Public good project checklist
To help you reflect on the relative risks and benefits of your proposed work and identify key aspects that may be relevant to the public good statement for your project, work through the questions and points in the checklist below.
This checklist is designed to encourage consideration of key issues and provide a basis for discussion and engagement with colleagues directly involved in the project, as well as other interested parties, such as the public, representatives of relevant organisations and data owners.
- When completing the checklist, we encourage you to not only think about what the potential benefits of your work may be, but also how likely those benefits are to occur.
- This checklist supports the existing UK Statistics Authority’s ethics self-assessment tool and can be used as an additional aid by researchers to consider public good aspects. It is recommended that this checklist be used as early as possible in the project design phase to ensure that a consideration of data ethics is effectively built into the project approach.
Support is also available from the data ethics service and associated committees to assist with this if needed (National Statistician’s Data Ethics Advisory Committee and Research Accreditation Panel).
Potential harms are not solely related to data collection and primary research, the use of secondary data also has the potential to cause harm!
When considering potential harms, these may not solely relate to impacts on individuals – think about wider social networks and social structures that this may relate to.
A project collecting and/or analysing data in one country or cultural context may present substantially different risks than if conducted in a different country or context, due to differing data governance, cultural sensitivities, or potential harms related to identification of data subjects. It is important to consider the wider societal context that your project relates to and the impact that this may have on potential harms and the sensitivity of data.
When considering public good, it should be remembered that this may be viewed differently by different people. It may be useful to involve subject matter experts or community / group representatives to help understand how public good is viewed from their perspective.
Assessing public good is an inherently subjective process and the relative benefits and risks of any project are likely to differ according to the particular methods and data sources used, the rationale for the work, and the particular context in which the work is undertaken. It is therefore very important to document your process for defining and evidencing the public good of your project.
Ensure that your work is as transparent as possible to help maintain public confidence in the use of data for research and statistics. Reflecting on, and capturing, the extent to which public good impact was achieved at the end of your project, as well as assessing this throughout the project timeline, is an important aspect of transparency.