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IG Ethics and Social Aspects of Data – RDA 13th Plenary meeting

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    Meeting title: Ethics in Data Science and Analytics (Remote Access Instructions)
    Meeting location: Commonwealth D
    Collaborative session notes:
    Short introduction describing the scope of the group and if any previous activities:
    The Ethics and Social Aspects of Data (ESAD) IG was established in 2015 and focuses on ethical and social challenges of data archiving, sharing, and reuse. The group has been discussing the kinds/types of data that can be reused and under what circumstances, the work of institutional ethics bodies and boards, and areas of research and specific research aspects that create new challenges for data management. Discussions held in the ESAD IG span across many group activities at RDA, where each group contributes to ethical data sharing goals from their perspectives. ESAD has more than 100 members and continues as an interest group. A group of members are working on FAIR representations of ethical review processes. 
    Additional links to informative material related to the group:
    Case Statement –…
    Meeting objectives:
    Data science as a set of methods, in contrast to traditional artificial intelligence methods, is based on learning from data with minimal human interference. Models which are generated as outcomes of data science are mostly black boxes and are highly dependent on the input data. They are evaluated with more data, as opposed to human assessment. 
    Data science is already having a significant impact on societies by transforming not only businesses, but also norms, behaviours and decision making patterns. Although the commercial successes of Big Data and data science are well recognized, moving humans out of the equation as decision makers and putting them back in (in most cases) as data sources raises ethical concerns, including privacy, bias and discrimination in models as a reflection of existing prejudgements, and lack of accountability. These have been documented by researchers who have raised alarms about the increasing levels of algorithmic bias in data science.
    Efforts to establish ethical frameworks for data science remain disparate. Even as many universities are offering programs or tracks for data science, there are as yet no codes of conduct or actionable principles developed for the data scientist. There are agreed upon guidelines to assess the harm or benefit of a developed model beyond efficiency and accuracy metrics. 
    In this session, we aim to discuss various aspects of a possible data science ethics framework that are being developed and identify key themes for further RDA work. .

    Meeting agenda:
    – Welcome and the introduction the IG – Kalpana Sharkar
    – The data science processes  – Oya Beyan
    – Panel Discussion Ethics in Data Science
    Panelist: Francine Berman (*), Myrna E. Morales(**) , Alison Specht (****), Bonnie Tijerina (*****)
    Moderator: Kalpana Shankar
    – Open floor for discussion 
    (*) Francine Berman is the Hamilton Distinguished Professor in Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  Her research and leadership efforts have focused on data stewardship and preservation, particularly with respect to policy, practice and cyberinfrastructure.  Berman’s current work focuses on the social, ethical  and environmental impact of the Internet of Things needed to develop an IoT that maximizes benefits, minimizes risk, and promotes individual protections, the public good, and planetary responsibility. Berman is one of the founders of the Research Data Alliance, former Director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, former co-Chair of the National Academies Board on Research Data and Information, and former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.  She was the inaugural recipient of the ACM/IEEE-CS Ken Kennedy Award for “influential leadership in the design, development, and deployment of national-scale cyberinfrastructure.” In 2015, Dr. Berman was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities. 
    (**) Myrna E. Morales is Program and Communications Director for Community Change, Inc., an organization dedicated to combating structural racism, and a PhD candidate in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois iSchool. She has an MA in Teaching from Brown University, an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and a BA in Urban Studies from Bates College. She spent some years studying medicine at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba, and working as a public school educator in New Jersey and Boston before working in research data ethics and technology management for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region. A longtime activist and organizer, Myrna fights for social change across a spectrum of different social causes. Realizing that the promotion and advocacy of privacy is a critical component to making us truly free, Myrna also works on providing anti-surveillance triage and trainings within community organizations. Her rich background in medical education, education, library and information science and community organizations has helped her understand that information is not only a tool that enables, permits and creates injustices, but a tool that can guide us towards collective liberation.
     (***) Alison Specht is an environmental scientist with broad expertise in research, teaching, and community engagement. In the past 10 years she has focussed on facilitating interdisciplinary groups to tackle complex environmental problems using existing data. Her major interests, apart from her domain activities, are to enhance collaboration between scientists, policy-makers and managers to improve environmental outcomes, and improve data management and preservation, data sharing and re-use. Collaboration across boundaries, conservation of data for appropriate re-use, among other factors, are essential for effective management of our biodiversity and the future of our environment. She has been director of two synthesis centres. From 2009 to 2014 she was the director of the Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a facility of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (, the first synthesis centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and from 2015 to 2018 she was Director of CESAB, the CEntre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity in France. She initiated the formation of the International Synthesis Consortium (, whose mission is to increase the effectiveness and recognition of the value of synthesis centres. She has been a member of the DataONE ( Usability and Assessment Working Group in the USA since its inception in 2010. She is a member of several RDA interest groups. She is currently an honorary associate professor at the University of Queensland, Australia.
    (*****) Bonnie Tijerina is an affiliate at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York City, a think tank focused on the social, cultural, and ethical impact of data-centric technological development. There, she works on projects related to the library’s role in online privacy and ethics in data research. She had co-led grant-funded research projects, including one focused on studying how computer scientists and data scientists are navigating emerging ethical issues in their big data research projects. Bonnie has worked in academic libraries for over ten years, most recently at Harvard University, focused on the management and licensing and electronic resources in large research libraries. She is founder of ER&L (Electronic Resources & Libraries) conference and organization, created to facilitate communication and foster collaboration among information management and e-resources professionals in libraries.
    Target audience:
    Researchers from all fields, research policy makers, representatives of funding institutions, representatives of publishers, representatives of NGOs

    Group chair serving as contact person: Kalpana Shankar

    Type of meeting: Informative Meeting

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