FPF Ethical Data Use Committee will Support Research Relying on Private Sector Data
FPF has launched an independent ethical review committee to provide oversight for research projects that rely upon sharing of corporate data with researchers. Whether researchers are studying the impact of platforms on society, supporting evidence based policymaking, or understanding issues from COVID to climate change, personal data held by companies is increasingly essential to advancing scientific knowledge.
Companies want to be able to cooperate with researchers to use data and machine learning tools to drive innovation and investment, while ensuring compliance with data protection rules and ethical guidelines. To accomplish this, some companies are ramping up their internal ethical knowledge base and staff. However, reviewing high-risk, high-reward analytics projects in-house can be expensive, complex, and may lead to accusations of favoritism or ethics-washing. Traditional academic IRBs may consider the corporate data previously collected for business uses to be out of scope of their review, creating a gap for independent expert ethical review.
Many of the projects that seek to expand human knowledge rely on insights derived from combinations of data and use of machine learning or other advanced data analysis techniques. Sharing data for research drives innovation but it may also create novel risks that must be responsibly considered.
The FPF Ethical Data Use Committee (EDUC) provides companies and their research partners with ethics review as a service. The EDUC will provide an independent expert review of proposed research data uses to help companies limit the risks of unintended outcomes or data-based discrimination. The committee also will help researchers ensure ethical alignment with their uses of secondary data. As part of the review, the committee will provide specific recommendations for companies and researchers to implement that could mitigate the identified risks of individual and group or social harms. These reviews are particularly useful for many uses of data, including for machine-learning based research, models or systems.
The Committee – designed and developed with the generous support of Schmidt Futures and building on previous FPF work funded by the Alfred P Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation – will include experts from a range of disciplines, including academic researchers, ethicists, technologists, privacy professionals, lawyers, and others. They will complete training on data protection and privacy, AI and analytics, applied ethics, and other topics in addition to their own expertise, to serve terms on the Committee. Technical specialists will also be tapped for guidance on specific topic areas as required.
At this time, the Ethical Data Use Committee is preparing for final user-preference pilot testing. We are soliciting partners who aspire to be the first to use this system under cost conditions that will not be available once the review committee becomes fully operational. Companies and researchers participating in this final testing phase can do so confidentially, at no cost, if you provide feedback on the process.
If you have a project that you think should be reviewed by the Ethical Data Use Committee or if you would like to recommend yourself or someone else as a member for the inaugural review term, please contact Dr. Sara Jordan at [email protected].