Sloan Foundation funds Ethics in Data Research exploratory project

(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0-licensed photo by Biblioteca Centro Lincoln.)

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is supporting a project by Data & Society to better understand the needs of computer science researchers as they navigate emerging issues of privacy, ethics, and equitable access to data at different phases of the research process.

New and complex data sets raise challenging ethical questions about risk to individuals that are not sufficiently covered by computer science training, ethics codes, or Institutional Review Boards. The use of publicly available, corporate, and government datasets may reveal human practices, behaviors, and interactions in unintended ways, creating the need for new kinds of ethical support.

Qualitative interviews with computer scientists, librarians, and ethicists or key staff at professional associations will be combined with a literature review to examine various levers for providing support for ethics issues in computer science research. Through mapping the results of our investigation, this project seeks to explore the current and potential collaboration between academics, librarians, funders, nonprofits, and other stakeholders in supporting ethical oversight of data-intensive research.

This exploratory project builds on the emerging support systems, including assistance from the research library, for computer science researchers that has resulted from Data Management Plans required by federal funders. Drawing on their data management skills and knowledge of information ethics, academic librarians may be well poised to act as partners to computer science and engineering researchers throughout the research process, including the use of third-party data.

The project will be led by Dr. danah boyd, founder and president of Data & Society, and Bonnie Tijerina, a Data & Society fellow and founder and president of Electronic Resources & Libraries. Dr. Rachelle Hollander, Director for the Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society at the National Academy of Engineering, will serve as project advisor. Emily F. Keller will serve as the project coordinator.

For more information about the Supporting Ethics in Data Research project, contact sder-project at datasociety dot net.