Sept. 25, 2019
Contact: Judith Cebula

Grants Will Help IU and Purdue Incorporate Ethics

into Digital Technology Curricula


INDIANAPOLIS – As artificial intelligence and Big Data management technologies increasingly influence everyday life, it is important that the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and other professionals are thoughtful about the ethical implications of their work. Two of Indiana’s major research universities are preparing to lead the way with support from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Indiana University and Purdue University have received planning grants to explore how their students and faculty can become more aware of and better prepared to address the ethical challenges presented by fast-evolving digital technologies, especially in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data management.

Purdue will use a $491,043 grant to create Leading Ethically in the Age of AI and Big Data, an effort to be convened by Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts and overseen by a steering committee from across the university.  IU will use a $348,980 grant to launch Ethics, Values and Technology: Developing Character for a Digital World, which will be housed at the IU Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture.

Purdue and IU will work together, sharing what they learn as each effort unfolds.

“It is imperative that students today be prepared to address responsibly the ethical implications of the ever-expanding digital technologies that will be so much a part of their lives and future careers,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “Character development has been a long-standing interest of Lilly Endowment, and we are pleased that Purdue and IU are collaborating on developing curricula and programs for their students that will instill ethical values while teaching relevant scientific and technological principles.”

The Purdue effort will focus on creating a model for professional ethics at the intersection of liberal arts discourse and technological innovation. Convened by the College of Liberal Arts and overseen by a steering committee representing disciplines from across the university, the effort will bring together national experts in academia, business, government and other fields to discuss how to foster certain character and ethical values in their students as they learn the science and technology relating to digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence and Big Data management.

Purdue’s goals are to develop a blueprint for professional ethics curricula for students at various levels; lay the foundation for a professional ethics education project to be based at Purdue; and create a process whereby multidisciplinary efforts already underway across the university will address professional ethics in relation to A.I. and data management.

“All sectors of society are concerned about professional ethics in the context of artificial intelligence and data science,” said David Reingold, the Justin S. Morrill Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue and a professor of sociology. He will help direct the Purdue effort. “While there are many edges of concern, there is consensus that leaders need both an understanding of the ethical implications and the possibilities of AI and data management.”

The IU effort will build on numerous existing programs that tackle ethics in various professional and academic fields and will have six focus areas: life sciences; AI; digital communications (including social media); national and homeland security; the intersection of business, finance and law and justice; and the intersection of digital arts and humanities, education and research. IU’s goal is to develop an integrated curriculum to prepare students and faculty to confront current and future ethical challenges in an increasingly digital word.

The effort will be led by a steering committee of faculty from a cross-section of disciplines at IU, including law, medicine, business, philanthropy and the humanities.

“Digital technologies – from artificial intelligence to genetic engineering – present new challenges to society,” said IU Vice President for Research Fred H. Cate. “This planning grant will provide critical support for IU to collaborate with Purdue to build curricula and programs that better prepare students to address these challenges. We are deeply grateful to Lilly Endowment for its leadership in this critical area.”

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion.  Although it funds programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.