Responsible Research and Innovation: Health, Environment, Ethics and Technology


This course focuses on Responsible Research and Innovation applied to the digital domain. It provides conceptual, theoretical and empirical foundations for students to develop a transdisciplinary approach to dealing with the non-technical implications of technological innovation. Students will learn about the key concepts in the field (sustainability, reversibility, acceptability, anticipation, participation) as well as the main methods of technology assessment that enable them to better approach the contemporary challenges and controversies of the digital age. Based on contributions from experts from different backgrounds, the course sessions will cover a range of issues raised by digital technologies in terms of health, ethical, social and environmental risks.

Teaching and Learning Methods: The course consists of seven complementary sessions led by various experts in the field of digital technologies and impact assessment (university researchers, representatives of public regulatory and risk assessment agencies, consultants, business leaders). It is based on a participatory teaching approach, requiring the active involvement of students, both in class (discussions, presentations, tutorials) and at home (reading, web research, writing). A collective research project to formalise knowledge will be required and presented at the end of the course.

Course Policies: Attendance and punctuality at all course sessions are compulsory. Classwork/homework associated with each session is also compulsory and will be marked. Laptops or tablets are permitted for note-taking and practical work.


Relevant complementary materials:


The Climate Fresco.

Whether it's mobile telephony, wireless networks, personal activity on the web or the energy transition, advances in digital technologies have brought new functionalities that were both useful and unimaginable. These innovations are also having unexpected and undesirable impacts on society, imposing lifestyles and living conditions that do not necessarily meet everyone's needs. In particular, we now know that many of these innovations have raised major questions in terms of sustainability, safety and security, health and well-being, respect for privacy, and so on.
This course deals with responsible research and innovation as "a transparent and interactive process by which societal actors and innovators respond to each other with a view to the (ethical) acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products" (Von Schomberg, 2013). It provides conceptual, theoretical and empirical foundations to enable students to develop a transdisciplinary (socio-technical) approach to research and innovation aimed at understanding what technology does to society, and focused on the major issues that digital technologies raise in terms of risks to human health, ethics and the environment.


Four major socio-technical issues will be the subject of case studies: radio frequencies and health protection, communicating electricity meters and the energy transition, the environmental impact of digital technology, and assistive technologies and social inclusion. Relevant technological impact assessment methods will also be presented. Among these methods, particular attention will be paid to analysing the public controversies that accompany the deployment of certain emerging digital innovations. Understanding these controversies as forms of informal technological assessment will enable students to tackle the problems of social acceptability upstream of the innovation life cycle. 
The societal challenges of technological innovation will also be addressed from the perspective of research ethics. One session of the course will be devoted to the requirements and recommendations of the EU's Horizon Europe framework programme for identifying and dealing with ethical issues that may arise in research and development activities. 
On the action side, the students will cross the levels of analysis and methods of investigation in order to deal with: (1) the macro level of public debates and major technical controversies linked to the deployment of digital technologies; (2) the meso level of organisations, covering companies concerned with the social acceptability of their innovations as well as institutional players involved in the regulation of new technologies; (3) the micro level of citizen participation in the innovation process.

Program: November 2023 – January 2024

  • 27/11: Course outline, Introduction to RI and Research Ethics – Laura Draetta, Télécom Paris        
  • 04/12: IT for Energy Transition: Smart Grid & Energy Services – Filip Gluszak, WIT
  • 11/12: Health Issues: Digital technologies and EMF, Health Risk Assessment – Olivier Merckel, Anses
  • 18/12: Addressing public controversies as a methodological framework for Technology Assessment: case study and working session – Laura Draetta, Télécom Paris 
  • 08/01: Environmental Issues: Digital innovation, LCA and ecodesign – Julie Orgelet (DDemain)
  • 15/01: Social Issues: Assistive digital technologies and social inclusion – Marc Relieu, Télécom Paris        
  • 22/01: TP: Feedback from Students’ Research Projects.
Learning outcomes: At the end of this course, students will have acquired the keys to reading and general knowledge on responsible research and innovation that they will be able to use as future engineers in charge of developing digital technologies, but also as citizens and players in civil society.
They will be able to :
  • Understand the challenges of responsible research and innovation
  • Understand the key concepts in the field (e.g. sustainability, acceptability, reversibility, anticipation, participation) and apply them empirically
  • Understand, recognise and use the main technology assessment methods (LCA, health risk assessment, controversy analysis) to tackle digital innovation in the age of the risk society
  • Develop a critical perspective on the Science-Technology-Environment-Society relationship.Nb hours: 21.00


  • Continuous assessment based on MCQs, reading notes and class work (50% of final grade)
  • Group research project (50% of final grade).