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Meeting summaries - Data Ethics Advisory Group

Summaries of meetings of the Data Ethics Advisory Group, by date.

11 September 2019



Advisory Group: Professor Juliet Gerrard (Chair), Dr Amohia Boulton, Dr Ang Jury, Dr Nessa Lynch, Dr Will Koning, Kate O’Connor, Professor Colin Simpson

Guest expert: Liz MacPherson, Government Chief Data Steward

Item presenter: Robert Chiu, Data Lead, Data Ventures

Stats NZ secretariat: Sabena Blackhall, Dale Elvy

1. Welcome from the Government Chief Data Steward, Liz MacPherson

Liz MacPherson opened the day with her ambitions for the Group, grounding members in its origin, development and the role she sees it fulfilling in the data landscape.

Liz then provided an overview of the wider landscape in which the Group sits, highlighting existing ethics framework and initiatives, before highlighting the need to streamline and standardise these approaches – a role she sees the group playing a key part in. 

2. Welcome and introductions from the Chair, Professor Juliet Gerrard

Professor Gerrard built on the foundation laid by Liz, outlining the importance of establishing the Group as a supportive mechanism to guide and improve the ethics of data use across government. She emphasised that, as an unknown, people may have reservations about the Group but that these should be viewed as opportunities.

3. Group welcome and introductions

The Group then delivered individual introductions of themselves outlining their skills, experience and where they felt there is need to add value to the ethics and safeguards of the current data system.

4. Discussion of draft group processes

The Group then focussed on discussing and refining their operations. This included:

  • the Application Form – members were keen for more detail to be provided at this stage and requested that new questions be included on the form such as ‘what ethical considerations or frameworks have you used in developing this project’. They also indicated support to include ethical principles on the form to guide applicants.
  • the Feedback Form – members requested this follow a structure where sections highlight:
       i. what was good about the item
       ii. suggestions for improvement
       iii. where the Group had concerns
       iv. where they were satisfied
       v. when it would be appropriate to check back in with the Group.
  • triaging items for inclusion on the agenda – members requested that applications be condensed into a table with a high-level summary followed by key time considerations to help guide decisions on what items to discuss. It was also requested that the deadline for applications close sooner so members would have the opportunity to identify and recruit external expertise where appropriate.
  • conflicts of interest – it was agreed that conflicts of interest, both on-going and ad hoc, will be declared at the start of each meeting and the appropriate means of addressing these decided on a case-by-case basis by the Group. It is also requested that the secretariat hold a ‘register of interests’ to better capture potential conflicts.

5. Declaration of conflicts of interest relating to upcoming agenda items

A conflict of interest was declared by Will Koning with regards to his company’s proposed use of Data Ventures products.

  • This was declared at the start and it was deemed appropriate for him to remain for initial discussion and then leave the room at points where the conflict could interfere with the independence of advice given. This was approved by all members and undertaken at the appropriate point in the meeting. 
  • Will was later asked to leave the room so the Group could discuss whether they felt the conflict had been appropriately handled. This was unanimously agreed.

6. Discussion of item: Population Density Project Pilot

The Group were provided with a presentation on the Population Density product being developed by Data Ventures. This was led by Robert Chiu, Data Lead, Data Ventures.

Members queried several aspects of the project before deliberating what they had heard in private, without the Data Ventures representative present.

The Group identified some areas where they required further information from Data Ventures ahead of formulating their advice and this was requested by the secretariat following the meeting.

Group guidance on Population Density Project Pilot

7. Priorities for the next meeting and any other business

The meeting concluded with the Group requesting that updated copies of operational documents be circulated ahead of the next meeting.