To help maintain public trust and confidence in the use of data for research and statistics, it is important that researchers (in ONS, the wider Government Statistical Service, and beyond) whatever their particular discipline (statistics, economics, social research, operational research, other) who use data for statistical, analytical and wider research purposes do not just consider what can be done with the data, methods, expertise and technology available to them. It is equally important that researchers consider what should be done and how it should be done. This ethical self-assessment has been developed to provide a framework to help all researchers to think about the ethics of their research.

This guidance is designed to support researchers and statisticians to complete the UK Statistics Authority’s ethics self-assessment tool. The UKSA’s ethics self-assessment tool enables researchers to self-assess the ethics of their research by scoring their research against the UKSA’s ethical principles.

The UKSA’s ethical principles are:

  1. Public Good – The use of data has clear benefits for users and serves the public good.
  2. Confidentiality/Data Security – 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.
  3. Methods and Quality – The risks and limits of new methods and/or technologies are considered and there is sufficient human oversight so that methods employed are consistent with recognised standards of integrity and quality.
  4. Legal Compliance – Data used and methods employed are consistent with legal requirements such as Data Protection Legislation[1], the Human Rights Act 1998, the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 the common law duty of confidence, and the Equality Act 2010.
  5. Public Views and Engagement – The views of the public are considered in light of the data used and the perceived benefits of the research.
  6. Transparency – The access, use and sharing of data is transparent, and is communicated clearly and accessibly to the public.

This self-assessment process is designed to provide researchers with an easy-to-use framework to consistently review the ethics of their projects. Although the self-assessment is not designed to automatically resolve the ethical issues in individual projects, it is designed to help identify an accurate and consistent estimation of the “ethical risks” of research proposals. Identification of any potential ethical risks should be used to shape discussions that will drive improvements in research proposals and activities. Ensuring that researchers and analysts continuously consider research in light of the UKSA’s ethical principles will ensure that the use of data for research and statistical purposes continues to be ethical and for the public good.

[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).

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