1. Introduction


 Policy name   Data Ethics Policy
 Implemented on   18 March 2021
 Last review on   18 March 2021
 Next review due on   18 March 2022
 Policy owner (name)   Simon Whitworth
 Policy owner (division)   Data Governance, Legislation and Policy
 Main point of contact   Data.Ethics@Statistics.gov.uk

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2. Scope

This policy sets out the requirements of researchers and statistical producers across the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Government Statistical Service (GSS) and Government Analysis Function (AF), to ensure that the access, processing, use and storage of personal data for research and statistical purposes is ethically appropriate.

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3. Background

When undertaking research and/or producing statistics, we must consider both what we could do, and also what we should do to ensure that we use data in ethically appropriate ways for the public good. A project’s ethics should be considered during the research design phase and regularly reviewed as the research develops.

We consider ethics when undertaking research and producing statistics for the following reasons:

  • It reduces potential harm to all individuals involved in the research and helps maintain public acceptability around the production of research and statistics.
  • It is a legal requirement when accessing data under the Digital Economy Act.
  • It is consistent with professional best practice for researchers and statisticians.
  • It helps to maintain the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’) reputation as a trusted user of personal data.
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4. Policy statement

Researchers should demonstrate compliance with the UK Statistics Authority’s ethical principles through use of the Ethics Self-Assessment Tool and/or consultation with the National Statistician’s Data Ethics Advisory Committee. The Data Ethics team supports researchers in accessing these services.

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5. Policy detail

To consider the ethics of the use of data for research and statistical purposes, the Data Ethics team has developed several ethical principles and an Ethics Self-Assessment Tool to enable researchers to apply these principles to their work. Ethics self-assessments should be used throughout a project’s lifecycle to help researchers identify the ethical implications of any changes to a research project or data use.

Guidance, training and expert user support are available to help researchers consider the ethics self-assessment and mitigate any ethical risks that are identified through the ethics self-assessment. Those projects that are considered most ethically risky are taken to the National Statistician’s Data Ethics Advisory Committee so that they can benefit from the independent ethics advice and scrutiny that the committee provides.

Please contact Data.Ethics@Statistics.gov.uk for further advice and support.

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6. Roles and responsibilities

UK Statistics Authority Data Ethics team

The team oversees the Ethics Self-Assessment Tool and provides further ethical advice and guidance to researchers. Accountable to Simon Whitworth.

Office for National Statistics (ONS), Government Statistical Service (GSS) and Government Analysis Function (AF) researchers and statistical producers

This group uses the Ethics Self-Assessment Tool to consider the ethics of work and liaise with the Data Ethics team to mitigate any ethical risks. Accountable to business area leads.

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