Ethics in statistics and research
The UK Statistics Authority aims to mobilise the power of data to meet the greater demand from policy makers and users for more timely, frequent, accurate and relevant statistics for the public good to help Britain make better decisions. This involves making better use of pre-existing administrative, real time and big data using innovative methods, to produce more frequent, timely and accurate statistics for the public good accounting for a wide variety of user needs. To ensure that this work is completed to the highest ethical standards the UK Statistics Authority has established a robust ethical governance structure to provide transparent and timely ethical advice to the National Statistician that the access, use and sharing of public data for research and statistical purposes is ethical and for the public good. This work has included developing ethical principles and establishing a variety of transparent processes to assess proposed research against these principles.
In reviewing project and policy proposals, we will provide advice to the National Statistician on the basis of the following principles:
- The use of data has clear benefits for users and serves the public good.
- The data subject’s identity (whether person or organisation) is protected, information is kept confidential and secure, and the issue of consent is considered appropriately.
- The risks and limits of new technologies are considered and there is sufficient human oversight so that methods employed are consistent with recognised standards of integrity and quality.
- Data used and methods employed are consistent with legal requirements such as Data Protection Legislation1, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and the common law duty of confidence.
- The views of the public are considered in light of the data used and the perceived benefits of the research.
- The access, use and sharing of data is transparent, and is communicated clearly and accessibly to the public.
1 “Data Protection Legislation” means the full, applicable data protection framework as set out in the Data Protection Act 2018. This encompasses general processing (including the General Data Protection Regulation and the applied GDPR).
These principles are reviewed regularly.
The UK Statistics Authority has developed a number of processes to help researchers consider the ethics of their research. This includes a framework to enable researchers to self-assess their research against these ethical principles and an independent ethics advisory committee. For more information contact the Data Ethics team, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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