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Oct 9, 2016

Primer + Workshop Materials from Supporting Ethics in Data Research


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


In the era of big data, how do researchers collect, analyze, and store data ethically?

In Supporting Ethical Data Research: An Exploratory Study of Emerging Issues in Big Data and Technical Research, our Supporting Ethics in Data Research project digs into this question and examines the surrounding issues – from how to achieve informed consent from research subjects in big data research to how to store data securely in case of breaches. “Supporting Ethical Data Research” includes discussion of how libraries can collaborate with computer scientists to examine ethical big data research issues.

D&S researchers also held workshops with twelve to sixteen student researchers, professors, information technology leaders, repository managers, and research librarians at a handful of universities. The goal was to tease out the individual components of ethical, technical, and legal support that were available or absent on each campus, and to better understand the interactions between different actors as they encounter common ethical quandaries. We hope that others who are thinking through these issues will be able to make use of the workshop materials.

As always, we welcome your feedback: feedback at data society dot net.


The Supporting Ethics in Data Research project aimed to build 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 can act as partners to computer science and engineering researchers throughout the research process, including the use of third-party data. The project was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Dr. Rachelle Hollander, Director for the Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society at the National Academy of Engineering, served as a project advisor.