Re-thinking the ‘Ethics’ in ‘Innovation’: Open Source Research in Social Sciences

by | Jul 26, 2017 | Conference, Ethics, Innovation | 1 comment

Dear Everyone

It has been a few months now since the 1st Ethics in Innovation Conference Series, including the World Youth Forum for Ethics in Innovation (WYF 2017) in which 52 students from 29 different countries participated with enormous enthusiasm and commitment. Although the WYF 2017 took a very broad, multi-disciplinary and practical approach to the theme ‘Ethics in Innovation’, it also launched the first of its kind ‘Open Source Research’ platform inviting participation from all student-participants of the WYF, and also the general public. 

Here, I provide you the details of this Open Source Research project that will lead up to a series of blog posts and book publications that will serve as a useful tool for policy makers, lawyers, inventors, educators, corporate leaders and researchers the world over. With this post, I invite all readers to participate! For a background on what the broad overarching goals of the WYF 2017 and the linked Ethics in Innovation conference were, please see the previous posts here and here.

I. General Information

The book resulting from the Open Source Research Project will be a first of its kind multi-disciplinary book looking into the broad topic of Ethics in Innovation from a diversity of view points, spanning a wide range of cultures and disciplines. The focus areas will of course be the same as the 4 main focus areas of the Ethics in Innovation conference and WYF presentations, namely:

1. Innovation
2. Education
3. Corporate Social Responsibility
4. Leadership

Referred to hereinafter as the ‘4 focus points’

We have invited WYF graduates to submit case studies or articles on any one of the above 4 focus points, provided it still links up clearly and concretely to the overarching theme of the WYF/EII conference, namely, promoting ethics in innovation. In this regard, please see point number “II. Research Concept and Key Questions” below.

Editors: As the number of disciplines that the WYF participants all together might be covering is expected to be very diverse, I will put together a panel of expert editors to review any contributions that come in from disciplines other than law, for example, educational research or pure sciences. In relation to the contributions that are linked to the specific research questions of the WYF, I will be the primary editor. However, the larger book, including the contributions from experts, may also have other supporting editors and the publishing house will usually also conduct its own peer review before the final publication. 

I expect to publish the book either with Cambridge University Press, Routledge or Springer. (PLease note: this book project is different from and completely independent of the book project being done by me officially within the scope of my research at Max Planck, which relates primarily with law. Those who are submittind pieces on law will be considered for both books. Those submitting pieces that are not linked with law, will be considered only for this book – The Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition will not be a part of this book project as they do not have the necessary expertise and capacity for editing the volume inhouse. All submitting a piece for this books must first submit a blog post style contribution that will be put on the WYF blog or on this blog to invite public comments. The comments can then be incorporated into the final piece to the extent the author considers necessary. See below for further details.)

II. Research Concept and Key Questions

The research linked with the WYF is the first of its kind ‘Open Source’ type research is the social sciences where the basic research concept, together with research questions and example case studies are made available via an open platform such as a blog. In addition to my own blog (this one), each of you is welcome to submit case studies also on the WYF blog created by the WYF 2017 blog team (please see point “III. Open Platforms for Encouraging Public Engagement” for further information on this). This blog was created with the aim of keeping up the open source nature of the research till the publication of the book (and beyond).

Here is the WYF Blog Link again in case you want to post something right away :

The research linked with the WYF has two main prongs:

1. Fundamental Research Prong: Determining (through well developed case studies) whether the current definition and popular understanding of the term ‘innovation’ is inclusive and culturally sensitive. In other words, whether the definition of innovation (including its usage when preparing documents such as the ‘Global Innovation Index’) is itself ‘ethical’. More details about this prong of the research are available at this link: (please note that the language used here has been deliberately kept as simple, engaging, and non-legal/technical as possible in the light of the large diversity of disciplinary backgrounds and age and experience groups the participants of WYF belonged to. The final contributions will need to use more discipline specific terminology and neutral academic writing style).

2. Practical Research Prong: Identifying (through well developed case studies) ethical issues inherent in current and emerging innovations in the ICT sector.

All contributors are welcome and invited to think about and address these two research prongs in creative ways and not necessarily follow the chain of thought followed in my blog posts or in my or others’ case study examples. For example, you may want to look at these issues from the perspective of whether class room education at the primary level in your country is such that encourages students to also think about culture specific innovations or about innovations that bring forward traditional or cultural knowledge that may otherwise be dying out. From the Indian context, for example, I remember being taught principles of Vedic mathematics in primary school (without it being called Vedic maths), which made it easy for me to make complex calculations really fast. Today, these principles are no longer taught in most primary schools in India – which is perhaps a pity. Yet, principles of Vedic mathematics are now being used to develop complex software algorithms for large machines in order to make them more efficient).

Or, for example, you might want to bring in a case study that shows how algorithms used in social media platforms raise fundamental issues of ethics from the perspective of larger issues of democracy and governance in the 21st century multi-cultural society. 

Or you might come up with a case study (in relation to the practical research prong) on how an ICT innovation in your country effectively addresses a social/cultural issue that has major ethical/moral implications.

In order to keep things somewhat streamlined despite the diversity of approaches and disciplines, you are encouraged to look at these two research prongs and the case studies you formulate, from the perspective of the 4 focus points that you worked on during the WYF and the EII conference. 

Although case study research is a very broad research methodology that allows for variations in focus and breadth depending on the discipline in which the case study is placed, I provide herewith a primer on case study research (see attached). This primer is from the perspective of Educational Research that requires some degree of rigor while preparing case studies – I therefore find it useful as a starting point. However, I encourage you to research case study research examples within your own disciplines before preparing your contributions.

Contributors are required to pay special attention to the following points when compiling your contributions:

1. You are welcome to submit just a case study or a full blown article for the consideration by the editors. However, even in full blown articles, if the starting or central theme is linked to a real life example (e.g. a true case study or a real life news item), it would be very much appreciated as it will then link up nicely to the broad research approach adopted for the WYF research.

2. Please include a detailed segment in your contribution explaining the approach adopted by your for compiling and documenting the case study, citing to relevant literature as applicable and explaining in adequate details any departure from regularly followed norms (if any) in relation to case study research in your discipline. 

3. Please do clearly outline (preferably in the introductory segment of your contribution), how your case study/article links up to either the ‘Fundamental/Practical Research Prong’ described above.

4. Finally, as the aim of the book is to provide concrete guidance to policy makers at the highest level, we request you to make concrete recommendations, justifiable at least within the specific context of your case study, that can be given to policy/law makers who are involved with designing laws or policies associated with any of the 4 focus points. To carry forward my above example from Education, your recommendation might be (to put very simply here for sake of brevity) to make the education system such that does not focus only on ‘modern’ subjects but also imparts knowledge relevant to developing/innovating on traditional knowledge systems that are specific to the country/culture that may be the focal point of your study.

III. Open Platforms for Encouraging Public Engagement

As mentioned, the research is designed as a first of its kind multi-disciplinary ‘open source’ research in social sciences. This research method is what led to the the idea of the WYF blog. The blog created by the WYF blog team in the short span of 2 days is truly an excellent open forum for all of you to constantly contribute your work and thoughts into and engage others too in debate and deliberation in the true spirit of ‘open source’ research. 

We also encourage you to continue to use the hashtags #EthicsinInnovation and #WorldYouthForum2017 to promote any new content that is posted on either of the blogs, on various social media platforms – this is a wonderful way to engage your friends and colleagues in an open discussion on the views you post on the blog. All contributors can also post contributions in their own blogs and send us a link so we can publish the links on the WYF blog and this blog. 

IV. Writing Style and Final Output

Please use neutral academic writing style and avoid writing styles that are more close to journalistic approaches when preparing your contribution to the book. (Please note, however, that in your blog posts, the journalistic approach may be more effective in winning public interest and engagement. Even in the blog posts, however, I suggest providing links at appropriate places, as footnoting is not convenient or attractive in blog posts).

Also, we request that all contributions to be considered for the book follow this style and page limit:

1. Case studies: 8-12 typed pages (single spacing), including all footnotes, 12 font size, times new roman (footnotes can be in font size 10)
Articles: 15-25 typed pages (single spacing) including all footnotes, 12 font size, times new roman (footnotes can be in font size 10)

2. Please use footnotes, not endnotes and use OSCOLA referencing style as the guide for footnoting. OSCOLA can be downloaded here:

V. Deadline for submission

Please submit an extended abstract (1000-1500 words) of your piece by 15th November 2017 to
Please submit the final and complete contribution by 15th January 2018 to

Please watch this space for updates linked to the project! 

Late submissions may not be considered for inclusion in the book.