"It's only a computing project – so there can’t be any ethical issues…"

Bowers, David (2018). "It's only a computing project – so there can’t be any ethical issues…". In: Computing Education Practice, 11-12 Jan 2018, University of Durham.

URL: http://community.dur.ac.uk/cep.conference/2018/pro...


For many years, BCS, the chartered institute for IT, has been requiring universities to demonstrate how they address Legal, Social, Ethical and Professional Issues (LSEPI) within programmes submitted for accreditation.

For equally many years, university departments have struggled to ensure that the 'dreaded LSEPIs' do appear somewhere. More recently, they have also needed to show how they are assessed – at least to some extent. But their integration into programmes still seems a little variable. In these days of burgeoning AI, deep mining of personal data (collected en masse, and sometimes without explicit permission), 'ethical' hacking, robotics and autonomous vehicles, do we need to reset the 'ethics' metric?

For example, can we be doing enough when claims of the form of the title still appear from time to time in student projects? The final year project is usually designed to be a synoptic capstone – so, if we really have covered LSEPIs, and specifically ethics, within a programme, then surely there should be a more considered reflection on ethics within the project report? And a considered reflection, not just a tick-box exercise such as seems to be adopted by many university ethics clearance committees...

In this talk, I shall aim to stimulate a discussion about just how pervasive ethics – and related LSEPIs – should be in our curricula, drawing on my experiences as an external examiner, a member of BCS accreditation panels, a BCS chartered membership assessor and – for more years than I care to remember – programme director for undergraduate computing at the Open University.

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