Ethics and responsibility in data-intensive research

Fiona Tweedie1, Mark Fallu 2

1University of Melbourne, Australia,

2University of Melbourne, Australia,


Ethics in a data-intensive environment

As more data becomes available to researchers and advances in analytics make it possible to use data in novel ways, new risks and challenges arise that are not adequately addressed by existing tools and procedures. Privacy regulations cover the use of personal information and ethics committees provide guidance in research using human subjects.
Research using behavioural data, however, may not directly involve personal information or require the participation of human subjects, meaning that these established processes may not be triggered or provide adequate guidance if they are. There is, however, a growing recognition that insufficiently critical uses of big data and AI can have real and detrimental effects on individuals [1].

The Digital and Data team at the University of Melbourne was established to build future readiness through coordinated investment into digital and data capabilities. Creating an environment where data users are confident to experiment with data, supported by clear frameworks and robust ethical guard-rails, is essential to building the innovative organisations that will thrive in the future. This presentation will showcase the Data Ethics Canvas being developed by Digital and Data to enable the teams behind data-intensive projects to identify potential harms and mitigate the possibility of unintended consequences flowing from their work.


  1. See, for instance, Cathy O’Neil Weapons of Math Destruction, (Crown, 2016), Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Technically Wrong, (W.W. Norton, 2017) and Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression (NYU Press, 2018)


Fiona Tweedie is the data policy and strategy advisor in the Digital and Data team at the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked in data management and advice roles in the private and public sectors, including time working on open data policy at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. She has a PhD in Ancient History.

Mark Fallu is a higher education research technology specialist with a deep history of building tools and developing policy to support research. He is the research lead for Digital and Data at UoM. His current focus is on developing and implementing a roadmap for research business administration and data management. Mark is a practical innovator and a passionate communicator, with special interests in semantic web, data analysis and visualisation.

Recent Comments