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ACRL 2019 “Must be comfortable with ambiguity” - Resources: Data and Ethics

Links and resources from the ACRL 2019 Presentation: “Must be comfortable with ambiguity”: How Outreach Librarians are navigating their new roles to better engage with scholars in the 21st century.

Data Ethics Resources


A quick search on Google will turn up a huge (and growing!) listing of articles, blogs, reports and many more resources covering the intersection of big data, AI and ethics. Below we’ve pulled together the resources we reviewed and are relevant to our ACRL session and of value to academic librarians.  



Because of wide concerns over data and privacy one can find articles on these issues in a wide range of journals, such as business, health, psychology, sociology and in fact, most disciplines. However, the below journal is devoted specifically to covering just big data and ethics.

Big Data & Society (BD&S) Sage Journals;

An open access peer-reviewed scholarly journal that publishes interdisciplinary work principally in the social sciences, humanities and about the implications of Big Data for societies.



The following organizations provide education, knowledge sharing, workshops, articles and sometimes work to promote wider social change and make new policy recommendations.

Data & Society Research Institute, New York, NY

Data & Society is a leading and well-regarded research institute focused on the social and cultural issues arising from data-centric technological development. According to the Institute, Data & Society is committed to “identifying thorny issues at the intersection of technology and society, providing and encouraging research that can ground informed, evidence-based public debates, and building a network of researchers and practitioners who can anticipate issues and offer insight and direction.”


The TUM Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence.

TUM’s aim is to explore fundamental issues affecting the use and impact of AI, and has recently been given a large grant by Facebook. It is part of the Munich Center for Technology and Society.


Ethics and Governance of AI

The Berkman Klein Center at Harvard and MIT Media Lab collaborated to create the Ethics and Governance of AI initiative. Its aim is to “bolster the use of AI for the public good through evidence-based research that provides guidance for decision-makers across the private and public sectors,” and to “foster a network of interdisciplinary researchers focused on AI ethics and governance-related issues; and strengthening relationships between industry, academia, civil society, and government.”



Today many professional conferences explore matters of data and ethics, often with a specific disciplinary bent (e.g. ethics in the media; data ethics in government and so on). However, there are also broader conferences that look at the matter from a multi-disciplinary approach. One recent one is:

The Ethics of Data Science, University of Sydney



Learn Data Ethics (MOOC)

University of Michigan (Coursera)



This free online course covers ethical considerations regarding the privacy and control of consumer information and big data, especially in the aftermath of recent large-scale data breaches.


An Introduction to Data Ethics

Markula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University

This is an introductory ethics module for data science courses and provide instructors with readings, homework assignments, and case studies. The class is designed to spark a conversation about ethical issues that students will face in their role as data practitioners.  



The Power in Our Collections: Data Ethics and Libraries

International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) “Speak Up” Blog

From this blog entry: “…Data is clearly nothing new. Yet technological developments in recent years have given the subject a new profile, with the emergence of data mining, jobs for data scientists and data journalists, and even talk of a data revolution….”


Ethics and Information

Rutgers Online

A statement and discussion of key principles, ethical dilemmas in librarianship. The report is not only data oriented but ethics and libraries treated more broadly as well. This site also includes an attractive infographic of ethics and librarianship


Big Data or Big Brother? Data, Ethics and Academic Libraries. Barbara Fister

Published in Library Issues: Briefings for Faculty and Administrators 35.4 (March 2015)

From the article: “…Privacy is one of the core values of librarianship, but in a data-saturated world, this value is growing difficult to interpret and uphold. According to the American Library Association, protecting user privacy is “necessary for intellectual freedom and fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship.” Yet the benefits of Big Data challenge that position…”



Association for Computing Machinery (ACM): Code of Ethics

Data Science Association: Code of Professional Conduct