Institute response to the Royal Society and British Academy Data Governance report

Alan Wilson, CEO of The Alan Turing Institute, responds to the Data management and use – Governance in the 21st century report:

“We are delighted to have contributed to this important report published today by the Royal Society and British Academy.

It is essential that we determine how to manage the use of data across science, industry and society in order to foster responsible innovation, while providing appropriate protection which is both legally and technically feasible.

At The Alan Turing Institute, we are undertaking important research into data ethics. The experts in our Data Ethics Group are examining the ethical and societal implications of data, and a wider interest group is exploring issues of fairness, transparency and privacy and providing technical expertise.  

We welcome the report’s recommendations to establish a set of principles upon which to govern data, and to create a stewardship body to lead the discussions around data governance and anticipate challenges.

Both recommendations highlight the need for collaboration and flexibility, which are essential in order to keep pace with the rapidly-changing technologies in this space and to ensure that there are clear expectations for the governance and use of data across diverse sectors. These foundations will be essential for the public to trust future data-led innovations.

We look forward to working with the Royal Society, the British Academy and other partners to further develop the ideas contained in the report.”

Professor Luciano Floridi (OII, University of Oxford), Faculty Fellow and Chair of the Data Ethics Group at the Alan Turing Institute as well as member of the Royal Society/British Academy Working Group that produced the report, remarked:

“I am delighted to see the report published. We focused on data governance and ethics in the UK, but I would like to stress that the report places our country in a leadership position internationally. Thanks to a special combination of world-class academic research, leading innovation in the digital sector, and foresighted debates in the civil society and the political arena, the UK is ideally placed to shape the global debate on some of the most pressing ethical issues raised by the information revolution. Nowhere is the conversation on these crucial topics more advanced, technically and intellectually.

The publication of the report and its recommendations provides a crucial stepping stone towards a deeper understanding and more fruitful design of the digital services we want, the ethical framework we need, and the information society we wish to build.

I enjoyed working on the report and collaborating with an exceptional group of very distinguished colleagues and organisations because I believe the initiative provides a much needed contribution to our societal orientation. It is often said that technologies develop too quickly to be regulated. This is true, but may also be distracting. Policy and ethics are about identifying the preferred direction in which we should move and then about good steering, not the pace at which we should progress. If we know and like where we are going as a society, then the faster we get there the better.

I look forward to any future effort that will support the recommendations we made in the report”.


For more information please contact:

Sophie McIvor

Head of Communications, The Alan Turing Institute

020 3862 3334