Professor Karen Yeung

Professor Karen Yeung

Birmingham Law School
Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Karen Yeung is the University of Birmingham’s first Interdisciplinary Chair, taking up the post of Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics at the University of Birmingham in the School of Law and the School of Computer Science in January 2018.  She has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Melbourne Law School since 2016. Together with Andrew Howes and Ganna Pogrebna, she informally supports a group of over 90 researchers from a wide range of disciplines from across the University under the theme of ‘Responsible Artificial Intelligence.’

Karen is actively involved in several technology policy and related initiatives in the UK and worldwide, including initiatives concerned with the governance of AI, which is one of her key research interests. In particular, she is a member of the EU’s High Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (since June 2018) and a member and rapporteur for the Council of Europe’s Expert Committee on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence (MSI-AUT). Since March 2018 she has been the ethics advisor and member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Digital Medicine for the Topol Independent Technology Review for the NHS. Between 2016-2018 she was the Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Genome Editing and Human Reproduction and during this period she was also a member of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Biotechnology.

Her recent publications include The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (co-edited with Roger Brownsword and Eloise Scotford) in 2017, and she is joint author of the Royal Society-British Academy report, Data management and use: Governance in the 21st Century (2017). She is admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria (Australia), having completed a brief stint in professional legal practice. Karen is on the editorial boards of Big Data & Society and Public Law. As an Interdisciplinary Chair, she is keen to foster collaboration between academics from across a range of disciplines, and to initiate dialogue between academics and policy-makers across various disciplines concerned with examining the social, legal, democratic and ethical implications of technological development, and in seeking to promote informed, inclusive and human-centred technology policy-making and implementation. 


  • Doctor of Philosophy in Law (D Phil), Oxford University
  • Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), Oxford University
  • Bachelor of Laws (LLB (Hons)), The University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Bachelor of Commerce (BComm), The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Admitted to practice as a Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.


Karen came to the United Kingdom from Australia in 1993 as a Rhodes Scholar to read for the Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford University, after completing a combined Law/Commerce degree at the University of Melbourne. She spent ten years as a University Lecturer at Oxford University and as a Fellow of St Anne’s College, where she wrote her D Phil, before taking up a Chair in Law at King’s College London in September 2006 to help establish the Centre for Technology, Law & Society (‘TELOS’), occupying the role of Director since 2012 until the end of 2017.å

Postgraduate supervision

Karen welcomes exceptional PhD students interested in critically examining the legal, democratic and ethical dimensions of a suite of technologies associated with networked computational systems, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence (including various forms of machine learning), distributed ledgers (including blockchain) and robotics.  

Karen also welcomes outstanding PhD students and early career academics from other Universities who are interested in visiting the University on submission of a CV and suitable research project proposal (interested applications should send their request to visit to


Karen’s research expertise lies in the regulation and governance of, and through, new and emerging technologies.  Her work has been at the forefront of nurturing ‘law, regulation and technology’ as a sub-field of legal and interdisciplinary scholarship.

Karen’s recent and on-going work focuses on the legal, ethical, social and democratic implications of a suite of technologies associated with automation and the ‘computational turn’, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence (including various forms of machine learning), distributed ledger technologies (including blockchain) and robotics. The overarching aim of her research is to enrich our understanding of the capacity and potential of these technologies to inform decision-making and to influence and co-ordinate individual and collective behaviour across a wide range of policy domains through the broad lenses of ‘Algorithmic Regulation’ and ‘Algorithmic Accountability’. She is currently undertaking series of inquiries which, taken together, seek to explore their implications for normative values associated with liberal constitutional democracies, including:

  • democracy and democratic governance, including the need for public participation in their design, construction and implementation, and the value weightings and trade-offs that are hard-wired into system development and operation;
  • constitutional values, including transparency, accountability, due process, proportionality and the rule of law;
  • individual rights, freedom, autonomy and human dignity;
  • equality, community, social solidarity and distributive justice; and
  • the allocation of decision-making authority, responsibility and liability between humans and machines.

In pursuing these aims, Karen draw upon a broad range of disciplinary perspectives from the humanities, social sciences (and increasingly, the computer sciences), including law, applied ethics (professional ethics, bioethics, information ethics, machine ethics and robot ethics), political theory, political science, regulatory governance studies, the philosophy of technology, the sociology of science (including STS and innovation studies) and criminology. Her most recent work has involved collaborations with AI researchers and data and computer scientists and she has recently been awarded a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in the Social Sciences to lead an interdisciplinary project which seeks to map the legal, ethical, technical and governance challenges associated with regulating healthcare through blockchain.



Last 10 years only

  • Algorithmic Regulation (2019, forthcoming) jointly edited with Martin Lodge, Oxford University Press
  • The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (2017). Jointly edited with Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, Oxford University Press.
  • Regulating Technologies: Legal Futures, Regulatory Frames and Technological Fixes (2008).  Jointly edited with Roger Brownsword: Hart Publishing.
  • An Introduction to Law and Regulation (2007) Jointly authored with Bronwen Morgan, Cambridge University Press, Law In Context series .
  • Securing Compliance (2004) Hart Publishing 

Reports and Grey Literature

Articles in Peer-review journals

Last 10 years only

  • 'Big Data and Personalized Price Discrimination in EU Competition Law' (2017) Yearbook of European Law 1-66; doi.1093/yel/yex015 (co-authored with Chris Townley and Eric Morrison)
  •  'Algorithmic Regulation: A Critical Interrogation' (2017) Regulation & Governance doi:10.1111/rego.12158. 
  • 'Hypernudge: Big Data as a Mode of Regulation by Design', (2017) 20(1) Information, Communication & Society 118-136 (Special Issue on the Social Power of Algorithms)
  • 'The Forms and Limits of Choice Architecture as a Tool of Government' (2016) 38 (3) Law & Policy 186-210 (Special Issue on Nudge)
  • “Political Theory, Reflective Equilibrium and the Project of Legitimating Public Health Interventions: A Reply to Latham’ (2016) 9:2 Public Health Ethics 153-154; Special issue on republicanism and health;
  •  'How Can the Criminal Law Support the Provision of Quality in Healthcare?' (2014) 23 British Medical Journal (Quality and Safety) 519-524 (jointly authored with Jeremy Horder QC);
  •  'Better Regulation, Administrative Sanctions and Constitutional Values' (2013) 33: 2 Legal Studies 312-339
  •  'Nudge as Fudge' (2012) 75(1) Modern Law Review, 122-148
  •  'Regulating Assisted Dying' (2012) 23:2 King’s Law Journal 163-179
  •  'Can We Employ Design-Based Regulation While Avoiding Brave New World?' (2011) 3 Journal of Law, Innovation and Technology 1-30
  •  'Why is UK medicine no longer a self-regulating profession: The role of scandals involving ‘bad apple’ doctors' (2011) 74:3 Social Science and Medicine, 1-8 (with M Dixon-Woods and C Bosk)
  • 'Design-based regulation and patient safety: a regulatory studies perspective' (2010) 71 Social Science and Medicine, 502-509 (with M Dixon-Woods)
  • 'Modernising medical regulation: where are we now?' (2010) 24:6 Journal of Health Organization and Management 540-555 (with J Waring and M Dixon-Woods)
  •  'Presentational Management and the Pursuit of Regulatory Legitimacy: A Comparative Study of Competition and Consumer Regulators in the UK and Australia' (2008) Public Administration, 274-294;

Chapters in edited books

  • K Yeung, 'Blockchain, Transactional Security and the Promise of Automated Law Enforcement: The Withering of Freedom under Law? (2017) in Otto, P and Graffe, E (eds.) 3TH1CS - The reinvention of ethics in the digital age? iRights.Media, Berlin.
  • R Brownsword, E Scotford and K Yeung, ‘Law, Regulation and Technology: The field, the frame and the focus.’ (2017) in R Brownsword, E Scotford and K Yeung (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press
  • K Yeung, ‘Are human biomedical interventions legitimate regulatory instruments?’ (2017) in R Brownsword, E Scotford and K Yeung (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press
  • K Yeung, ‘Design for Regulation.; 2015. In Handbook of Ethics, Values and Technological Design, edited by M J van den Hoven, P E Vermaas and I van de Poel. Dordecht: Springer
  • K Yeung, ‘The Regulatory State.’ 2011. In The Oxford Handbook of Regulation, edited by R Baldwin, M Cave and M Lodge.  New York: Oxford Univ. Press 64-81
  • K Yeung, ‘Towards an Understanding of Regulation by Design.’ 2008. In Regulating Technologies: Legal Futures, Regulatory Frames and Technological Fixes, edited by R Brownsword and K Yeung. Oxford: Hart Publishing, Oxford at 79-107
  • K Yeung, ‘Regulatory Agencies.’ 2008. In The Oxford Companion to Law, edited by P Cane and J Howse, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press

Multimedia links

Law Pod UK episode 34: podcast – Will AI outwit our laws?

Council of Europe

Commenting on first meeting of Europe’s Expert Committee on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence (MSI-AUT)

Deep dive:

The World Economic Forum: Regulation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

How can regulators assess the risks and mitigate them sensibly without stifling the enormous potential benefits that Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies have to offer? In episode 5 of ‘Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, we examine some of the emerging tools regulators are developing to blunt the horns of this particular dilemma. We are joined by Karen Yeung, Interdisciplinary Chair in the Law School and School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham; Nita Farahany, Professor of Law and Philosophy at Duke University; Dave Guston, Co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University; Wendell Wallach, Chair of Technology and Ethics Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale University; Gillian Hadfield, legal scholar and author of ‘Rules for a Flat World’; Rob Sparrow, ethicist and Professor at Monash University in Melbourne; Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School; and Professor Kyong-Su Yi, Head of the Vehicle Dynamics and Control Lab at Seoul National University.


Podcast interview with Dr John Danaher discussing her concept of ‘hypernudging’ and how it applies to the debate about algorithmic governance.

Gene editing and human reproduction

Editing the embryo: removing harmful gene mutations - Science Weekly podcast

Hannah Devlin explores the science and ethics behind a landmark study that successfully edited the genomes of developing embryos. How did they do it? What did they hope to achieve? And, further down the line, what kind of doors might research like this open? 

King’s College London: Law and a Decade of Technological Change

King’s College London: The ethics and implications of regulating robots

In 2017 European lawmakers called for legislation and an ethical framework to regulate robots, rejecting a ‘robot tax’ for owners which would have funded support for or retraining of people put out of their job by robots.  In this podcast, Dr Matthew Howard, Informatics, and Professor Karen Yeung, Law, discuss the decision.

King’s College London: What happens to our data? Artificial intelligence and our lives

Professor Yeung is working on trying to understand the consequences of the rise of algorithmic power, which she hopes will ultimately lead to effective and legitimate governance mechanisms to secure algorithmic accountability.  Her recently published work on Algorithmic Regulation and, together with colleagues Roger Brownsword and Eloise Scotford, published The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology.  Devising solutions, however is still in early stages according to Professor Yeung. The challenge is to come up with effective and legitimate mechanisms that will properly govern these systems, whilst allowing us to reap the benefits of our ever-advancing technology. This, she says, must include mechanisms that will extend to the practices and policies of the global corporations who collect and currently govern our data.


Human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence 

Responsible AI 

Genome editing and human reproduction

The opportunities AI presents 

Data governance

The social, legal, democratic and ethical implications of technological development

Governance of emerging technologies

The legal and ethical governance of AI systems (including robotic systems)

The social, legal, democratic and ethical implications of technological development