Data governance: a Royal Society and British Academy project

Call for Evidence from The British Academy and the Royal Society: “…The project seeks to make recommendations for cross-sectoral governance arrangements that can ensure the UK remains a world leader in this area. The project will draw on scholars and scientists from across disciplines and will look at current and historical case studies of data governance, and of broader technology governance, from a range of countries and sectors. It will seek to enable connected debate by creating common frameworks to move debates on data governance forward.


It is essential to get the best possible environment for the safe and rapid use of data in order to enhance UK’s wellbeing, security and economic growth. The UK has world class academic expertise in data science, in ethics and aspects other of governance; and it has a rapidly growing tech sector and there is a real opportunity for the UK to lead internationally in creating insights and mechanisms for enabling the new data sciences to benefit society.

While there are substantial arrangements in place for the safe use of data in the UK, these inevitably were designed early in the days of information technology and tend to rest on outdated notions of privacy and consent. In addition, newer considerations such as statistical stereotyping and bias in datasets, and implications for the freedom of choice, autonomy and equality of opportunity of individuals, come to the fore in this new technological context, as do transparency, accountability and openness of decision making.

Terms of Reference

The project seeks to:

  • Identify the communities with interests in the governance of data and its uses, but which may be considering these issues in different contexts and with varied aims and assumptions, in order to facilitate dialogue between these communities. These include academia, industry and the public sector.
  • Clarify where there are connections between different debates, identifying shared issues and common questions, and help to develop a common framework and shared language for debate.
  • Identify which social, ethical and governance challenges arise in the context of developments in data use.
  • Set out the public interests at stake in governance of data and its uses, and the relationships between them, and how the principles of responsible research and innovation (RRI) apply in the context of data use.
  • Make proposals for the UK to establish a sustained and flexible platform for debating issues of data governance, developing consensus about future legal and technical frameworks, and ensuring that learning and good practice spreads as fast as possible….(More)”