Ethical considerations related to the inclusivity of data for research and statistics

16 February 2022
Last updated:
16 March 2022

Public views and engagement

It is important to consider public views and acceptability regarding the use of data in research and statistics projects. However, different people may have very different views regarding this topic and differing degrees of trust in the organisations and institutions that govern public data collection, sharing and use.

Whilst researchers are often seen to be “experts” in a particular field, the lived experiences of individuals provide a unique perspective on a topic and, in this regard, they are “experts” when it comes to their own experiences as a member of a specific population or community.

Effectively engaging with the public, and specifically, those at risk of disadvantage, when planning and designing your research can have substantial benefits, including:

  • Enabling a better understanding of the needs and priorities of different groups before research is designed
  • Helping to build and maintain trust with under-represented groups and communities
  • Helping to maintain accountability
  • Ensuring that projects are conducted in a way that is sensitive to the needs of diverse groups
  • Improving participant recruitment and retention when collecting primary data
  • Increasing public trust and confidence around the use of administrative data

It is vital that we do all that we can to consider and engage diverse and marginalised sections of the public in relation to the collection and use of data for research and statistics, particularly those who may be at risk of disadvantage, so that they feel empowered, supported, and included.

Developing specific engagement plans focused on under-represented groups in the discovery and research design phase may be helpful in enabling more effective engagement, ensuring that all engagement activities are specifically and individually tailored to each relevant group or population. Including representatives from these groups or populations in the design of such plans is likely to maximise their effectiveness.

The UK Statistics Authority’s Centre for Applied Data Ethics has produced specific ethics guidance on considering public views and engagement in research and statistics.

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