ITA-Seminar, 15. Jänner 2019, 13:30: Marjo Rauhala (TU Wien)

Ethical aspects of data collection and use in the social sciences

The digital age generates new opportunities for social scientists to collect and analyze vast amounts of data. For example, social media platforms have become popular for researchers, as they seem to allow insight into a wide range of topics concerning platform users’ attitudes towards and opinion on – just about anything. 

At the same time, new ethical challenges surface. But providing answers to them using existing instruments for ethics review may prove difficult. Big Data and new data analytics in social research radically challenge the established concepts for ethical research. The conventional notions of participants, harm, informed consent, even the characterizations of research data – some of the key concepts underlying traditional ethics review – provide a poor fit with digital age research. As a consequence, traditional instruments of ethical review are at risk of not sufficiently capturing relevant concerns. Moreover, existing sources of ethical guidance to social researchers may need significant revision. 

This presentation explores the challenges faced by research ethics through the lens of digital-age social research and suggests possible routes for ensuring continuing public trust in social research.