Shifting from research governance to research ethics: A novel paradigm for ethical review in community-based research

Paper by Jay Marlowe and Martin Tolich: “This study examines a significant gap in the role of providing ethical guidance and support for community-based research. University and health-based ethical review committees in New Zealand predominantly serve as ‘gatekeepers’ that consider the ethical implications of a research design in order to protect participants and the institution from harm. However, in New Zealand, community-based researchers routinely do not have access to this level of support or review. A relatively new group, the New Zealand Ethics Committee (NZEC), formed in 2012, responds to the uneven landscape of access for community-based research. By offering ethical approval inclusive of the review of a project’s study design outside institutional settings, NZEC has endeavoured to move beyond a gatekeeping research governance function to that of bridge-building. This change of focus presents rich possibilities but also a number of limitations for providing ethical review outside conventional institutional contexts. This paper reports on the NZEC’s experience of working with community researchers to ascertain the possibilities and tensions of shifting ethics review processes from research governance to a focus on research ethics in community-based participatory research….(More)”

Ready Steady Gov

Joshua Chambers at FutureGov: “…two public servants in Western Australia have come up with an alternative way of pushing forwards their government’s digital delivery.

Their new project, Ready Steady Gov, provides free web templates based on an open source CMS so that any agency can quickly upgrade their web site, for free. The officials’ templates are based on the web site guidance published by the state: the Web Governance Framework and the Common Website Elements documentation.

The site was motivated by a desire to quickly improve government web sites. “I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase… ‘Everything takes longer in government’. We want building websites to become an exception to this rule,” wrote Jessy Yuen and Vincent Manera, the project’s founders.

They have created five open source templates “which are lightly styled so that you can easily integrate your own branding”. They are responsive so that they fit all screen sizes, and meet the required accessibility standards….(More)”


The International Handbook Of Public Administration And Governance

New book edited by Andrew Massey and Karen Johnston: “…Handbook explores key questions around the ways in which public administration and governance challenges can be addressed by governments in an increasingly globalized world. World-leading experts explore contemporary issues of government and governance, as well as the relationship between civil society and the political class. The insights offered will allow policy makers and officials to explore options for policy making in a new and informed way.

Adopting global perspectives of governance and public sector management, the Handbook includes scrutiny of current issues such as: public policy capacity, wicked policy problems, public sector reforms, the challenges of globalization and complexity management. Practitioners and scholars of public administration deliver a range of perspectives on the abiding wicked issues and challenges to delivering public services, and the way that delivery is structured. The Handbook uniquely provides international coverage of perspectives from Africa, Asia, North and South America, Europe and Australia.

Practitioners and scholars of public administration, public policy, public sector management and international relations will learn a great deal from this Handbook about the issues and structures of government and governance in an increasingly complex world. (Full table of contents)… (More).”

Study to examine Australian businesses’ use of government data

ComputerWorld: “The New York University’s GovLab and the federal Department of Communications have embarked on a study of how Australian organisations are employing government data sets.

The ‘Open Data 500’ study was launched today at the Locate15 conference. It aims to provide a basis for assessing the value of open data and encourage the development of new businesses based on open data, as well as encourage discussion about how to make government data more useful to businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

The study is part of a series of studies taking place under the auspices of the OD500 Global Network.

“This study will help ensure the focus of Government is on the publication of high value datasets, with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity,” a statement issued by the Department of Communications said.

“Open Data 500 advances the government’s policy of increasing the number of high value public datasets in Australia in an effort to drive productivity and innovation, as well as its commitment to greater consultation with private sector stakeholders on open data,” Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in remarks prepared for the Locate 15 conference….(More)”

New million dollar fund for participatory budgeting in South Australia

Medha Basu at Future Gov: “A new programme in South Australia is allowing citizens to determine which community projects should get funding.

The Fund My Community programme has a pool of AU$1 million (US$782,130) to fund projects by non-profit organisations aimed at supporting disadvantaged South Australians.

Organisations can nominate their projects for funding from this pool and anyone in the state can vote for the projects on the YourSAy web site.

All information about the projects submitted by the organisations will be available online to make the process transparent. “We hope that by providing the community with the right information about grant applications, people will support projects that will have the biggest impact in addressing disadvantage across South Australia,” the Fund My Community web site says.

The window to nominate community projects for funding is open until 2 April. Eligible applications will be opened for community assessment from 23 April to 4 May. The outcome will be announced and grants will be given out in June. See the full timeline here:

Fund my Community South Australia

There is a catch here though. The projects that receive the most support from the community are suggested for funding, but due to “a legal requirement” the final decision and grant approval comes from the Board of the Charitable and Social Welfare Fund, according to the YourSAy web site….(More)”

Scenario Planning Case Studies Using Open Government Data

New Paper by Robert Power, Bella Robinson, Lachlan Rudd, and Andrew Reeson: “The opportunity for improved decision making has been enhanced in recent years through the public availability of a wide variety of information. In Australia, government data is routinely made available and maintained in the repository. This is a single point of reference for data that can be reused for purposes beyond that originally considered by the data custodians. Similarly a wealth of citizen information is available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Combining this data allows informed decisions to be made through planning scenarios.”

We present two case studies that demonstrate the utility of data integration and web mapping. As a simple proof of concept the user can explore different scenarios in each case study by indicating the relative weightings to be used for the decision making process. Both case studies are demonstrated as a publicly available interactive map-based website….(More)”

The Trouble With Disclosure: It Doesn’t Work

Jesse Eisinger at ProPublica: “Louis Brandeis was wrong. The lawyer and Supreme Court justice famously declared that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and we have unquestioningly embraced that advice ever since.
All this sunlight is blinding. As new scholarship is demonstrating, the value of all this information is unproved. Paradoxically, disclosure can be useless — and sometimes actually harmful or counterproductive.
“We are doing disclosure as a regulatory move all over the board,” says Adam J. Levitin, a law professor at Georgetown, “The funny thing is, we are doing this despite very little evidence of its efficacy.”…
Of course, some disclosure works. Professor Levitin cites two examples. The first is an olfactory disclosure. Methane doesn’t have any scent, but a foul smell is added to alert people to a gas leak. The second is ATM. fees. A study in Australia showed that once fees were disclosed, people avoided the high-fee machines and took out more when they had to go to them.
But to Omri Ben-Shahar, co-author of a recent book, ” More Than You Wanted To Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” these are cherry-picked examples in a world awash in useless disclosures. Of course, information is valuable. But disclosure as a regulatory mechanism doesn’t work nearly well enough, he argues.
First, it really works only when things are simple. As soon as transactions become complex, disclosure starts to stumble. Buying a car, for instance, turns out to be several transactions: the purchase itself, the financing, maybe the trade-in of old car and various insurance and warranty decisions. These are all subject to various disclosure rules, but making the choices clear and useful has proved nigh impossible.
In complex transactions, we then must rely on intermediaries to give us advice. Because they are often conflicted, they, too, become subject to disclosure obligations. Ah, even more boilerplate to puzzle over!
And then there’s the harm. Over the years, banks that sold complex securities often stuck impossible-to-understand clauses deep in prospectuses that “disclosed” what was really going on. When the securities blew up, as they often did, banks then fended off lawsuits by arguing they had done everything the law required and were therefore not liable.
“That’s the harm of disclosure,” Professor Ben-Shahar said. “It provides a safe harbor for practices that smell bad. It sanitizes every bad practice.”
The anti-disclosure movement is taking on the ” Nudge” school, embraced by the Obama administration and promoted most prominently by Cass R. Sunstein, a scholar at Harvard, and Richard H. Thaler, an economist at the University of Chicago. These nudgers believe that small policies will prod people to do what’s in their best interests.
The real-world evidence in favor of nudging is thin. …
The ever-alluring notion is that we are just one or two changes away from having meaningful disclosure. If we could only have annual Securities and Exchange Commission filings in plain English, we could finally understand what’s going on at corporations. A University of San Diego Law School professor, Frank Partnoy, and I called for better bank disclosure in an article in The Atlantic a few years ago.
Professor Ben-Shahar mocks it. ” ‘Plain English!’ ‘Make it simple.’ That is the deus ex machina, the god that will solve everything,” he said.
Complex things are, sadly, complex. A mortgage is not an easy transaction to understand. People are not good at predicting their future behavior and so don’t know what options are best for them. “The project of simplification is facing a very poor empirical track record and very powerful theoretical problem,” he said.
What to do instead? Hard and fast rules. If lawmakers want to end a bad practice, ban it. Having them admit it is not enough. (More)”

Schemes used by South Australia to include citizens in policy making

Joshua Chambers at Future Gov Asia: “…South Australia has pioneered a number of innovative methods to try to include its residents in policymaking. …The highest profile participatory programme run by the state government is the Citizens’ Jury initiative, …The Citizens’ Jury takes a randomly selected, representative group of citizens through a process to hear arguments and evidence much like a jury in a trial, before writing an independent report which makes recommendations to government.
There were 37 members of the jury, hearing evidence on Thursday evenings and Saturdays over a five week period. They heard from motorists associations, cycling associations, and all sorts of other interested groups.
They used Basecamp software to ensure that jurors stayed connected when not at meetings, hosting discussions in a private space to consider the evidence they heard. …The jurors prepared 21 recommendations, ranging from decreasing speed in the city to a schools programme…. The Government supports the majority of the recommendations and will investigate the remaining three.
The government has also committed to provide jurors with an update every 6 months on the progress being made in this area.
Lessons and challenges
As would be expected with an innovative new scheme, it hasn’t always been smooth. One lesson learned from the first initiative was that affected agencies need to be engaged in advance, and briefed throughout the process, so that they can prepare their responses and resources. ….
Aside from the Citizens’ Jury, the Government of South Australia is also pioneering other approaches to include citizens in policy making. Fund My Idea is a crowdsourcing site that allows citizens to propose new projects. …(More)”

The downside of Open Data

Joshua Chambers at FutureGov: “…Inaccurate public datasets can cause big problems, because apps that feed off of them could be giving out false information. I was struck by this when we reported on an app in Australia that was issuing alerts for forest fires that didn’t exist. The data was coming from public emergency calls, but wasn’t verified before being displayed. This meant that app users would be alerted of all possible fires, but also could be caused unnecessarily panic. The government takes the view that more alerts are better than slower verified ones, but there is the potential for people to become less likely to trust all alerts on the app.
No-one wants to publish inaccurate data, but accuracy takes time and costs money. So we come to a central tension in discussions about open data: is it better to publish more data, with the risk of inaccuracy, or limit publication to datasets which are accurate?
The United Kingdom takes the view that more data is best. I interviewed the UK’s lead official on open data, Paul Maltby, a couple of years ago, and he told me that: “There’s a misnomer here that everything has to be perfect before you can put it out,” adding that “what we’re finding is that, actually, some of the datasets are a bit messy. We try to keep them as high-quality as we can; but other organisations then clean up the data and sell it on”.
Indeed, he noted that some officials use data accuracy as an excuse to not publish information that could hold their departments to account. “There’s sometimes a reluctance to get data out from the civil service; and whilst we see many examples of people understanding the reasons why data has been put to use, I’d say the general default is still not pro-release”.
Other countries take a different view, however. Singapore, for example, publishes much less data than Britain, but has more of a push on making its data accurate to assist startups and app builders….(More)”

The Next 5 Years in Open Data: 3 Key Trends to Watch

Kevin Merritt (Socrata Inc.) at GovTech:2014 was a pivotal year in the evolution of open data for one simple and powerful reason – it went mainstream and was widely adopted on just about every continent. Open data is now table stakes. Any government that is not participating in open data is behind its peers…The move toward data-driven government will absolutely accelerate between 2015 and 2020, thanks to three key trends.

1. Comparative Analytics for Government Employees

The first noteworthy trend that will drive open data change in 2015 is that open data technology offerings will deliver first-class benefits to public-sector employees. This means government employees will be able to derive enormous insights from their own data and act on them in a deep, meaningful and analytical way. Until only recently, the primary beneficiaries of open data initiatives were external stakeholders: developers and entrepreneurs; scientists, researchers, analysts, journalists and economists; and ordinary citizens lacking technical training. The open data movement, until now, has ignored an important class of stakeholders – government employees….

2. Increased Global Expansion for Open Data

The second major trend fueling data-driven government is that 2015 will be a year of accelerating adoption of open data internationally.
Right now, for example, open data is being adopted prolifically in Europe, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
We will continue to see international governments adopt open data in 2015 for a variety of reasons. Northern European governments, for instance, are interested in efficiency and performance right now; Southern European governments, on the other hand, are currently focused on transparency, trust, and credibility. Despite the different motivations, the open data technology solutions are the same. And, looking out beyond 2015, it’s important to note that Southern European governments will also adopt open data to help increase job creation and improve delivery of services.

3. “Open Data” Will Simply Become “Government Data”

The third trend that we’ll see in the arena of open data lies a little further out on the horizon, and it will be surprising. In my opinion, the term “open data” may disappear within a decade; and in its place will simply be the term “government data.”
That’s because virtually all government data will be open data by 2020; and government data will be everywhere it needs to be – available to the public as fast as it’s created, processed and accumulated….(More).”