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Past Projects

2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008


DETECTER (Detection Technologies, Terrorism, Ethics, and Human Rights)



DETECTER was a three-year Collaborative Research Project under the European Union Framework 7 Security Programme that ran from 2008-11 at the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics,University of Birmingham. Prof. Sorell was Co-ordinator of the Project Consortium.

DETECTER identified human rights and other legal and moral standards that detection technologies in counter-terrorism must meet. It surveyed current and foreseeable applications of detection technologies in counter-terrorism, and conducted cutting-edge legal and philosophical research into the implications of human rights and ethics for counter-terrorism in general and detection technologies in particular.

DETECTER also successfully pioneered methods of discussing ethics and human rights issues with counter-terrorism professionals using detection technologies, and with technology developers in private meetings. Its research was constantly informed by these stakeholder interactions. DETECTER research examined:

  • the ethical wrongs of terrorism and the ethical risks of preventive counter-terrorism policing, including through use of privacy-invading technologies and profiling
  • the human rights implications of unilateral exceptions to international law, especially international law on privacy, a theory of which is also constructed and defended
  • the legal implications of data-mining in counter-terrorism, by reviewing data-mining programmes, critically assessing methods of evaluation for such programmes, and finally drawing conclusions about their compatibility with international law
  • the human rights implications of pre-screening immigration controls involving detection
  • technologies, and proposed a model for the issuance of humanitarian visas for safe travel to the EU
  • the legal possibilities for better regulation of surplus information gathered in the context of Internet monitoring for counter-terrorism purposes
  • the strengths and weaknesses of current monitoring mechanisms for counter-terrorism including technology use
  • the human rights risks of selected detection technologies, in particular location-tracking technologies, the privacy implications of which are analysed in detail

DETECTER Project Overview
Interview with Professor Tom Sorell
Interview with Professor Martin Scheinin


Ethics of Border Security

August 2010 – January 2011

Project led by Prof. Sorell at the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham, to study (a) codes of conduct for border guards in countries party to the Schengen Agreement; (b) issues raised by detection and identification technologies used at borders. This project results from an open tender process with Europe-wide competition. Funder: FRONTEX (European Borders Agency).

Innovation Voucher scheme research for Ethics Online

August 2010


Microfinance: a gap in the moral and political philosophy of poverty

2009 – 2010

Project Website
Project Blog

cropped-10-microfinance-institution-bandhan2.jpgThe AHRC Research Network on Microfinance was an explorative network of researchers from different disciplines – philosophy, politics, economics, development studies – as well as practitioners from the microfinance field. Its aim was to develop new ways of looking at issues related to microfinance. The network was based at the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham and was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council in the UK, led by Prof. Tom Sorell.

There were five meetings of the network in 2009-2010. The final meeting of the network also involved development agency civil servants. The network was the first in the UK to combine normative ethics and economic and development policy.


Corporate Social Responsibility

2008 – 2010

Project Website

The Centre for the Study of Global Ethics was a partner in an EU project awarded funding under the 2008 Progress Call in Corporate Social Responsibility. Professor Tom Sorell was the co-applicant.

The project aimed at the promotion of corporate social responsibility by way of a methodology for monitoring corporate observance of work related human rights, core labour and social standards as set out in the Decent Work Agenda and the Social Agenda of the European Union.

More precisely, the project evaluated CSR instruments and initiatives applied at the pan-European level and in the Member States. We are interested in rights at work and working conditions, social cohesion and inclusion, non-discrimination and gender equality. Our work resulted in a comprehensive guide that identifies best CSR practices to the various stakeholders and providing a basis for future policy measures.

Pandemic influenza and health care workers

Project Website

banner_pandemics.jpgPandemic influenza is one of the most urgent global public health threats. World Health Organization (WHO) models anticipate that pandemic influenza will start out as an avian flu virus that mutates into a form transmissible between human beings.

Once established among people in this form anywhere in the world, its spread to the rest of the globe will be speedy, even if current monitoring arrangements provide some early warning. The WHO writes that, ‘today a pandemic is likely to result in 2 to 7.4 million deaths globally. In high income countries alone, accounting for 15% of the worlds population, models project a demand for 134–233 million outpatient visits and 1.5–5.2 million hospital admissions. However, the impact of the next pandemic is likely to be the greatest in low income countries because of different population characteristics and the already strained health care resources’.

A University of Birmingham study was led by Prof. Heather Draper when seconded to the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics in 2008; The project. under the Research for Patient Benefit Programme of the National Institute for Health Research, UK Department of Health, looked at health care workers' attitudes to working during pandemic influenza. Prof. Sorell was on the research team and Dr Jon Ives, then attached to the Centre, was RF.