Advancing the ethical use of digital data in research: challenges and strategies to promote ethical practice

Related Staff:

Clark K, Duckham, M, Guillemin M, Hunter A, McVernon J, OKeefe C, Pitkin C, Prawer S, Sinnott R, Warr D and Waycott J.

Ethics and Information Technology 2019: 21(1): 59-73;

The proliferation of digital data and internet-based research technologies is transforming the research landscape, and researchers and research ethics communities are struggling to respond to the ethical issues being raised. This paper discusses the findings from a collaborative project that explored emerging ethical issues associated with the expanding use of digital data for research. The project involved consulting with researchers from a broad range of disciplinary fields. These discussions identified five key sets of issues and informed the development of guidelines orientated to meet the needs of researchers and ethics committee members. We argue that establishing common approaches to assessing ethical risks of research involving digital data will promote consistency in the ethical standards for research, enable the smooth functioning of ethics committees, and sustain public confidence in research. We conclude with recommendations for the development of educational resources for ethics committees, data management guidelines and further public education.