DRAGoN Seminar: Sphere transgressions: Risks and Benefits of the Digitisation of Health

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The digitalization of health and medicine has engendered a proliferation of new collaborations between public health institutions and data corporations, such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Critical perspectives on this “Googlization of health” tend to frame the risks involved in this phenomenon in one of two ways: either as predominantly privacy and data protection risks, or as predominantly commodification of data risks. In this short talk, Prof. Tamar Sharon (Radboud University) discussed the limitations of each of these framings and advanced a novel conceptual framework for studying the Googlization of health beyond (just) privacy and (just) market transgressions. The framework draws on Michael Walzer’s theory of justice and Boltanski and Thévenot’s orders of worth to advance a “normative pragmatics of justice” that is better equipped to identify and address the challenges of the Googlization of health and possibly of the digitalization of society more generally. 

Angela Daly then addressed socio-legal issues pertaining to healthcare data, drawing on political economy perspectives to consider the risks and benefits of healthcare data use, taking as an example her current collaborative research as part of the UKRI DARE GRAIMatter project on AI model export from Safe Havens and Trusted Research Environments (TREs).

You can watch the full recording here;

Speaker bio’s;

Tamar Sharon is Professor of Philosophy, Digitalization and Society, Chair of the Department of Ethics and Political Philosophy and Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Hub for Digitalization and Society (iHub) at Radboud University, Nijmegen. Her research explores how the increasing digitalization of society destabilizes public values and norms, and how best to protect them. She studied History and Political Theory at Paris VII and Tel Aviv Universities and obtained her PhD on the ethics of human enhancement from Bar Ilan University. Her research has been funded by the ERC and the Dutch Research Council. Tamar is a member of the European Commission’s European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies.

Angela Daly is Professor of Law & Technology at the University of Dundee, with a joint position between the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRSFS) and Dundee Law School. She is a socio-legal scholar of the regulation and governance of new (digital) technologies. She is the author of Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution (Palgrave 2016) and Private Power, Online Information Flows and EU Law: Mind the Gap (Hart) and the co-editor of the open access collection Good Data (INC 2019). She is currently chairing an independent expert group for the Scottish Government on Unlocking the Value of Public Sector Personal Data for Public Benefit, which aims to produce recommendations and guidance for public sector actors in Scotland on allowing access to their datasets.

UWE staff appointed to help ESRC plan its data infrastructure strategy

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The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the body that allocates and oversees social science research funding across the UK higher education sector, will face some significant decisions in data infrastructure and services over the next few years: several of its major investments are due for re-tendering, while others are already in the process of restructuring. At the same time UK Research and Investment (UKRI) is reviewing the wider investment landscape.

As a result the ESRC has begun a major exercise to review the research data infrastructure and services landscape. This project began In August 2021, with a public engagement exercise to identify key issues. This year, ESRC advertised two Future Data Services (FDS) ‘Strategic Fellowships’, and we are pleased to announce that two UWE staff, Elizabeth Green and Felix Ritchie from the Data Research Access and Governance Network (DRAGoN), were successful in bidding for the roles.

This is a great opportunity for UWE: DRAGoN staff are widely involved with all aspects of data access and governance, in the UK and abroad, but this will provide Felix and Lizzie with a unique insight into the strategic decision-making process for UK research investments; and they in turn will be using their expertise and networks to help ESRC design and evaluate a data services infrastructure for the social sciences that will take on board best practices, and challenge ways of thinking.

Professor Ritchie notes that “The UK starts from a strong position, with a long track record of successful investment in data services, and thought leaders across the data landscape. But that landscape continually changes, and although we do many things well in the UK, there are also many examples from other countries of doing things better.”

Some of the gaps are about co-ordination and communication: for example, how can we better share good practice in data governance or researcher training? Others are about adapting the experience of others to the UK: for example, what can we learn from other countries about creating a default-open model of data accessibility and sharing? And some gaps are where we have to fundamentally (re)think basic concepts: how do we put a value on effective data services when we can’t even put a meaningful value on the data itself?

These aren’t straightforward problems, or we wouldn’t need a two year strategy development period. But they are – or will have to be – solvable, and the benefit of getting it right will be felt across the UK research community, as well as in other countries.”

The ESRC commented “ESRC is delighted to make this award.  With ongoing transformations in the data services landscape, this is an exciting time to be undertaking our Future Data Services strategic review. We look forward to working with Felix Ritchie and Elizabeth Green who will provide a very valuable contribution to this review”.

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