Data Science Ethics Dialogue

Ipsos MORI was commissioned by the Government Data Science Partnership to undertake a public dialogue to inform further development of a Framework for Data Science Ethics.

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  • Steven Ginnis Public Affairs
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Over the last year, the Government Data Science Partnership has been developing a Framework for Data Science Ethics. The framework seeks to help policy makers and data scientists maximise the potential for data science within government, whilst navigating the legal and ethical issues that accompany new forms of data analysis. Ipsos MORI was commissioned to undertake a public dialogue to inform further development of the ethical framework. With oversight from GDS, Sciencewise, GO-Science and ONS, the project sought to explore how the Government Data Science Partnership can maximise the opportunities of data analysis in an appropriate way.

The report details the findings of four reconvened deliberative workshops, an online survey, and conjoint analysis conducted to engage the public in discussion about data science. The project found that:

  • Although there was limited awareness of data science, there was broad support for the need for government to find new ways of using data.
  • This support was conditional, and was easily tested where the policy objectives or data science methods were deemed not appropriate.
  • There were no overall red-lines of acceptability in either objectives or methods; instead, concerns about risk, consequence and efficacy were measured against the specifics of the policy aim to judge the merits of a data science project.
  • On the whole, participants agreed that the six principles of the draft ethical framework covered most of the key elements they thought should be priorities for people working in data science - many wanted to see a commitment to transparency, and welcomed discussion about a future ethical framework that would promote good practice across government.

A video of the workshops and write up of the experience in engaging the public in data science can be found on the Data Blog.

As part of the dialogue, Ipsos MORI were also commissioned to develop an online tool to widen public engagement with data science. The Data Dilemmas app is intended to provide a way of learning about data science and the ethical trade-offs that government has to make in designing data science projects. The app includes a quiz that allows the public to build their own data science solution to a scenario, such as developing a project that will help improve careers advice, and find out how their selections compare with the public.

The Data Dilemmas app is available at

A copy of the online survey questionnaire, conjoint exercise and topline findings can be found in the Online Survey Annex. Materials from the workshops are available on request.

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The author(s)

  • Steven Ginnis Public Affairs

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