Research Track

Supporting Ethics in Data Research

"In being a profession that is concerned about privacy, intellectual freedom, and the public good, libraries have a role to play as we all figure out new norms for how to handle data being collected about us."

— Emily Keller, danah boyd, Bonnie Tijerina

About This Track

New and complex data sets raise challenging ethical questions about risk to individuals that are not sufficiently covered by computer science training, ethics codes, or Institutional Review Boards. The use of publicly available, corporate, and government datasets may reveal human practices, behaviors, and interactions in unintended ways, creating the need for new kinds of ethical support. This project examined the role of research librarians in assisting computer science researchers as they navigate emerging issues of privacy, ethics, and equitable access to data at different phases of the research process.

This exploratory project built upon the emerging support systems, including assistance from the research library, for computer science researchers that has resulted from Data Management Plans required by federal funders. Drawing on their data management skills and knowledge of information ethics, academic librarians may be well poised to act as partners to computer science and engineering researchers throughout the research process, including the use of third-party data.

This project was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Dr. Rachelle Hollander, Director for the Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society at the National Academy of Engineering, served as a project advisor.