Ethics for Computational Research

Links to videos and resources from a series of workshops organised by N8 CIR exploring ethics in computational research.


During October and November 2021 N8 CIR organised a series of seminars exploring ethics in computational research. Slides and videos from these sessions will be shared here as soon as they are available.

Introduction to Ethics

The first session explored and explained key ethical concepts as they may apply to computational research. It was led by Niall O'Loughlin and Catherine Brewer, both of Durham University.

Niall O'Loughlin is head of Durham University's Research Policy Team, who are responsible for the review, development and implementation of all of the policies and processes that underpin the university's research innovation activities. Catherine Brewer is a Research Policy Officer in Research and Innovation Services at Durham University. The session also featured contributions from David Cull A Senior Information Governance Officer and Kristina Holt, Data Protection Officer and Head of Information Governance.

  • Overview of governance, including Trusted Research, data protection and open data
  • Use of sensitive and health data with particular focus on use in external systems
  • Use of large publicly available data sets: social media, censuses, etc. including issues of internet-mediated research, GDPR concerns - processing, combining and identifying, sharing and publishing.

Introduction to ethics

NHS and Social Care Data

The session was led by David Carpenter, Chair of the HRA South Central-Berkshire NHS Research Ethics Committee. David is also a trainer in research ethics.

Working with health (and social care) data raises numerous ethical issues; most people assume their medical records to be absolutely confidential and any suggestion of wider sharing is met with a degree of hostility. The real landscape includes several shades of grey.

There are probably three ‘levels’ of data:

  • Publicly accessible data which can be found through simple searches.
  • Regulated data which will require formal application processes and assurance of compliance - typically with the ethics framework governing the distribution and use of the data.
  • Data gained through original research - this will normally entail following NHS processes if the data are to be obtained via NHS patients, their relatives, or carers. Broader, original health data can be collected through non-NHS channels - this might well be via social media or with the assistance of various support groups and charitable organisations.

The session covered key legal, ethical, and administrative aspects of working with health and social care data as well as wider issues such as consent. It should be of wider interest beyond health and social care.

Health and Social Care Data

Practical Applications of NHS and Social Care Data

In this video Camilla C. S. Caiado of Durham University explores ethics and governance issues around NHS and Healthcare Data.

Rather than discuss abstract concepts and policies, she takes pre-supplied questions from event attendees and answers them through the lens of her research and experience.

Practical Applications of NHS and Healthcare Data

AI and Machine Learning

In this video Michael Castelle of the University of Warwick gives an in-depth presentation exploring the recent history of artificial intelligence and Machine Learning and how this has impacted ethical considerations in the field.

The session focuses on two key themes, responsible design including potential use of tools, and interaction with ethics, e.g. engaging participants, ethics and internet-mediated research.

AI and Machine Learning

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