Associate Professor

Philip Nickel

My research focuses on trust, agency, and human reliance, particularly in the context of technology. We rely on and through technology in most of our pursuits — but when do we have reason to trust it?

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Research Profile

Philip Nickel specializes on philosophical aspects of our reliance on others, including trust, consent, and testimonial belief.  Much of his research is in the domain of biomedical ethics, focusing on issues of consent and the mediation of care through technology and data. Data collection and analysis promises to transform the practice of medicine and improve health. How can we introduce this transformation in a way that also promotes other values besides health, such as fairness, and the human need for knowledge and understanding?  How do we have to re-think traditional values in biomedical ethics such as trust and consent, in view of these changes? Current teaching topics related to this research program include risk and safety, as well as the ethics of technology. 

Academic Background

Nickel received his doctorate in 2002 from the University of California, Los Angeles.  From 2003 to 2008 he was Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine.  He is the author of many articles on trust, epistemic agency, and the ethics of biomedical research and a regular guest speaker.  Philip has spoken on invitation of University of Oxford, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport, the Oxford Internet Institute, VU Amsterdam and elsewhere. In 2017, he began a multi-year interdisciplinary project in which the values of trust and consent are reconsidered in the context of mobile health care.  This project, entitled ‘Mobile Support Systems for Behavior Change’, examines network-based telecare systems (technologies and services that deliver health care to patients via software in the form of knowledge, coaching, persuasion, and self-monitoring). This was preceded by a project on trust in web-based telecare systems which ran in 2013-2014.

Educational Activities

  • Sustainable Technology in Society: Introduction
  • Safety in the chemical industry
  • Project on plasma medicine
  • Decisions under risk & uncertainty
  • Risk, trust and social media
  • Analysis and control of risk

Ancillary Activities

  • METC member, Maxima Medisch Centrum
  • Member of the committee, Medical research ethics committees united (MEC-U)