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Digital ethics

As it is our aim is to develop and use new digital technologies responsibly, we evaluate ethical issues that may arise from algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and data-based business models in an early stage. Since 2021, our Digital Ethics Advisory Panel (DEAP) has been focusing on complex ethical issues surrounding digital technologies.

Roles and responsibilities

One of the main tasks of the DEAP is to support us in developing digital applications responsibly while addressing ethics questions that could result from collecting and processing data as well as from the use of these innovative technologies. It issues recommendations for our entrepreneurial activities.

The panel comprises external international science and industry experts from the fields of digital ethics, law, Big Data technologies, digital health, medicine, and data governance. In addition, we involve bioethics experts as well as representatives from patient organizations as needed. The DEAP has its mandate from the Executive Board; our employees may submit topics for the panel to discuss. As in the previous year, the panel held four meetings in 2023. These focused on issues concerning the use of generative AI. Summary minutes of the DEAP meetings have been accessible on our intranet since 2023 insofar as they do not contain any business secrets. They also document the recommendations issued.

Our commitment: Guidelines and standards

As a company, we want to position ourselves in the digital ethics sphere. We are therefore developing clear ethical standards in this new field, primarily for critical areas, for instance handling health data. In this effort, we collaborate with various stakeholders and experts.

Together with the DEAP, we apply our Code of Digital Ethics (CoDE) in order to address questions pertaining to the ethical use of data and algorithms. The CoDE serves as a guideline for our digital business models, as a tool for analyzing ethical challenges, and a basis for practical DEAP recommendations. As one of our overarching governance documents, it applies to all employees and is publicly accessible as well.

Developments in the field of generative AI, for instance ChatGPT, are growing in importance. All our business sectors are developing applications based on generative AI. To apply these innovative technologies responsibly and to the benefit of all, an ethical framework is currently being developed. The DEAP is intensively evaluating the guidelines. The aim is to roll out this framework company-wide in 2024.

Ethical use of data and algorithms

In June 2023, online training on the CoDE was assigned to approximately 12,000 managers with personnel responsibility who can access the training in eight languages via our internal training platform. In addition, an advanced training course is available specifically for employees working in the fields of data science, AI and other digital areas of specialization. The course serves to illustrate the importance of the CoDE and empowers participants to make responsible decisions concerning the ethical aspects of data use and algorithms in digital products and business models.

Since 2022, we have been looking at potential ethical risks that could result from projects by the Life Science Data Intelligence and Analytics unit of our Life Science business sector with the aim of developing suitable processes. The unit analyzes data from the business sector in order to obtain insights for our business.

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