Data Ethics’ future is cross-disciplinary: the US science foundation is willing to bet on it

October 2, 2017

The National Science Foundation in the US has just granted $3m to a study on data ethics designed to develop guidelines and other resources for researchers and industry. The University of Maryland is part of a six-institution collaboration called Pervade – over the next four years, Pervade wants to put together a clearer ethical process for big data research that both universities and companies could use.

Pervade brings together a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in computational science, research ethics, data practices, law and policy, health information, social computing, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and data privacy.

The team aims to use project findings to guide best practices for each stakeholder group using decision-support tools, risk measurement methods, public educational materials, and an open dataset of findings by the end of the project in 2021.

Data researchers and ethics researchers working in isolation cannot create the roadmaps required for responsible development in areas such as AI, data mining and smart cities. This large in investment is an overdue acknowledgement of the value of bringing ethicists and technologists together.

The case studies we are collecting as part of the Magna Carta for Data project here in Ireland will help to build the empirical knowledge required to development meaningful ethical frameworks for data science globally. We watch Pervade’s progress with interest.

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