10. Some Concluding Thoughts
Data and ethics are contextually driven. As such, there isn’t always a risk-free approach. We often have to work through ethical dilemmas while thinking through information that we may not have (what are the risks of doing/not doing this work?). We have approached a moment where the question is no longer what we could do but what we should do. Given this saturated data-driven world we currently live in, there is value in pausing and consider why and what we are collecting, researching, analyzing, and understanding. Starting on a new project, especially one dealing with “big” data can be exciting but we now also have to first consider who does the data collected benefit and why is it important are important. The IRB (Institutional Review Board)’s regulations may form the starting point of our considerations but should not be the ending point of how we consider contextually-driven ethics and data projects. In addition, open access is not always the answer to concerns of reproducibility and/or ethical considerations. There are moments where the decision to not have a dataset or analysis openly accessible is valid. For example, when you are working with marginalized or vulnerable populations, concerns for causing more harm justifies restricting access. We may choose to control who has access to decrease the chances of misrepresentations (intentional or otherwise) or having results taken out of contexts. For a set of great questions to help you think through your data exploration and project planning, please check out Kristen Hackett’s Tagging the Tower post, What to Consider when Planning a Digital Project.