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Northeastern’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences, in collaboration with Northeastern’s Ethics Institute, received a Mozilla Responsible Computer Science Challenge Award to integrate ethics throughout the undergraduate computer science curriculum. All Khoury students already take a course on technology and society as part of their computer science degree program. This effort will build upon that foundation by developing a comprehensive practical ethics curriculum across the three main undergraduate degree programs in Khoury College: Computer Science, Cybersecurity, and Data Science.

The goals of this new curriculum are to:

  1. Foster broad awareness and understanding of the social and ethical dimensions of Computer Science systems and technologies
  2. Develop the critical perspectives and evaluative skills needed to conduct rigorous ethical analyses of computer systems and technologies
  3. Require application of these skills and perspectives to accomplish Value Sensitive Design of computer systems and technologies

The advantage of a Value Sensitive Design approach is that it encourages students to connect the practice of technology and system design with broader social, ethical, political, environmental, and economic issues. It does this by helping students to see that:

  • Project and design choices are always value-laden and that good design requires taking into account the full range of value at stake
  • All technologies and technological systems are social and historically situated, so their success (technical and social) requires that their design is sensitive to ethical, social, political, economic and environmental factors

A Value Sensitive Design approach to Computer Science ethics education is inherently collaborative between ethicists and computer scientists, and it requires developing courses that intertwine the ethics and Value Sensitive Design curriculum with the computer science curriculum.

More information about the Value Sensitive Design curriculum can be found here.