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ELSI-Task-Force for the National Research Programme “Big Data”

 

Many current and future big data applications raise questions on ethical, legal and social issues. The acceptability of big data solutions crucially depends on the proper handling of these issues.

Portrait (ongoing research project)

The societal acceptability of big data solutions depends on the proper handling of the ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) that those technologies raise. Several projects within NRP-75 explicitly deal with ELSI topics, but mostly from specific perspectives. Furthermore, new ethical, legal and social issues may be raised in the course of the research of other NRP-75 projects, for which the technology-oriented projects may lack expertise or resources. Finally, the NRP 75 has a distinct need in having access to resources and expertise related to big data ELSI with respect to the dissemination of the results of NRP 75. In order to tackle all these challenges, an ELSI Task Force rooted in Module 2 will offer advice on such issues to all NRP 75 projects.

Background

In 2017, the NRP-75 “Big Data” started its five-year term. The programme includes 34 projects that seek to provide foundations for the effective and appropriate use of big data. The projects focus on foundational issues of computing and information technology, on big data applications in various areas of society and on the effects of big data applications on the society. Most of these projects have ethical, legal and social implications.

Aim

The cross cutting activity intends to set up an institutional structure and decision-making procedures for allocating ELSI expertise and resources within NRP-75 for the following aims:

(1) Providing ethical, legal and social expertise for all NRP 75 projects;

(2) Supporting the NRP-75 management board when preparing dissemination activities;

(3) Stimulating knowledge exchange among the ELSI experts within NRP-75 with the aim to enhance understanding of the core ELSI topics of big data.

Relevance

On the market, more and more tools and products include Big Data applications. Those may rise problems that require expertise in ethics, law and the social sciences. The ELSI Task Force will help to understand further the scope and consequences of these issues.

Application

Different types of application are expected, e.g.:

  • Providing a legal assessment of a certain problem that emerged in the course of an application-oriented project;
  • Organizing a workshop for increasing the sensitivity for ethical issues that emerged in the course of the project;
  • On-site counseling by an expert in a critical phase of a project;
  • Writing an evaluation report or a White Paper on expected societal, humanistic and/or social challenges of a proposed technology.

Original title

Creating an ELSI Task Force for the National Research Programme 75 “Big Data”

Project leaders

Responsible of the cross cutting acticity

  • PD Dr. Markus Christen, Institut für Biomedizinische Ethik und Medizingeschichte (IBME), Universität Zürich

Partners of the activity

  • Prof. Sophie Mützel, Soziologisches Seminar, Universität Luzern
  • Prof. Effy Vayena, Institut für Translationale Medizin, ETH, Zürich
  • Prof. Reto Knutti, Departement Umweltsystemwissenschaften, ETH Zürich
  • Prof. Antoinette Weibel, Forschungsinstitut für Arbeit und Arbeitswelten Universität St. Gallen
  • Prof. Bernice Elger, Institut für Bio- und Medzinethik, Uni Basel
  • Prof. Sabine Gless, Juristische Fakultät, Uni Basel
  • Prof. Mira Burri, Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät, Uni Luzern

 

 

Further information on this content

 Contact

PD. Dr. Markus Christen Digital Society Initiative (DSI)
Universität Zürich
Rämistrasse 69 8001 Zürich christen@ethik.uzh.ch