Ireland has assumed a significant role in data science in Europe. The world’s most powerful tech companies are headquartered here and decisions we make about data use have implications for Europe and the world. We also have considerable research strength in the field of data science, artificial intelligence, connected health and related fields.

Ireland has a responsibility to think critically about the ethical implications of technology. We have a responsibility to take a leadership role in shaping new ethical paradigms for technology.

As the largest data research centre in Ireland and one of the largest in Europe, the Science Foundation Ireland funded Insight Centre for Data Analytics established the Magna Carta for Data Project in 2014 as a statement of its commitment to ethical data research within its labs, and the broader global movement to embed ethics in data science research and development. The project looked quite different when it began. You can read about it here.

For two years Insight researchers surveyed the field, talked to experts and considered the imprint of their own work on the ethics space.
The consultations and enquiries of the Magna Carta Project to date have led us to the following conclusion: The space between ethical inquiry and technological research needs to be filled with information, expertise and evidence.

The greatest value we can offer as researchers is to examine our own work through an ethical lens, and share these examinations with others who can use them to build responsible frameworks for technological development.

This website is designed to provide a platform for researchers to explore ethics at the level of their own work. The Insight Centre for Data Analytics is generating ethics case studies directly from its own labs, some of which are already featured here on the website – there are many more to follow.

This is a resource for all stakeholders, not just the 400+ researchers at Insight. We are now actively seeking ethics case studies from across the Science Foundation Ireland Centres Programme here in Ireland. We are reaching out to data research institutions in the US, the United Kingdom and Europe. We plan to capitalise on Insight’s partnerships in Africa and Asia as the project develops.

What do we hope to achieve by building this resource?

• To encourage a culture, not only of ethical research, but of ethical examination of research by data scientists
• To provide a platform for discussion. Many researchers have ethical concerns about their research but nowhere to air those concerns
• To facilitate researchers who want to work in partnership with the social science research community.  ‘Ethical wash’ is a term researchers use to describe the practice of approaching an ethics expert and asking them to retrofit ethics onto an existing, often finished project. How can we help researchers who want to embed ethics in the architecture of a project?
• To bring data researchers and ethicists into a shared orbit, by showcasing projects where these collaborations have been successful.
• To provide an accessible resource for ethicists, human rights researchers and legal researchers with an interest in data ethics
• To create a public information resource that is welcoming to anyone interested in the ethics of technology, including (especially) the citizens upon whose lives technological research is having such a profound impact

The Data Ethics Case Studies Project is a grassroots initiative by the people at the forefront of data research. We invite data and technology researchers from all fields to submit a case study and help us to build a truly valuable resource.