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Ethical Issues of Big Data 2.0 Collaborations: Roles and Preparation of Information Specialists

Corrall, Sheila and Currier, James David (2017) Ethical Issues of Big Data 2.0 Collaborations: Roles and Preparation of Information Specialists. In: Community Engagement & Social Responsibility: ALISE’17 Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA. (Unpublished)

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The emerging Age of Big Data 2.0 promises myriad opportunities to advance human knowledge for the benefit of society. Across the globe, Big Data collaborative ventures are launching “moonshot” projects and establishing new organizations, such as Oxford University’s imminent Big Data Institute, an interdisciplinary research center, which “will focus on the analysis of large, complex, heterogeneous data sets for research into the causes and consequences, prevention and treatment of disease.” Managing and leveraging such vast quantities of data will test the professional and technical capabilities of those responsible for the systems providing access to this wealth of information. So too will the legal, ethical, and policy issues implicated by Big Data enterprises, which will arguably present equivalent, if not greater, challenges. Information professionals are already working in the research data space, providing access to external data sets, advising on data management plans, and assisting with data literacy education. Some information specialists are already helping their communities create local data infrastructures as consultants on metadata and also contributing to policy development, but their potential role in Big Data megaprojects is still largely unexplored. Our research uses a case study strategy to provide a real-world perspective on this problem. We are exploring five questions: • What are the chief legal, ethical, and policy issues raised by Big Data 2.0 initiatives? • What best practices are emerging that could inform responses to these challenges? • What roles can information professionals play in considerations of such issues and in the development and implementation of good practices? • What competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) will information professionals require to fulfill such roles? • How can library and information science educators prepare new and established information professionals for these responsibilities? The focus of the study is on the ethical tensions generated by very large-scale collaborative interdisciplinary human subject research that cuts across the public and private, nonprofit and for-profit sectors, and spans multiple jurisdictions; with particular reference to the stewardship responsibilities of the library and information profession, and our own responsibilities as educators to expose and explore issues arising from such ventures. After reviewing the literature on the subject to set our work in context, we identify several high-profile examples of Big Data initiatives originating in the United States and other countries (including the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance, UK Biobank, Big Data Europe, the Personal Genome Project, the Precision Medicine Initiative, and the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network), and describe their key characteristics. We discuss specific issues and questions related to particular cases, then consider their implications in more general terms, looking at topical concerns such as privacy, anonymity, monetization, commodification, and peaceful/public good/public interest uses of data versus military/national security uses versus terrorist applications. Finally, we consider the roles, responsibilities, requirements, and relationships of information specialists operating in the Big Data 2.0 arena, especially the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for stewardship positions and interventions; and how we can design, develop, and deliver curricula to prepare both novice and seasoned practitioners to act as the conscience of the big data world.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Corrall, Sheilascorrall@pitt.eduSCORRALL
Currier, James David
Date: 19 January 2017
Date Type: Publication
Event Title: Community Engagement & Social Responsibility: ALISE’17 Annual Conference
Event Type: Conference
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Library and Information Science
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Big, data, Data, ethics, Data, literacy, Ethical, competence, Information, specialists, Professional, education
Official URL:
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2017 16:30
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2017 04:55


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