RDA – Ethics and Social Aspects of Data (ESAD) Interest Group Case Statement

07 Apr 2015

RDA – Ethics and Social Aspects of Data (ESAD) Interest Group Case Statement

This interest group seeks to create a dedicated space in RDA to discuss ethical and social issues with respect to data archiving, sharing, and reuse. Ethical and social issues occur frequently within the technical and policy work of the rest of RDA. Such issues are complementary to but separate from legal and regulatory aspects which other groups cover, since technology usually outpaces legal precedent, and law itself is underpinned by ethical agreements and social contracts. Our group differentiates itself from other RDA efforts by focusing on the ethical agreements and social contracts that inform and constrain data sharing practices.


Primary points of inquiry include the following:

  1. Understanding the kinds and types of data that can be archived and reused and under what circumstances. How are agreements negotiated and are they upheld throughout the data sharing process?;

  2. Educating researchers, respondents, administrators, ethics bodies, etc. in the exigencies of data sharing and community supported ethical standards;

  3. Understanding the grey and difficult areas of research that present unique challenges for data management, such as “dangerous”, legacy, retrospective, medical, or passively collected data;

  4. Developing policies and guiding practices that encourage (or, where appropriate, enforce) the ethical sharing of data that protects both the researcher and the respondent;

  5. Exploring the social obligation to communities where data is collected, whether that be individuals, families, or whole societies. What are the grand social obligations and ethical issues related to data reuse?;

  6. Identifying emergent issues with potential implications for data sharing: new technologies and tools, scholarly practices, commercial data use, etc.


The Ethics and Social Aspects of Data Interest Group is open to all RDA members.


The Ethics and Social Aspects of Data group will be considered a success if it generates policies and practice documents providing guidance in challenging ethical situations related to data reuse. Additionally, the group will be a success if it creates a space and continued conversation about the ethical dilemmas that arise from new data sharing practices (both technical and social) within the RDA. This interest group will also, where appropriate, serve as a springboard for one or more working groups focused on specific situations and developing ethical practices and piloting those recommendations (e.g. how to ethically incorporate future data sharing into consent forms for human-subjects research).

Mechanism and Coordination

  1. Face-to-Face: This group will meet at plenaries to finalize the agenda for the coming 6 month period, to share progress with other RDA groups, and to host important conversations about the ethical and social implications of data sharing.

  2. This interest group will take advantage of RD-Alliance.org’s native capabilities to communicate and collaborate. These include monthly or bi-monthly telecommunications (go-to-meeting) with a planned agenda for discussing specific issues/ cases and continual collaboration to the group wiki.

All interest group documents will be made publically available and be promoted to the RDA community.

Timeline (subject to change)

  • March 2014: Kalpana hosted a Birds of a Feather session in Dublin to establish interest; was positively received.

  • March 2015: Second Birds of a Feather session:

    • found several candidates to co-chair with Kalpana,

    • documented ethical issues that group members are interested in exploring,

    • established the need for a “gaps” analysis to document what is already available and where the broader data science community has overlooked ethical issues, and

    • discussed several IGs that are potential collaborators (Data Fabric, Digital Practices in History and Ethnography, Education and Training on handling of research data, and Engagement interest groups).

  • Spring/Summer 2015:

    • Apply for an RDA Data Share Fellow to work on documenting the state of the field.

    • Submit and have IG charter approved.

  • September 2015: Plenary 6 - First official session as an Interest Group.

    • Share summer work (Data Share Fellows outputs) with members;

    • Host a joint-session with another interest group on a mutual topic of interest; (use of commercial software with EULA’s that contradict open data principles? Evolving challenges for informed consent forms? Etc.)

    • Preliminary new Working Group identification.

Potential Group Members

Co-chairs: Kalpana Shankar, Candice Lanius





Dr. Kalpana Shankar

kalpana.shankar@ ucd.ie

ESAD IG Co-chair; Lecturer in the School of Information and Library Studies, University College Dublin

Candice Lanius

laniuc@ rpi.edu

ESAD IG Co-chair; RDA/US Resident, PhD Student Communication & Media, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Andy Turner

A.G.D.Turner@ leeds.ac.uk

Researcher in Computational Geography, University of Leeds, UK

Celia Emmelhaiz


Data Librarian, Colby College

Christine Kirkpatrick

ckirkpatrick@ ucsd.edu

CTO/IT Director, San Diego Supercomputer Center

Dessi Kirilova


Fellow at the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs and the Consortium on Qualitative Research Methods, Syracuse University

Dr. Elizabeth Griffin

Elizabeth.griffin@ nrc.ca

Researcher at Dominion Astrophysical Observatory; Chair of IAU’s “Preservation and Digitization of Photographic Plates” group; Chair of CODATA “Data at Risk” group.

Dr. Gilles Adda

Gilles.adda@ limsi.fr

Director of IMMI/CNRS Labs; Co-writer of “Ethics and Big Data Charter” initiative in France.

Dr. Inna Kouper

inkouper@ indiana.edu

Researcher, Data to Insight Center, Indiana University; Co-chair Engagement IG

Julia Collins

collinsj@ nsidc.org

Software Engineer and Metadata Architect, CU/CIRES National Snow and Ice Data Center

Dr. Libby Bishop

Ebishop@ essex.ac.uk

Data Archivist/ Manager in the Research Data Management section of the UK Data Archive

Dr. Marco Scarselli


Sociologist, consultant for SMEs (Italy)

Mike Usmar


CEO/ Managing Director at High Tech Youth Network

Dr. Oya Beyan

Oya.beyan@ insights-centre.org

Researcher in Biomedical Informatics at NUIG @ Insight

Robert Quick


IT Specialist at Distributed High Throughput Computing Operations, Indiana University

Dr. Sarah Olesen

sarah.olesen@ anu.edu.au

Senior Data Management Specialist with Australian National Data Service; dual apt. at Australia National University

Dr. Stefanie Kethers

stefanie.kethers@ ands.org.au

Research Data Management at Australian National Data Service

Timea Biro

tbiro@ trust-itservices.com

Communications and Digital Marketing, Trust-IT Services (Italy)

Dr. Heike Felzmann

Heike.felzmann@ nuigalway.ie

Lecturer, National University of Ireland-Galway (Ireland)


TAB Interest Group Review: https://www.rd-alliance.org/group/rda-technical-advisory-board-tab/wiki/...

  • Stefanie Kethers's picture

    Author: Stefanie Kethers

    Date: 04 May, 2015

    Dear all,

    This is a reminder that the Community Review period for the Ethics and Social Aspects of Data Interest Group's Charter will finish soon. Please add your comments by the end of this week (8 May 2015).

    After the Community Review, the Charter will go to TAB for their review.

    Best wishes,


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