This month marks the first meeting of the UK Statistics Authority’s Centre for Applied Data Ethics independent Advisory Committee (CADEAC). This committee has been established to advise the UK Statistics Authority on the strategic direction, outputs and impact of the new Centre, ensuring that it provides maximum benefit to the research and statistical community. Professor David Hand, who has been appointed Chair of CADEAC, considers how the committee hopes to contribute to the wider work of the Centre.

In March, I was approached by the UKSA’s Data Ethics team to ask if I would be interested in chairing a new independent advisory committee that would advise the UK Statistics Authority on the strategic direction and priorities of its new Centre for Applied Data Ethics. The remit of this new centre focuses on the practical application of data ethics to enable the ethical use of data for research and statistical purposes, an area of work that has increasing relevance across our society. The importance of this topic to the UK statistical system is also highlighted in the UK Statistics Authority’s Five-Year Strategy, Statistics for the Public Good, which formed the basis for the Centre’s establishment.

As a career statistician and academic, who has twice served as President of the Royal Statistical Society, I am delighted to be involved in this new initiative. By combining expertise from academia, research institutes and wider government, this committee provides a means for us to come together and consider cross-cutting ethical issues in the use of data for research and statistics that we currently face, as well as those that we are likely to face in the near future.

This committee will enable us to provide independent, expert advice to the UK Statistics Authority on the priorities and plans of the Centre and the impact of its work across these various contexts; fundamentally helping it to achieve its aim of providing practical advice, support and thought leadership in the application of data ethics by the research and statistical community.

The challenges that we currently face in the ethical use of data for research and statistics are diverse. From ensuring that datasets are as inclusive as possible so that ‘everyone is counted’, to considering the potential ethical implications of the use of new forms of data, technologies and methods. Effectively meeting these challenges in a proactive manner requires collaboration, encompassing diverse skillsets and expertise. As a committee, we hope to go some way in providing these viewpoints, fostering collaboration and engagement in the work of the Centre to ensure that it is as beneficial to the research and statistical community as possible, both here in the UK and on the international stage.

I look forward to working with our committee members to consider and explore how the Centre can best achieve its strategic ambitions and assist researchers and statisticians to address data ethics issues in their work. I am pleased to see some of the initial outputs of the Centre already in the public domain, including the draft data ethics landscape review, and look forward to being involved in their initial plans and activities. Our first meeting is scheduled for later this month, following which approved Terms of Reference and meeting minutes will be made openly available on the Centre website.

Further information about the committee and its membership can be found on the Centre website and if you have any questions about the functioning of the committee, please get in touch with the UKSA Data Ethics team.