment of R&I, while exploring differences in values, principles and research practices between different countries, organisations and scientific fields. Having confidence in science is immensely important, however, many sensitive topics in this field give us ethical dilemmas. Well established agreements, with all stakeholders involved on different sensitive topics will generate better public acceptance and a better image of science.

This has resulted in a draft CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) which sets requirements and provides guidelines for ethics assessment of R&I. A CEN CWA is a European standard, developed by all relevant stakeholders including organizations or individuals involved in the process of research and innovation: researches, universities, ethics committees and assessors, research organizations, industry, funding agencies etc.

Netherlands Standardization Institute (NEN), SATORI partner and member of Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN), is in charge of facilitating the consensus process to come to the CWA. The objective of the CWA is to come to widely supported agreements on ethical assessment for all scientific disciplines.

The CWA consists of two parts. The first part provides organizations and individual researchers a practical tool to help them establish and run an ethical assessment unit, which will in turn strengthen and improve the ethics assessment of their research practices. 

The second part of the agreement provides researchers and ethics assessors a "how to" for ethical impact assessment, a practical, policy-oriented guide aimed at the different stages of the ethical impact assessment process.