The March 2012 issue of the UKSG journal Insights has been published, and my article, Data driven research: Opportunities for growing knowledge and ethical issues that arise is open access.


The Open Data Initiative in the UK offers incredible opportunities for researchers who seek to gain insight from the wealth of public and institutional data that is increasingly available from government sources – like NHS prescription and GP referral information – or the information we freely offer online. Coupled with digital technologies that can help teams generate connections and collaborations, these data sets can support large-scale innovation and insight. However, by looking at a comparable explosion in data-driven journalism, this article hopes to highlight some of the ethical questions that may arise from big data. The popularity of the social networking service Twitter to share information during the riots in London in August 2011 produced a real-time record of sense-making of enormous interest to academics, reporters and to Twitter users themselves; however, when analysed and published, academic and journalistic interpretations of aggregate content was transformed and individualized, with potential implications for a user-base that was unaware it was being observed. Similar issues arise in academic research with human subjects. Here, the questions of reflexivity in data design and research ethics are considered through a popular media frame.

Download a pdf of the article here.