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Data Services: Data Ethics

Data Literacy

Data Ethics

Data ethics is both the study and creation of theories and their application to data practices (government, education, industry, etc.) that addresses the collecting, generating, analyzing, and disseminating of data, and the resulting impacts.  It includes addressing and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct, with transparency in and defensibility of actions and decisions driven by automated/artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to data in general and personal data in particular.

Best Practices in Data Ethics

Ethics, confidentiality, and access should be considered early in when using or creating data for any research project. 
  • Consider whether ethical issues can affect how data are stored and transferred, who can see or use them, and how long they are kept. Demonstrate awareness of these aspects and respective planning. 
  • Consider who created the data and if using the data requires a license,  special permission or limited access. Data can be confidential and sensitive, whether the data contains information about people or agencies or businesses. 
  • Follow the national and international codes of conduct for the creation and use of the data and institutional ethical guidelines. Examples include:

Intellectual Property and Copyright

Intellectual Property and Copyright
In general raw data on their own are considered facts and thus can not be copyrighted. However, data that are gathered together in a unique and original way, such as databases, can be copyrighted or licensed. It is important to understand data licensing from the perspective of both the data user and data creator. 

Data Users
When re-using existing data be sure to clarify ownership, obtain permissions if needed, and understand limits set by licenses. Be sure to provide appropriate attribution and citation. If licensing restricts sharing of the data, providing detailed information about where the data were obtained and how the data were analyzed can help with reproducibility.

Data Creators
There is increased pressure from funders and journals for researchers to release their research data. Applying appropriate licensing when data are released will help ensure proper re-use and attribution. There are many licenses available that represent the range of rights for the creator and licensee of the data. Two options for providing open licenses for research data are:

Creative Commons License -

Open Data Commons License -

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