Commission proposes measures to boost data sharing and support European data spaces


Press Release: “To better exploit the potential of ever-growing data in a trustworthy European framework, the Commission today proposes new rules on data governance. The Regulation will facilitate data sharing across the EU and between sectors to create wealth for society, increase control and trust of both citizens and companies regarding their data, and offer an alternative European model to data handling practice of major tech platforms.

The amount of data generated by public bodies, businesses and citizens is constantly growing. It is expected to multiply by five between 2018 and 2025. These new rules will allow this data to be harnessed and will pave the way for sectoral European data spaces to benefit society, citizens and companies. In the Commission’s data strategy of February this year, nine such data spaces have been proposed, ranging from industry to energy, and from health to the European Green Deal. They will, for example, contribute to the green transition by improving the management of energy consumption, make delivery of personalised medicine a reality, and facilitate access to public services.

The Regulation includes:

  • A number of measures to increase trust in data sharing, as the lack of trust is currently a major obstacle and results in high costs.
  • Create new EU rules on neutrality to allow novel data intermediaries to function as trustworthy organisers of data sharing.
  • Measures to facilitate the reuse of certain data held by the public sector. For example, the reuse of health data could advance research to find cures for rare or chronic diseases.
  • Means to give Europeans control on the use of the data they generate, by making it easier and safer for companies and individuals to voluntarily make their data available for the wider common good under clear conditions….(More)”.

Geospatial Data Market Study


Study by Frontier Economics: “Frontier Economics was commissioned by the Geospatial Commission to carry out a detailed economic study of the size, features and characteristics of the UK geospatial data market. The Geospatial Commission was established within the Cabinet Office in 2018, as an independent, expert committee responsible for setting the UK’s Geospatial Strategy and coordinating public sector geospatial activity. The Geospatial Commission’s aim is to unlock the significant economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by location data. The UK’s Geospatial Strategy (2020) sets out how the UK can unlock the full power of location data and take advantage of the significant economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by location data….

Like many other forms of data, the value of geospatial data is not limited to the data creator or data user. Value from using geospatial data can be subdivided into several different categories, based on who the value accrues to:

Direct use value: where value accrues to users of geospatial data. This could include government using geospatial data to better manage public assets like roadways.

Indirect use value: where value is also derived by indirect beneficiaries who interact with direct users. This could include users of the public assets who benefit from better public service provision.

Spillover use value: value that accrues to others who are not a direct data user or indirect beneficiary. This could, for example, include lower levels of emissions due to improvement management of the road network by government. The benefits of lower emissions are felt by all of society even those who do not use the road network.

As the value from geospatial data does not always accrue to the direct user of the data, there is a risk of underinvestment in geospatial technology and services. Our £6 billion estimate of turnover for a subset of geospatial firms in 2018 does not take account of these wider economic benefits that “spill over” across the UK economy, and generate additional value. As such, the value that geospatial data delivers is likely to be significantly higher than we have estimated and is therefore an area for potential future investment….(More)”.

Introducing Reach: find and track research being put into action


Blog by Dawn Duhaney: “At Wellcome Data Labs we’re releasing our first product, Reach. Our goal is to support funding organisations and researchers by making it easier to find and track scientific research being put into action by governments and global health organisations.

https://reach.wellcomedatalabs.org/
https://reach.wellcomedatalabs.org/

We focused on solving this problem in collaboration with our internal Insights and Analysis team for Wellcome and with partner organisations before deciding to release Reach more widely.

We found that evaluation teams wanted tools to help them measure the influence academic research was having on policy making institutions. We noticed that it is often challenging to track how scientific evidence makes its way into policy making. Institutions like the UK Government and the World Health Organisation have hundreds of thousands of policy documents available — it’s a heavily manual task to search through them to find evidence of our funded research.

At Wellcome we have some established methods for collecting evidence of policy influence from our funded research such as end of scheme reporting and via word of mouth. Through these methods we found great examples of how funded research was being put into policy and practice by government and global health organisations.

One example is from Kenya. The KEMRI Research Programme — a collaboration between the Kenyan Medical Research Institute, Wellcome and Oxford University launched a research programme to improve maternal health in 2005. Their research was cited in the World Health Organisation and with advocacy efforts from the KEMRI team influenced the development of new Kenyan national guidelines of paediatric care.

In Wellcome Data Labs we wanted to build a tool that would aid the discovery of evidence based policy making and be a step in the process of assessing research influence for evaluators, researchers and funding institutions….(More)”.

Covid-19 Data Is a Mess. We Need a Way to Make Sense of It.


Beth Blauer and Jennifer Nuzzo in the New York Times: “The United States is more than eight months into the pandemic and people are back waiting in long lines to be tested as coronavirus infections surge again. And yet there is still no federal standard to ensure testing results are being uniformly reported. Without uniform results, it is impossible to track cases accurately or respond effectively.

We test to identify coronavirus infections in communities. We can tell if we are casting a wide enough net by looking at test positivity — the percentage of people whose results are positive for the virus. The metric tells us whether we are testing enough or if the transmission of the virus is outpacing our efforts to slow it.

If the percentage of tests coming back positive is low, it gives us more confidence that we are not missing a lot of infections. It can also tell us whether a recent surge in cases may be a result of increased testing, as President Trump has asserted, or that cases are rising faster than the rate at which communities are able to test.

But to interpret these results properly, we need a national standard for how these results are reported publicly by each state. And although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue protocols for how to report new cases and deaths, there is no uniform guideline for states to report testing results, which would tell us about the universe of people tested so we know we are doing enough testing to track the disease. (Even the C.D.C. was found in May to be reporting states’ results in a way that presented a misleading picture of the pandemic.)

Without a standard, states are deciding how to calculate positivity rates on their own — and their approaches are very different.

Some states include results from positive antigen-based tests, some states don’t. Some report the number of people tested, while others report only the number of tests administered, which can skew the overall results when people are tested repeatedly (as, say, at colleges and nursing homes)….(More)”

Armchair Survey Research: A Possible Post-COVID-19 Boon in Social Science


Paper by Samiul Hasan: “Post-COVID-19 technologies for higher education and corporate communication have opened-up wonderful opportunity for Online Survey Research. These technologies could be used for one-to-one interview, group interview, group questionnaire survey, online questionnaire survey, or even ‘focus group’ discussions. This new trend, which may aptly be called ‘armchair survey research’ may be the only or new trend in social science research. If that is the case, an obvious question might be what is ‘survey research’ and how is it going to be easier in the post-COVID-19 world? My intention is to offer some help to the promising researchers who have all quality and eagerness to undertake good social science research for publication, but no fund.

The text is divided into three main parts. Part one deals with “Science, Social Science and Research” to highlight some important points about the importance of ‘What’, ‘Why’, and ‘So what’ and ‘framing of a research question’ for a good research. Then the discussion moves to ‘reliability and validity’ in social science research including falsifiability, content validity, and construct validity. This part ends with discussions on concepts, constructs, and variables in a theoretical (conceptual) framework. The second part deals categorically with ‘survey research’ highlighting the use and features of interviews and questionnaire surveys. It deals primarily with the importance and use of nominal response or scale and ordinal response or scale as well as the essentials of question content and wording, and question sequencing. The last part deals with survey research in the post-COVID-19 period highlighting strategies for undertaking better online survey research, without any fund….(More)”.

Malicious Uses and Abuses of Artificial Intelligence


Report by Europol, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and Trend Micro: “… looking into current and predicted criminal uses of artificial intelligence (AI)… The report provides law enforcers, policy makers and other organizations with information on existing and potential attacks leveraging AI and recommendations on how to mitigate these risks.

“AI promises the world greater efficiency, automation and autonomy. At a time where the public is getting increasingly concerned about the possible misuse of AI, we have to be transparent about the threats, but also look into the potential benefits from AI technology.” said Edvardas Šileris, Head of Europol’s Cybercrime Centre. “This report will help us not only to anticipate possible malicious uses and abuses of AI, but also to prevent and mitigate those threats proactively. This is how we can unlock the potential AI holds and benefit from the positive use of AI systems.”

The report concludes that cybercriminals will leverage AI both as an attack vector and an attack surface. Deepfakes are currently the best-known use of AI as an attack vector. However, the report warns that new screening technology will be needed in the future to mitigate the risk of disinformation campaigns and extortion, as well as threats that target AI data sets.

For example, AI could be used to support:

  • Convincing social engineering attacks at scale
  • Document-scraping malware to make attacks more efficient
  • Evasion of image recognition and voice biometrics
  • Ransomware attacks, through intelligent targeting and evasion
  • Data pollution, by identifying blind spots in detection rules..

The three organizations make several recommendations to conclude the report:

Interoperability as a tool for competition regulation


Paper by Ian Brown: “Interoperability is a technical mechanism for computing systems to work together – even if they are from competing firms. An interoperability requirement for large online platforms has been suggested by the European Commission as one ex ante (up-front rule) mechanism in its proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA), as a way to encourage competition. The policy goal is to increase choice and quality for users, and the ability of competitors to succeed with better services. The application would be to the largest online platforms, such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, smartphone operating systems (e.g. Android/iOS), and their ancillary services, such as payment and app stores.

This report analyses up-front interoperability requirements as a pro-competition policy tool for regulating large online platforms, exploring the economic and social rationales and possible regulatory mechanisms. It is based on a synthesis of recent comprehensive policy re-views of digital competition in major industrialised economies, and related academic literature, focusing on areas of emerging consensus while noting important disagreements. It draws particularly on the Vestager, Furman and Stigler reviews, and the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s study on online platforms and digital advertising. It also draws on interviews with software developers, platform operators, government officials, and civil society experts working in this field….(More)”.

‘It gave me hope in democracy’: how French citizens are embracing people power


Peter Yeung at The Guardian: “Angela Brito was driving back to her home in the Parisian suburb of Seine-et-Marne one day in September 2019 when the phone rang. The 47-year-old caregiver, accustomed to emergency calls, pulled over in her old Renault Megane to answer. The voice on the other end of the line informed her she had been randomly selected to take part in a French citizens’ convention on climate. Would she, the caller asked, be interested?

“I thought it was a real prank,” says Brito, a single mother of four who was born in the south of Portugal. “I’d never heard anything about it before. But I said yes, without asking any details. I didn’t believe it.’”

Brito received a letter confirming her participation but she still didn’t really take it seriously. On 4 October, the official launch day, she got up at 7am as usual and, while driving to meet her first patient of the day, heard a radio news item on how 150 ordinary citizens had been randomly chosen for this new climate convention. “I said to myself, ah, maybe it was true,” she recalls.

At the home of her second patient, a good-humoured old man in a wheelchair, the TV news was on. Images of the grand Art Déco-style Palais d’Iéna, home of the citizens’ gathering, filled the screen. “I looked at him and said, ‘I’m supposed to be one of those 150,’” says Brito. “He told me, ‘What are you doing here then? Leave, get out, go there!’”

Brito had two hours to get to the Palais d’Iéna. “I arrived a little late, but I arrived!” she says.

Over the next nine months, Brito would take part in the French citizens’ convention for the climate, touted by Emmanuel Macron as an “unprecedented democratic experiment”, which would bring together 150 people aged 16 upwards, from all over France and all walks of French life – to learn, debate and then propose measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. By the end of the process, Brito and her fellow participants had convinced Macron to pledge an additional €15bn (£13.4bn) to the climate cause and to accept all but three of the group’s 149 recommendations….(More)”.

The Case for Digital Activism: Refuting the Fallacies of Slacktivism


Paper by Nora Madison and Mathias Klang: “This paper argues for the importance and value of digital activism. We first outline the arguments against digitally mediated activism and then address the counter-arguments against its derogatory criticisms. The low threshold for participating in technologically mediated activism seems to irk its detractors. Indeed, the term used to downplay digital activism is slacktivism, a portmanteau of slacker and activism. The use of slacker is intended to stress the inaction, low effort, and laziness of the person and thereby question their dedication to the cause. In this work we argue that digital activism plays a vital role in the arsenal of the activist and needs to be studied on its own terms in order to be more fully understood….(More)”

Don’t Fear the Robots, and Other Lessons From a Study of the Digital Economy


Steve Lohr at the New York Times: “L. Rafael Reif, the president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, delivered an intellectual call to arms to the university’s faculty in November 2017: Help generate insights into how advancing technology has changed and will change the work force, and what policies would create opportunity for more Americans in the digital economy.

That issue, he wrote, is the “defining challenge of our time.”

Three years later, the task force assembled to address it is publishing its wide-ranging conclusions. The 92-page report, “The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines,” was released on Tuesday….

Here are four of the key findings in the report:

Most American workers have fared poorly.

It’s well known that those on the top rungs of the job ladder have prospered for decades while wages for average American workers have stagnated. But the M.I.T. analysis goes further. It found, for example, that real wages for men without four-year college degrees have declined 10 to 20 percent since their peak in 1980….

Robots and A.I. are not about to deliver a jobless future.

…The M.I.T. researchers concluded that the change would be more evolutionary than revolutionary. In fact, they wrote, “we anticipate that in the next two decades, industrialized countries will have more job openings than workers to fill them.”…

Worker training in America needs to match the market.

“The key ingredient for success is public-private partnerships,” said Annette Parker, president of South Central College, a community college in Minnesota, and a member of the advisory board to the M.I.T. project.

The schools, nonprofits and corporate-sponsored programs that have succeeded in lifting people into middle-class jobs all echo her point: the need to link skills training to business demand….

Workers need more power, voice and representation.The report calls for raising the minimum wage, broadening unemployment insurance and modifying labor laws to enable collective bargaining in occupations like domestic and home-care workers and freelance workers. Such representation, the report notes, could come from traditional unions or worker advocacy groups like the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jobs With Justice and the Freelancers Union….(More)”