Moral responsibility in R&D networks

Technological research projects increasingly take place in networks, which involve different kinds of actors. These networks often lack a strict hierarchy and a clear task division, and in these networks decisions are subject to negotiation. This increases the likelihood of the problem of many hands, which is the difficulty to identify, even in principle, the person responsible for some outcome, if a large number of people is involved in an activity. The occurrence of this problem in R&D is especially undesirable because technological developments may have significant negative societal impacts, as is witnessed by such examples as the use of asbestos, CFCs, DDT, nuclear waste and the greenhouse effect.

This project will therefore study the problem of many hands in R&D networks. We conceive of this problem as the moral problem of the tension between two requirements for a desirable distribution of responsibilities in R&D networks. One is that the distribution ought to be complete in the sense that for each moral issue someone is responsible. The other is that the distribution ought to be fair. The goal of the research is to contribute to the solution of the problem of many hands in R&D networks by gaining insight in how to reconcile the requirements of completeness and fairness in the distribution of responsibilities in R&D networks.

Three partial projects will be carried out to attain this goal. The first develops a notion of moral responsibility that offers good chances for achieving a fair and complete distribution of responsibilities in R&D networks. The second will apply the theory of an existing formal model for responsibility to investigate the influence of the organizational structure of an R&D network on the achieving of a complete and fair distribution of responsibilities. Using case studies of R&D networks, the third investigates whether Rawls� notion of wide reflective equilibrium is a good starting point for achieving a complete and fair distribution of responsibilities. The research will result in a notion of moral responsibility and in designs for network structures that may help to overcome the problem of many hands in R&D networks.

More information

Funding

The project has been funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Related Scientific publications (selection)

forthcoming

  • Van de Poel, Ibo, Lamber Royakkers, and Sjoerd D. Zwart. forthcoming. Moral Responsibility and the Problem of Many Hands. Routledge.

2015

  • Nihlén Fahlquist, J.A., N. Doorn, and I.R. Van de Poel. 2015. "Design for the value of responsibility". In: Handbook of Ethics and Values in Technological Design. M. J. Van den Hoven, P. Vermaas and I.R. Van de Poel (eds.). Dordrecht, Springer.

2014

  • Doorn, N. 2014. "Assessment of an Ambient-Assisted-Living project: Between technology and application". In: Responsible Innovation Volume 1: Innovative Solutions for Global Issues. Eds. M.J. Van den Hoven, N.Doorn, T. Swierstra, B.-J. Koops, and H. Romijn (eds.). Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 309-322.

2013

  • Doorn, N., D. Schuurbiers, I.R. Van de Poel, M.E. Gorman (Eds) 2013. Early Engagement and New Technologies: Opening Up the Laboratory. Dordrecht, Springer.

2012

  • Doorn, N. 2012. "Exploring responsibility rationales in R&D" Science, Technology, & Human Values 37/3: 180-209. available online
  • Doorn, N. 2012. "Responsibility ascriptions in technology development and engineering: Three perspectives" Science and Engineering Ethics 18: 69-90 available online
  • Doorn, N., and I.R. Van de Poel. 2012. "Editors' overview: Moral responsibility in technology and engineering" Science and Engineering Ethics 18: 1-11. available online
  • Nihlen Fahlquist and Grill, K. Risker, ansvar och rattfylleri (Risks, responsibility and drunk driving). Socialmedicinsk tidskrift In Swedish.
  • Nihlen Fahlquist J. and I. van de Poel 2012. Technology and Parental Responsibility: The Case of the V-chip". Science and Engineering Ethics, online first, DOI 10.1007/s11948-010-9222-6.
  • Van de Poel, Ibo and Jessica Nihlen-Fahlquist. (2012). Risk and responsibility. In Handbook of Risk Theory, S. Roeser, R. Hillerbrand, M. Peterson and P. Sandin. Dordrecht: Springer: 877-907. available online
  • van de Poel, Ibo, Jessica Nihlen Fahlquist, Neelke Doorn, Sjoerd Zwart, and Lamber Royakkers. 2012. The Problem of Many Hands: Climate Change as an Example. Science and Engineering Ethics 18: 49-67. available online
  • Van den Hoven, Jeroen, Gert-Jan Lokhorst, and Ibo Van de Poel. (2012) Engineering and the Problem of Moral Overload. Science and Engineering Ethics 18(1), 143-155. available online

2011

  • Doorn, N. & Hansson, S.O. 2011. "Should probabilistic design replace safety factors?" Philosophy & Technology 24/2: 151-168. available online
  • Doorn, N. 2011. Moral Responsibility in R&D Networks: A Procedural Approach to Distributing Responsibilities. Delft: 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology. click to open pdf
  • Doorn, N., R.P.J.M. Raven, and L.M.M. Royakkers. 2011. "Distribution of responsibility in socio-technical networks: the Promest case" Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 23/4: 453-471. available online
  • Vincent, N, van de Poel & van den Hoven (eds) (2011) Moral Responsibility: Beyond Free Will and Determinism, Springer. available online

2010

  • Doorn, N. 2010. "A procedural approach to distributing Responsibilities in R&D networks" Poiesis & Praxis. International Journal of Technology Assessment and Ethics of Science 7/3: 169-199. available online
  • Doorn, N. 2010. "A Rawlsian Approach to Distribute Responsibilities in Networks". Science and Engineering Ethics 16/2: 221-249. available online
  • Doorn, N. 2010. "Applying Rawlsian Approaches to Resolve Ethical Issues: Inventory and Setting of a Research Agenda." Journal of Business Ethics 91/1: 127-143. available online
  • Doorn, N. 2010. "Responsibility ascriptions and organizational structure: The case of OSS communities" In M Arias-Oliva, TW Bynum, S Rogerson & T Torres-Coronas (Eds.), ETHICOMP 2010: The "backwards, forwards and sideways" changes of ICT . Tarragona, Spain: Universitat Rovira i Virgili: 118-126
  • Doorn, N. and J.A. Nihlen Fahlquist. 2010. Responsibility in Engineering: Towards a New Role for Engineering Ethicists Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 30/3: 222-230.
  • van de Poel, Ibo, and Sjoerd D. Zwart. 2010. Reflective Equilibrium in R&D Networks. Science, Technology & Human Values 35 (2):174-199. available online

2009

  • A. Herzig, T. de Lima, and E. Lorini. 2009. "On the dynamics of institutional agreements." Synthese, DOI: 10.1007/s11229-009-9645-2 available online
  • Doorn, N. 2009. "A Rawlsian Approach to Distribute Responsibilities in Networks." Science and Engineering Ethics (forthcoming).
  • Doorn, N. 2009. "Lotte Asveld and Sabine Roeser (Eds), the Ethics of Technological Risk." Science and Engineering Ethics 15/2: 259-261. available online
  • Doorn, N. 2009. "Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence; David Wright, Serge Gutwirth, Michael Friedewald, Elena Vildjiounaite, Yves Punic (Eds)." Science and Engineering Ethics 15/1: 125-127. available online
  • Doorn, Neelke. 2009. "Book review: Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence; David Wright, Serge Gutwirth, Michael Friedewald, Elena Vildjiounaite, Yves Punic (eds)" Science and Engineering Ethics" 15:127-129 available online
  • Nihlen Fahlquist, J.A. 2009. Moral Responsibility for Environmental Problems - Individual or Institutional? Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. click to open pdf
  • T. de Lima, L.M.M. Royakkers, and F. Dignum. 2009. "Behaving Responsible in Multi-Agent Worlds (Extended Abstract)." In K. Decker et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS 2009), May 10-15, 2009, Budapest, Hungary. pp. 1139-1140. available online

2008

  • T. de Lima, L.M.M. Royakkers, and F. Dignum. 2008. "Towards a Formalization of Responsibility." In G. Boella et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Normative Multiagent Systems NorMAS 2008, Luxembourg, July 15-16, 2008. pp. 66-79.

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