Academic Papers of Curtis M. Kularski

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Big Data Social Research Ethics and the Belmont Report

Big Data Ethics PHIL 6050
Master of Arts in Ethics and Applied Philosophy Fall 2016


Big data and existing research protections under the Belmont Report/Common Rule are incompatible. Big data is a new and emerging field with unknown risks to subjects. In some areas, such as informed consent, the Belmont Report may be too restrictive and in violation of its own principles of beneficence. The gaps in Common Rule that allow public datasets to be utilized without detailed review of the research project by an institutional review board place additional risk on subjects in the dataset. The current state of big data research is established in a social environment where privacy is valued by many people and it cannot be assumed that there is a social agreement that the possible risks of big data are worth the potential benefits. Academic researchers, who tend to be early adopters of new technologies and new techniques, are embarking on a new type of research to which existing ethical frameworks were not prepared to adapt.

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