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Introduction to Responsible Innovation


Admission requirements

Intended for all BA3 students who successfully completed their first year-programme (propedeuse)


This is the introductory course for the Responsible Innovation minor. Technology plays an ever-increasing determining factor in our lives as individuals and society at large. New technological innovations contribute to human well-being, but they may also introduce considerable risks to humans, animals, the environment and future generations. As such, we have every reason to insist that the new technologies we develop as a society respect the values we hold dear. Various governments, companies and research funding agencies have now recognized this need for “responsible innovation.” Responsible innovation can, as a concept, be understood in a substantive and in a procedural sense. As a procedural notion, responsible innovation refers to a process of innovation that meets certain norms, like transparency, public engagement, and accountability (to stakeholders and to society). As a substantive notion, responsible innovation refers to a process of innovation that results in innovative technologies that reflect important moral values, including health, safety, human and animal welfare, sustainability, justice, inclusiveness, democracy, privacy, trust, and autonomy. In this introductory course we will learn about responsible innovation by studying these concepts and by focusing on some of the above-listed values, asking just how they can and should be implemented in our innovations. You will read, critically reflect on, and debate assigned readings. Your knowledge of these readers and your ability to implement this knowledge will be tested through two online exams, a design-exercise, a written policy brief, and two short group presentations.

Course objectives

After this course, students should be able to:

  • Identify various theoretical views regarding the nature of technology and its relation to ethical values.

  • Explain the meaning of the concept of responsible innovation.

  • Explain the meaning of the concept of value sensitive design

  • Think critically about whether and how values are embedded in technological innovations.

  • Implement the above-mentioned skills in a design-exercise and policy brief.

  • Give feedback and critically review work of peers.

  • Be able to develop a cogent written ethical argument pertaining to technological innovation in the form of a policy brief.

  • Be able to defend the key points developed in the policy brief in a concise and convincing presentation.


The timetable can be found in the right menu, under files

This course has 8 in-class meetings that will follow the following structure:

Class 1: Introduction
Class 2: Varieties of Responsible Innovation
Class 3: Value Sensitive Design
Class 4: Designing for the Value of Sustainability Guest Speaker: Geanne van Arkel.
Class 5: Designing for the Value of Human Well-Being
Class 6: Designing for Animal Welfare: Guest Speaker
Class 7: Technological Innovation as a Societal Experiment.
Class 8: Presentations/Pitches.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Course Load

Total course load 3 EC x 28 hours = 84 hours

  • Lectures: 17 hours per quarter (2 hours per week, except for the final class, which will be 3 hours)

  • Study of compulsory literature & assignments: 67 hours

Assessment method


  • Take-home exams

  • Design exercise

  • Policy brief

  • Presentation/pitch


  • Two Take-home exams (made available on Blackboard) on the material discussed in weeks 1-4 and weeks 5-8 (60% - Individual grade).

  • Design Exercise: A Zoo of the Future (pitched in class) (15% - Group grade).
    5 Minute Pitch + 500-700 word reflection

  • Policy Brief (15% - Group grade).
    Approximately 3500 words

  • Presentation/Pitch on the Policy Brief (10% - Group grade)
    Approximately 7 minutes


The students are allowed one re-sit per examination. It is not allowed to re-sit an examination or assignment for which they have received a pass (6,0 or higher). It is allowed to re-sit an examination or assignment which they haven't done during the first occasion. The re-sit format needs to be discussed with the teacher of the course in line with examination regulations.

In case the student is granted an extra re-sit by the Board of Examiners, this re-sit has to take place within study year 2019-2020. This means the students have to complete the minor within one study year.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.



In this course, Blackboard is used to present course information, notify of changes to the course and to make course materials available. Students can access Blackboard with their Leiden University (guest) accounts.

Reading list

This list is still tentative and subject to change:

  • René Descartes, Discourse on Method (Brief Excerpt)

  • Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (Brief Excerpt)

  • Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (Brief Excerpt)
    Verso, London/New York, 2005

  • Joseph C. Pitt “Guns Don’t Kill, People Kill”; Values in and/or Around Technologies”

  • Langdon Winner “Do Artifacts have Politics?”

  • Alvin Weinberg, “Can Technology Replace Social Engineering,” 1966 The University of Chicago Magazine.

  • Jeroen van der Hoven “Value sensitive design and responsible innovation.”

  • J. Stilgoe, R. Owen, & P. Macnaghten, P. “Developing a framework for responsible innovation.”

  • Batya Friedman, Peter H Kahn, Jr and Alan Boring, “Value Sensitive Design and Information Systems.”

  • Sabine Roeser, “Moral Emotions as Guide to Acceptable Risk”


Students need to register for the minor at their home university and in uSis Leiden, and for each individual course in uSis Leiden.

Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. T.W (Taylor) Stone


Not applicable