SHERPA | Shaping the ethical dimensions of smart information systems - a European perspective

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 03 June 2018



From 01/05/2018 to 30/04/2021

What are the ethical and human rights implications of Smart Information Systems?

In collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders, the SHERPA project will investigate, analyse and synthesise our understanding of the ways in which smart information systems (SIS; the combination of artificial intelligence and big data analytics) impact ethics and human rights issues. It will develop novel ways of understanding and addressing SIS challenges, evaluate with stakeholders, and advocate the most desirable and sustainable solutions. 

Why Now?

Smart Information Systems have reached a level of development that wil have a significant impact on individuals and society. Some examples of these technologies include Amazon’s Alexa home assistant, Google’s search engine, AI algorithms used in Facebook and other social media. Such SIS collect and process big data and use AI for analysis and decision-making, and have the most visible potential to raise ethical issues and affect human rights.

Now is the time to harness the benefits of SIS and simultaneously address their downsides. The SHERPA project is uniquely placed to guide the ongoing debate, focus it and develop actionable recommendations and advocate them to ensure that SIS promote the public good.

SHERPA's Approach

SHERPA aims to clarify and exemplify the ethical and human rights issues of SIS through a series of methods:

  • Developing 10 case studies and 5 future-looking senarios.
  • Spelling out ethical and social tensions and their role in the current human rights framework.
  • Working closely with 45 stakeholders throughout the project to conduct both a large-scale online survey of 1,000 European Citizens and a Delphi study with 60 experts.
  • 10 short videos to demonstrate the steps of the project.
  • Disseminate and Communicate these findings with stakeholders and the public

SHERPA will:

  1. represent and visualise the ethical and human rights challenges of SIS through case studies, scenarios and artistic representations
  2. work with a range of stakeholders to identify their concerns and preferred solutions (via interviews, a large-scale online survey, a Delphi study, a stakeholder board)
  3. develop and publish a workbook on responsible development of SIS
  4. present technical and regulatory options (e.g., terms of reference for a regulator)
  5. validate and prioritise the proposals through multi-stakeholder focus groups
  6. advocate, promote and implement the most promising solutions through targeted dissemination and communication activities

A series of case studies and senarios form the back-bone of this project. Some of the themes will centralize around:

  • Transportation of the future.
  • Healthcare applications.
  • Policing and the use of AI.
  • Warefare applications.
  • Identity theft and mimicing.








What is an ethical use of an AI or big data system? SHERPA has produced a set of guidelines that not only answers this question, but also answers it a way adapted to the governance and management of organizations that uses AI systems as part of its services.



  • Does Data Provide the Solution to Future Agriculture?  SIS (Big Data & Artificial Intelligence) are used in the agricultural industry to help the planting, seeding, and harvesting of crops, as well as farm management, plant and livestock illness and disease detection. However, the use of agricultural SIS may create a number of ethical concerns.
  • What are the impacts of AI on cybersecurity?  Cybersecurity has become an important concern both publicly and privately. In the public sector, governments have created and enlarged cybersecurity divisions to provide security to critical national security assets. In the private sphere, companies are struggling to keep up with the required need for security in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks from a variety of sources. How can Smart Information Systems can be introduced in cybersecurity? What are the benefits for society but also the ethical issues arising from the use of SIS in this domain?
  • Does AI make cities smart? This video gives you some introductory insights into the development of smart cities in a European context, the use and implementation of SIS in urban environments, and the kind of ethical issues faced by professionals.


The SHERPA consortium has 11 partners from six European countries (representing academia, industry, civil society, standards bodies, ethics committees, art).

  • Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at DMU (UK)
  • Universiteit Twente (Netherlands)
  • European Network of Research Ethics Committees (Germany)
  • University of Central Lancashire (Cyprus)
  • Depoorter Dries (Belgium)
  • Trilateral Research (UK)
  • Stichting Nederlands Normalisatie (Netherlands)
  • Mutual Shoots Ltd (UK)
  • Aequitas Ltd (Cyprus)
  • European Business Summit (Belgium)
  • F-Secure OYJ (Finland).

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