Sixth meeting of the UK Statistics Authority’s Centre for Applied Data Ethics Independent Advisory Committee.
- Minutes and Matters Arising
- Service and Communications update
- Ethical Considerations relating to the development and use of synthetic data: Guidance Piece
- Summary of Progress: International Workstream
- Committee Self-assessment/Effectiveness review
- Any Other Business
- Professor David Hand (Chair)
- Sue Bateman (Government Digital Service)
- Sam Cannicott (Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation)
- Colin Godbold (Independent member)
- Emma Gordon (UKRI ESRC)
- Reema Patel (Ada Lovelace Institute)
- Alistair McAlpine (Scottish Government)
- Emma Rourke( Office for National Statistics)
- Professor Donald Simeon (University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago and Royal Statistical Society)
UK Statistics Authority
- Alice Toms
- Tia-Mae Surtees
- Matt Short
- Simon Whitworth
- Tom Smith (Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities)
1. Minutes and Matters Arising
- The Chair welcomed the committee members to the sixth meeting of the UK Statistics Authority’s Centre for Applied Data Ethics Independent Advisory Committee.
- The committee were informed that Matt Short has joined the Centre for Applied Data Ethics as Senior Research Officer.
- The committee were made aware that the minutes for the previous meeting have now been published on the Centre webpages. This is in line with the CADEAC Terms of Reference.
- Alice Toms updated the committee on the progress of actions from previous meetings. All actions are complete or otherwise in progress.
2. Service and Communications update
- Tia-Mae Surtees presented this item, providing the committee with updates on the ethics services provided by the Centre, and its communications and engagement activities.
- The presentation discussed updated metrics related to recent use of the ethics self-assessment tool, alongside an overview of the engagement and communications plan of the Centre for the next year, and engagement activities to date.
- The committee felt that it would be useful to engage more with other government departments going forward, and that the Integrated Data Services should provide a helpful mechanism for doing so.
- The committee were keen that the team should be as transparent as possible in sharing practical, real-life examples of the self-assessment tool being used in practice.
- It was suggested that as there is some overlap between ethics and methodology, that this could be a good way of increasing engagement with different departments.
- The committee discussed ongoing work by ADRUK which considers what the public consider “public good” to mean and suggested that it would be useful to consider this in the work that the Centre does.
- The committee felt that the data ethics team should have further conversations with Heads of Professions throughout government in order to better understand what the blockers are when using the self-assessment tool.
ACTION: The data ethics team will consider the suggestions made by the committee and look to implement these over the coming months.
3. Ethical Considerations relating to the development and use of synthetic data: Guidance Piece
- Alice Toms presented this item, which invited feedback on the draft ethics guidance produced by the UKSA Centre for Applied Data Ethics.
- The guidance focuses on the ethical considerations related to the development, sharing, and use of synthetic data and has been created in response to user need.
- The guidance covers:
- an introduction to synthetic data and why ethics is important in this context,
- specific guidance on creating, sharing, and using synthetic data for research and statistics, and the ethical issues that arise at each stage of this process,
- Specific questions for researchers to consider in the context of their project, an overview of the key points covered and links to further resources
- Contemporary use cases of synthetic data from within the ONS.
- The committee emphasised the need for this guidance and felt that it is both ambitious and valuable.
- The committee shared some work being done in this space that focuses on public views of synthetic data. This found that there was public acceptance for low fidelity synthetic data, but that support for high fidelity data was limited, due to the fear that this could be misused and misinterpreted as real data.
- Several members offered to support the dissemination of the guidance within their networks and made suggestions for how it could be disseminated for maximum impact.
- The committee felt that the guidance could benefit from the inclusion of a clearer categorisation of risks and benefits and suggested that the transparency section be updated to include advice on how to communicate the benefits of synthetic data to original data owners.
- Further suggestions for case study examples to compliment the guidance were made by members and will be explored by the Centre team.
ACTION: The Centre will consider the points raised relating to the guidance and will update the draft to reflect this.
ACTION: The Centre will contact members of the committee who offered to support the dissemination of the guidance to discuss this further.
ACTION: The Centre will contact relevant members to discuss the inclusion of further case studies.
4. Summary of Progress: International Workstream
- Simon Whitworth presented this item, which summarised the Centre’s current international activities.
- The committee were pleased to hear that the Centre has been making great progress in the international ethics space.
- The committee were impressed by the Centre’s international presence and emphasised the importance of resourcing and planning to enable such work.
- The committee asked how the Centre maximise impact when working with countries that have different ideas around data ethics. The Centre outlined the importance of working internationally with other NSOs to align definitions and wider work, giving examples of this.
- Members of the committee highlighted other international projects on data ethics from their work and welcomed the Centre’s involvement in these.
5. Committee Self-assessment/Effectiveness review
- Alice Toms presented this item, which outlined the aims of the self-assessment survey sent to members of the committee prior to the meeting.
- The Centre team only received 2 responses to the questionnaire, and so discussion focused on why responses were low, and how this can be improved.
- The committee suggested that the questionnaire could benefit from more of an emphasis on what members think they could do to add more value, rather than the success of what is being done at the moment.
- The committee felt that it would be beneficial to assign some time at the next meeting for members to complete the survey.
ACTION: The Centre team will re-evaluate the structure and content of the self-assessment review in preparation for the next meeting.
6. Any Other Business
- The committee agreed that due to time constraints, a fourth meeting for this year would not be necessary. The next meeting will take place in early January 2023 (date to be confirmed).
- The Chair thanked the committee for their contribution to the meeting, commenting that the Centre has been very successful in its activities to date.
- Going forward, Matt Short will be the primary contact for committee business.
ACTION: The committee were invited to email any further contributions to the discussion should they wish to.
ACTION: The Centre team will distribute minutes to the Committee, who are invited to provide comments before they are made publicly available.