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<nettime> Asilomar Convention for Learning Research in Higher Education


   On 1-4 June, 2014, a group of educators, scientists, and
   legal/ethical scholars assembled at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in
   Pacific Grove, California. Their task was to develop a framework to
   inform decisions about appropriate use of data and technology in
   learning research for higher education. A modified Chatham House
   Rule guided their deliberations, which produced the convention
   presented here.

   This convention reflects general principles rather than the views of
   individual participants.

       The Asilomar Convention for Learning Research in Higher Education

   Individuals, nations, and international agencies of all kinds
   increasingly rely on the promise of education to improve the human
   condition. Contemporary technology has created unprecedented
   opportunities to create radical improvements in learning and
   educational achievement, but also conditions under which information
   about learners is collected continuously and often invisibly. For these
   reasons, collection and aggregation of evidence to pursue learning
   research must proceed in ways that respect the privacy, dignity, and
   discretion of learners.

   Virtually all modern societies have strong traditions for protecting
   individuals in their interactions with large organizations, especially
   for purposes of scientific research, yet digital media present problems
   for the inheritors of those traditions. Norms of individual consent,
   privacy, and autonomy, for example, must be more vigilantly protected
   as the environments in which their holders reside are transformed by
   technology. Because the risks associated with data exposure are growing
   simultaneously with the promise of building new knowledge, researchers
   and educational organizations must be accountable for how they pursue
   learning inquiry. This convention reaffirms enduring commitments to
   ethical conduct, and to the protection of public trust in the
   institutions of higher education.

   The convention affirms two tenets for learning research:

    1. Advance the science of learning for the improvement of higher
       education. The science of learning can improve higher education and
       should proceed through open, participatory, and transparent
       processes of data collection and analysis that provide empirical
       evidence for knowledge claims.

    2. Share. Maximizing the benefits of learning research requires the
       sharing of data, discovery, and technology among a community of
       researchers and educational organizations committed, and
       accountable to, principles of ethical inquiry held in common.


   Six principles should inform the collection, storage, distribution and
   analysis of data derived from human engagement with learning resources.
   The principles are stated here at a level of generality to assist
   learners, scientists, and interested citizens in understanding the
   ethical issues associated with research on human learning.

   These principles are informed by the 1973 Code of Fair Information
   Practices, and by the Belmont Report of 1979.

   These principles will not always produce unambiguous solutions to
   particular questions, nor should they. Ethical decisions must always be
   informed by the particularities of their situation.

     * Respect for the rights and dignity of learners. Data collection,
       retention, use, and sharing practices must be made transparent to
       learners, and findings made publicly available, with essential
       protections for the privacy of individuals. Respect for the rights
       and dignity of learners requires responsible governance by
       institutional repositories and users of learner data to ensure
       security, integrity, and accountability. Researchers and
       institutions should be especially vigilant with regard to the
       collection and use of identifiable learner data, including
       considerations of the appropriate form and degree of consent.

     * Beneficence. Individuals and organizations conducting learning
       research have an obligation to maximize possible benefits while
       minimizing possible harms. In every research endeavor,
       investigators must consider potential unintended consequences of
       their inquiry and misuse of research findings. Additionally, the
       results of research should be made publicly available in the
       interest of building general knowledge.

     * Justice. Research practices and policies should enable the use of
       learning data in the service of providing benefit for all learners.
       More specifically, research practices and policies should enable
       the use of learning data in the service of reducing inequalities in
       learning opportunity and educational attainment.

     * Openness. Learning and scientific inquiry are public goods
       essential for well-functioning democracies. Learning and scientific
       inquiry are sustained through transparent, participatory processes
       for the scrutiny of claims. Whenever possible, individuals and
       organizations conducting learning research have an obligation to
       provide access to data, analytic techniques, and research results
       in the service of learning improvement and scientific progress.

     * The humanity of learning. Insight, judgment, and discretion are
       essential to learning. Digital technologies can enhance, do not
       replace, and should never be allowed to erode the relationships
       that make learning a humane enterprise.

     * Continuous consideration. In a rapidly evolving field there can be
       no last word on ethical practice. Ethically responsible learner
       research requires ongoing and broadly inclusive discussion of best
       practices and comparable standards among researchers, learners, and
       educational institutions.


     * Mitchell L. Stevens, Stanford University,
     * Susan S. Silbey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

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