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Academies call for a sustainable European data governance approach

02 July 2019

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PDF icon ALLEA/Royal Society Discussion Paper: Flourishing in a Data-enabled Society

This ALLEA/Royal Society Discussion Paper examines how a European approach to data governance can unlock the full potential of data-based technologies, while at the same time safeguarding European values.

Flourishing in a data-enabled society

ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, and the Royal Society, the national academy of sciences in the UK, have jointly published a Discussion Paper on ‘Flourishing in a data-enabled society’. Based on the outcomes of discussions during an ALLEA/Royal Society conference in November 2018 in Chicheley, UK, the paper is intended to inform researchers, policymakers and wider audiences alike, and calls for a coordinated approach across disciplines and sectors to ensure data and digital technologies support human flourishing – or in other words to ensure data serves humanity.

The publication provides a concise overview on the impact of digital transformations and how increased data collection and use is transforming individual lives, modern societies and markets. These transformations involve trade-offs and in particular they put under tension values shared across Europe, such as privacy, autonomy, rationality, equality, and dignity. Despite these unsolved conflicts and ongoing uncertainty around the direction of these transformations, the paper emphasises that opportunities for human flourishing through the use of data are manifold, such as in healthcare, public service provision, or sustainable development.

The paper calls for establishing an inclusive, transparent and sustainable data ecosystem which respects the basic values of our societies, and is essential to underpin trust. According to the paper, such data-enabled innovation needs “a system-wide approach to be most effective”, which should include sound regulation, technology assessment as well as responsible innovation, and meaningful public engagement.

The paper concludes that such a concerted European approach should consider in particular the following objectives:

  • Putting societal values at the heart of data use.
  • Establishing good data governance and regulation.
  • Understanding opportunities for Europe.

Ongoing activities on data governance

The discussion paper reflects the conclusions of a conference held by the Royal Society and ALLEA and is the first step in an ongoing collaboration on the topic. Following up on this groundwork, it is envisaged to present the topic in a scoping paper to the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism  (SAM)  via SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) in order to produce a comprehensive evidence review report to inform future European data governance policies, drawing on the expertise of European academies

About ALLEA

ALLEA (All European Academies) is the European federation of academies of sciences and humanities. It was founded in 1994 and currently brings together almost 60 academies from more than 40 countries in the Council of Europe region. Its Member Academies are self-governing communities of leading scholars and researchers across all scientific fields. Independent from political, commercial and ideological interests, ALLEA contributes to the improvement of framework conditions under which science and scholarship excel. Together with its Member Academies, ALLEA addresses the full range of structural and policy issues facing Europe in science, research and innovation. Via its interdisciplinary and international working groups, various public engagement activities, and by participating in pan-European projects, ALLEA informs European policy and society through evidence-basedadvice.

About the Royal Society

The Royal Society is the national academy of sciences in the UK. It is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. The Society’s strategic priorities emphasise its commitment to the highest quality science, to curiosity-driven research, and to the development and use of science for the benefit of society. These priorities are:

  • promoting excellence in science;
  • supporting international collaboration;
  • demonstrating the importance of science to everyone.

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