During MozFest 2022, grantees from UC Berkeley, the University of Buffalo, and Santa Clara, Washington, and Harvard Universities came together to present their unique perspectives on building an interdisciplinary approach to responsible computing (panel page). From classes with more than 950 students to studio sessions with five students brainstorming around the table, these grantees have created 100 distinct classes with more than 15,000 students with faculty across the social sciences, humanities, and computer science. Thirty-two of our interdisciplinary contributors produced the Teaching Responsible Computing Playbook, which provides best practices for educating a new generation of students to think holistically about the design of new technologies. Building on the successes of this first cohort of grantees, the Responsible Computer Science Challenge will be expanding to include university partners in South Africa, Kenya, and India. In the next phase of our US-focused programming, the Responsible Computer Science Challenge will highlight humanistic approaches to responsible computing, with a keen eye towards engaging with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSI). The presenters for this panel are listed below.

At Santa Clara University, Irina Raicu presented the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics’ “Embedding Ethics in Computing Curricula” repository, which is a wealth of resources that include introductory modules, case studies, and assignments – each complete with notes for instructors and reviews from faculty and students. Raicu also highlighted how efforts from the curricula development initiative also translated to Santa Clara University’s annual “Hack for Humanity” event, where teams were required to not only generate projects that help the broader community, but also to analyze the ethical implications of the products they created.

The University of Buffalo’s Impossible Project similarly asks students to think expansively about their role in creating a more just world. In the last year, the faculty led by Dalia Muller challenged students to make computing anti-racist, inviting students to publicly and gloriously fail while thinking through impossibly difficult problems. In this failure, however, the Impossible Project gives students the opportunity to think at the edge of what is possible: to “build collective resilience, enhance true collaboration, nurture critical imagining, and discover purpose through dedication to social and planetary justice.” The Impossible Project represents interdisciplinarity at its best: between Kenneth Joseph and Atri Rudra in computer science and engineering, to Dalia Muller in history and Kimberly Boulden’s expertise in integrating social justice into STEM curricula, the Impossible Project pushes students to think creatively about historical inequality and technology.

Innovative approaches to undergraduate teaching also abound at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). Under the direction of Ron Cytron, students were challenged to think critically about data science through studio sessions, which involved 5-7 students around a table working on open-ended problems with no prerequisites, exams, or homework. “Studio groups form a natural setting to teach about ethics and responsibility,” said Cytron. To date, of the 7,000 students at WUSTL, one thousand of them take the introductory computer science course with the “Data Science Playground,” which emphasizes curiosity and exploration as students ingest, display, analyze, and discuss datasets.

At Harvard’s Embedded EthiCS program, philosophers collaborate with computer scientists to develop open source course modules that are a one-stop-shop for an instructor eager to implement responsible computer science teaching in their classroom. The development of these modules is often led by postdoctoral fellows like Trystan S. Goetze, Jenna L.A. Donohue, and William B. Cochran. From class agendas to sample class activities with assigned readings, these repository entries span topics like interpretability, fake news, cloud computing, and systems security. The program now typically provides modules for 12-14 courses each semester written by graduate students, postdocs, and faculty across computer science and philosophy.

By contrast, the approach led by Cathryn Carson at the University of California, Berkeley implements work at the intersection of data science and humanistic perspectives at scale: the centerpiece course of the Human Contexts and Ethics (HCE) program – “Human Contexts and Ethics of Data” – enrolls 950 students a year, while the “Principles and Techniques of Data Science” enrolls more than 2,500 students a year on a campus of 30,000+ students. As Carson underscored in the session, implementing a program like this demands resilience on the part of students and faculty. The social implications of technology necessitate intense conversations, and teaching a class to hundreds of students requires an additional layer of pedagogy: equipping hundreds of TAs to lead discussions that integrate humanistic perspectives throughout data science.

Throughout the panel, the speakers shared a pluralistic, interdisciplinary vision of what implementing responsible computing education could look like in different settings: through more bespoke, intimate studio experiences to more general modules that instructors can flexibly adapt for their own courses. By sharing both the benefits, joys, and roadblocks to how these programs unfolded in their home institutions, the grantees represent the best of a community working together to spark cross-disciplinary insight, promote collaboration, and grow responsible computer science initiatives in the university classroom and beyond.


  • Irina Raicu (Santa Clara University)
  • Kimberly Boulden, Kenneth Joseph, Dalia Muller, and Atri Rudra (University of Buffalo)
  • Ron Cytron (Washington University in St. Louis)
  • William Cochran, Jenna Donohue, and Trystan Goetze (Harvard University)
  • Cathryn Carson (University of California, Berkeley)

The Responsible Computer Science Challenge – funded by the Omidyar Network, Mozilla, Schmidt Futures, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, USAID, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies – supports the conceptualization, development, and piloting of curricula that integrates ethics with undergraduate computer science training. The hope is that the Challenge will unearth and spark innovative coursework not only at participating institutions, but also at additional colleges and universities across the country and beyond. Since December 2018, the Challenge has awarded $3.5 million in prizes to promising approaches to embedding ethics in undergraduate computer science education, as well as a set of teaching and leadership resources in the Teaching Responsible Computing Playbook. If you would like to contribute to the Playbook, please sign up here. If you are interested in contributing to the Responsible Computer Science Challenge more broadly, please sign up for the Global Teaching Responsible Computing Community here.