Ethics by Design

What is the problem?

There is a current lack of ethical awareness by researchers working on AI-assisted systems in EU framework programmes, and a lack of guidance provided to those researchers about specific issues arising from AI. The result is a risk of funding projects developing or involving AI which are damaging in terms of ethics and human rights.

Who should act?

Ethics sections in European Commission, in particular the EC’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation and the Research Executive Agency

The Recommendation

Promote Ethics by Design through the creation of Ethics for AI Training and Guidelines for Horizon Europe Researchers, and organisations outside the Horizon Europe framework

In preparation for calls involving AI-assisted systems in Horizon Europe:

  • Condense the body of knowledge on ethics, human rights, and AI, including mitigation measures, into training for researchers
  • Implement the best means of delivering this training to Horizon Europe-related projects and organisations within the EU more broadly
  • Include a requirement for evidence of ethical use of AI in the societal impact section of relevant Horizon Europe applications
  • Include a requirement for ethical use of AI in project research and development in the Ethics Self-Assessment section of Horizon Europe applications.

Key Considerations

In creating and/or implementing the training, key considerations are:

  • Ethical impact should be a starting point, not an add-on, to all Horizon Europe-funded research.
  • Some research uses AI-assisted systems and tools without being specifically AI research. All researchers using AI-assisted systems and tools, as well as those developing AI, need to be trained in the relevance of the ethical and human rights implications of AI.
  • Guidelines on Ethics by Design should be developed that clearly specify who should do what and how it should be done.
  • This recommendation needs to be implemented in accordance with the EU digital education action plan (2021-2027).
  • Training should cover:
  • Once available, the agreed method of Ethics by Design should be made available to organisations beyond the Horizon Europe programme.

SHERPA Contribution

SHERPA has produced an overview of ethical concerns arising in relation to AI.

SHERPA has produced 10 case studies demonstrating how ethical issues arising from AI impact on different sectors of the economy.

SHERPA has created sets of guidelines for operationalization of ethics by design for developers and for users of smart information, further developed by the SIENNA project. These can be used as a foundation from which to develop guidelines for Horizon Europe research applicants and organisations.

SIENNA project is developing a methodology for public research funding organisations to better take into account societal impact.