Update from the pilot Public Engagement Panel – exploring data ethics for public sector data.

March 23, 2023 by No Comments | Category Data & Intelligence Network, Digital Ethics, Digital Scotland

Michaela Omelkova, Data Ethics Advisor for the Data & Intelligence Network, provides an update on the pilot public engagement panel looking at the ethical use of public sector data.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In my last blog, I introduced the pilot Data and Intelligence Public Engagement Panel organised by the Scottish Government, Research Data Scotland, Sciencewise and Ipsos Scotland. In the Scottish Government we are working to ensure that Scotland fulfils its potential in the constantly evolving digital world. This engagement pilot focused directly on data ethics in line with the vision for Scotland to become an Ethical Digital Nation, and the recommendations will feed directly into the Digital Health and Social Care’s Data Strategy.

The Data and Intelligence Public Engagement PanelSticky notes in the shape of a speech bubble

Starting in September 2022, the pilot Data and Intelligence Public Engagement Panel brought together 30 Scottish citizens from different walks of life. The panel included members from minority groups, rural and remote locations and from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. They were asked to think about the guidelines that should be in place to ensure ethical use of data about citizens in the public sector.

In particular, the aims of the Panel were to:

  • Understand peoples’ awareness of and opinion on using data about citizens in the public sector,
  • Promote public engagement, and
  • Create a blueprint for a sustainable public panel on the use of data.

The Panel met for six online workshops and explored different topics such as use of data in emergencies, ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of data and opportunities for use of data to improve public services.

Analysis and future report

Our partners from Ipsos are now busy analysing the rich thoughts and feedback we heard from the Panel. The outcomes of the analysis will be summarised in a final report and published in Spring 2023.

This final report will:

  • introduce the guidelines for ethical use of data proposed by our panellists,
  • cover feedback on individual data-led projects that were presented to the Panel, and
  • present a vision for continuous engagement with citizens on the use of data. These results will feed inform policymaking around the use of data in the Scottish Government.

While we don’t have the final results yet, I think that I can speak for all of us involved in running the Panel and say that listening to the Panel’s discussions was hugely informative and eye opening. Our panellists discussed issues such as quality of public sector data, transparency around collection and use of data or the importance of consent. Hearing the hopes and concerns of the panellists left a lasting impression on the civil servants observing the discussions.

David Grzybowski from the Scottish Government Data Division said: “I have been involved in collecting, managing and analysis public sector data from across Scotland for most of my career. I have used this data to support policy development, academic research and during local and national emergencies. Talking to the Panel has given me an insight into what members of the public think about, what to me are, these routine uses. It has really made me more deeply consider the ethical implications of data use in my day to day work.”

Useful Reading

I look forward to shortly announcing the publication of the report from the panel.  In the meantime, you can learn more about the work we are doing on ethics and the Scottish Government’s Ethical Digital strategy using the below resources:

Data Intelligence Ethics Framework

Ethical Digital Nation

Blog from the Chief Statistician: Public Engagement and the Ethical Use of Data

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