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Data Science Ethics

A Guide for Ethical Data Science

RSS and IFoA logos

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) and the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) have collaborated to explore the practical and ethical implications of data science. They have published joint ethical guidance which was developed by the IFoA-RSS Joint Data Science Focus Group, compromising of RSS and IFoA volunteer members, and approved by the IFoA Regulation Board.  

Download the guide

RSS and IFoA publish new ethical guidance in data science

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.

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.

John Taylor
IFoA President

A Guide for Ethical Data Science

Data Science Ethics: the role of practitioners

We will be developing IFoA specific guidance for members on data ethics and how this relates to their existing professional obligations. Further information will be provided to members as this progresses.

To find out more about data science and discover further useful resources, visit our Data Science Hub.

Professional Skills Training videos 

We have developed two online Professional Skills Training videos which focus on the challenges of working in a multidisciplinary project team to implement a pilot using AI technology for insurance renewal pricing. These videos can be accessed by members below.

Contact Details

If you any comments or queries in relation to the guidance, please contact us at

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Events calendar

  • India Town Hall

    28 January 2021

    Spaces available

    IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual India Town Hall 2021, hosted by John Taylor with IFoA Council Member Mahidhara Davangere and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann. 

  • Spaces available

    What are the options for the world economy looking ahead?

    In this Thought Leadership Lecture, Economist, Vicky Pryce, will be discussing world economic trends, including the differences in geographical performance and how output is recovering and where.

  • Spaces available

    Trust and Leadership for Actuaries

    Led by Dr. Jim Baxter, University of Leeds, this webinar introduces some key ideas in the ethics of trust, with a particular focus on those in, or on the path to, leadership roles. Dr Baxter is joined by a panel of experienced leaders who will give their personal perspectives on how they understand the value of trust and how they seek to promote and inspire trust, drawing on their experiences of leadership. The panel includes:

  • Health and Care Hot Topics webinar

    Online webinar
    10 February 2021

    Spaces available

    In this webinar, we have two presentations showing the latest research on the implications for life and health insurers of two key issues: genomics and pandemic risk.

    Dr Peter Joshi and Paul Timmers will share their research on how well-established underwriting processes can allow for genomics in predicting expected mortality and morbidity. They will then discuss the potential for stratified screening and personalised medicine to improve health and reduce claim costs.

  • Spaces available

    As the world’s attention begins to turn to COP26 later this year in Glasgow, Sarah Gordon (Chief Executive, Impact Investing Institute) will share her vision for how the financial services industry can deliver for people and the planet, as well as how to encourage more investment with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa Town Hall

    26 February 2021

    Spaces available

    IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual SSA Town Hall 2021, hosted by John Taylor with IFoA Council Members Mukami Njeru, Prosper Matiashe and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.

  • MENAP Town Hall

    2 March 2021

    Spaces available

    IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual MENAP Town Hall 2021, hosted by John Taylor and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.