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RSS and IFoA publish new ethical guidance in data science

An introduction from John Taylor, President of the IFoA

Both the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) believe that the emergence of data science – the analysis of large, unstructured datasets often drawing on new kinds of data sources – is an important development. 

Data science and artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to greatly enhance the tools and capacities of those working in statistics and actuarial science, providing for new approaches to solving longstanding problems and opening up new sectors and industries to our members.

This great potential impact can lead to difficult ethical challenges for practitioners and calls for a need for strong ethical values and professionalism if the public interest is to be supported.

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To that end, the RSS and the IFoA have worked together to jointly produce a new ethical framework for their members and practitioners working in the field of data science. Although the field is famously fast-moving, we believe that a framework which draws upon established and reoccurring ethical themes concerning trustworthiness, professionalism, accountability, avoiding harm and the safeguarding of the public interest is well placed to provide helpful guidance for the field as it evolves. By seeking to bring the core professional values and our commitment to the public interest, which lies at the heart of our respective professions to the field of AI and data science, our goal is to build public trust in the work that our members undertake through the application data ethics.

Created with practitioners in mind, this guide seeks to provide practical support to members on ethical practice. Structured around our five core ethical themes, the guide provides examples of common ethical challenges in the field and how they could be applied. We also provide a wealth of reference material; with links to a wide range of online tools, legal and regulatory reference points and a host of other practical resources on our websites. Although we’re sure that ethical theory and practice will continue to evolve in this fast-changing field, we’re pleased to be able to offer a strong framework for that evolution that aims to support the work of our members, maximise the benefits inherent in data science and protect the public interest.

Find out more about ethics in Data Science

Find out more about Data Science