Showcasing principles for responsible data use and handling

Organisations have more data at their fingertips than ever before, pushing the boundaries of what data can do for communities, businesses, and government.

While access to data provides significant opportunities and possibilities, there is also the potential for things to go wrong if data isn’t used responsibly or ethically.

To discuss this important issue, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS) teamed up with the QUT Centre for Data Science and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to present the “Responsible Data Science Symposium” at QUT and online.


ABS Associate Professor Gentry White, QUT

The symposium discussed several potential projects where there may be opportunities for participants to engage with the ABS. For ABS, ensuring modern data science techniques are used transparently and appropriately to produce quality statistics is important moving forward.

Associate Professor Gentry White, an Associate Investigator with ACEMS and the QUT Centre for Data Science ABS Co-Chair of Government Statistics, said the thing that struck him the most was how engaged people are on this issue.

“I was surprised at how much overlap there is from people coming at this issue from seemingly disparate perspectives” said Associate Professor White.

Among the speakers was Dr Kate Devitt, Chief Scientist with the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre.

“The people we heard from today are working hard to research and discover the emerging best practice in being responsible. They made everyone participating feel like they had tools they could immediately deploy in being more responsible today.”


Bernadette Giuffrida, ABS

“It was very interesting having people from the ABS here, who already have strong governance structures around what they can and cannot do with data. They’ve been very thoughtful about what they might do with artificial intelligence. I think there’s a lot we can learn by following in the footsteps of our best actors in this space,” said Dr Devitt.

Dr Bernadette Giuffrida, ABS Assistant Director and QUT Centre for Data Science ABS Co-Chair of Government Statistics, said, “It's important if we are going to use data science techniques, that as a national statistical office, we do it very responsibly. We must maintain public trust in the statistics that we produce. The value of getting the breadth of expertise from different areas of practice and having that all in one room has been phenomenal.”

From an ABS perspective, the symposium was a chance to identify areas of emerging interest and further engage with research priorities in the area of responsible data science.
"I had high expectations heading into the day, and they were exceeded. With every speaker, I found myself writing down points that I want to remember or want to look up and read more about. We are going to have a lot of conversations that continue from this,” said Dr Giuffrida.

It's an issue that will only get more important with more data and the increased use of artificial intelligence. Participants say it’s vital they stay up to date with new developments.
Because of this, Dr White hopes there will be more symposiums like this in the near future. “We all have relationships with other organisations, so we hope we can get them in as well and do another workshop. They can bring in their specific research areas of interest and get feedback from the experts in the room,” said Associate Professor White.

Other speakers included:  

  • Prof Rachel Thomas, Co-founder, and QUT Centre for Data Science Data Scientist in Residence
  • Prof Timothy Miller, Co-Director, Centre of AI and Digital Ethics, The University of Melbourne
  • Prof Kevin Desouza, Professor of Business, Technology and Strategy, QUT Business School
  • Dr. S. Kate Devitt, Chief Scientist, Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS-D) CRC 
  • Prof Dan Hunter, Executive Dean of QUT's Faculty of Law
  • Aaron Snoswell, Research Fellow in Computational Law at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making + Society (ADM+S)
  • Dr. Tristan Perez, Principal Systems Engineer, Boeing Research Australia, Mission Systems & Autonomy

You can see the videos from their talks by heading to the ACEMS YouTube page.

ACEMS Media & Communications: Tim Macuga, 07 3138 6741,