Questions as a Device for Data Responsibility: Toward a New Science of Questions to Steer and Complement the Use of Data Science for the Public Good in a Polycentric Way

Paper by Stefaan G. Verhulst: “We are at an inflection point today in our search to responsibly handle data in order to maximize the public good while limiting both private and public risks. This paper argues that the way we formulate questions should be given more consideration as a device for modern data responsibility. We suggest that designing a polycentric process for co-defining the right questions can play an important role in ensuring that data are used responsibly, and with maximum positive social impact. In making these arguments, we build on two bodies of knowledge—one conceptual and the other more practical. These observations are supplemented by the author’s own experience as founder and lead of “The 100 Questions Initiative.” The 100 Questions Initiative uses a unique participatory methodology to identify the world’s 100 most pressing, high-impact questions across a variety of domains—including migration, gender inequality, air quality, the future of work, disinformation, food sustainability, and governance—that could be answered by unlocking datasets and other resources. This initiative provides valuable practical insights and lessons into building a new “science of questions” and builds on theoretical and practical knowledge to outline a set of benefits of using questions for data responsibility. More generally, this paper argues that, combined with other methods and approaches, questions can help achieve a variety of key data responsibility goals, including data minimization and proportionality, increasing participation, and enhancing accountability…(More)”.