Introduction • This session is directly linked to Session 4 in which we discussed the 10 Principles of Official Statistics. I hope you still remember the Principles, but if in doubt, please go back to Session 4 and refresh your mind before embarking on this session.
What are ethics? • Ethics are a personal set of values used by an individual to guide their actions, and to recognize any obligation • is the study of values and customs of a person or group • the study of values of how we ought to live
Do ethics have a role in Statistics? • Yes. Why? • This is because Official Statistics are based upon ethical principles that are aimed at maintaining the quality of statistics and at retaining the confidence of end-users and providers of information.
What Ethical issues arise? • Since ethical issues have a role in Official Statistics, as employees of institutions that produce or use statistics, we have to explore the ethical issues that arise in statistics in general and Official Statistics in particular. Below is a list, although not exhaustive, of some of the ethical considerations that arise in Official Statistics.
What Ethical Issues? cont’d • Failure to use of sound methodology • This arises when a statistical agency continues to use a seriously flawed or outdated methodology long after its shortcomings have been identified irrespective of the existence and availability of better alternative approaches. Continued use of the outdated and inappropriate methodology could be a result of political pressure or low institutional/organizational pride or esteem.
What Ethical Issues? Cont’d • Best practice dictates that statistical institutions should decide when to abandon such unsound methodologies and when to adopt new, sound and proven methodologies. • Taking such decisions becomes both a technological and an ethical issue.
What Ethical Issues? cont’d b. Protection of confidentiality • This is a concept borrowed from the medical field where medical staff is required to take an oath for a variety of reasons such as not to cause any harm to their clients/patients and not to gossip on information obtained during the course of their professional activities.
What Ethical Issues? Cont’d • Statistical confidentiality is a means of encouraging accurate reporting by business/individuals by assuring them that no one else other than the legitimate processors of the data have access to the information that they have provided/reported. Information can only be provided as statistical aggregates. This implies that no data at individual company or person level will be released at whatever cost or condition.
What Ethical issues? cont’d • However it should be noted that the confidentiality clause does not cover mesodata. • Mesodata is tabulated data for very small geographic units or blocks which is mainly used for targeting vulnerable population subgroups. • Provision of mesodata becomes an ethical issue to statistical agencies, their management and staff.
What Ethical issues? cont’d c. Integrity of statistical agencies and the national statistical system Maintaining and enhancing the integrity of the national statistical system is one of the pillars or tenets of the 10 Principles of Official Statistics. However the NSS can be threatened in a number of ways through: • arbitrary manipulation of concepts and definitions • extent and timing of the release of data • doctoring the actual data released • using the agency for political analysis or other political work • politicising agency technical staff
What Ethical Issues? cont’d d. Professional Integrity • When interpreting results or a phenomenon, the statistician as a scientific practitioner, should be honest, be guided by statistically valid procedures and best international practice and completely refuse to make non statistical conclusions. This implies that the statistician is an independent professional who is not qualified to make judgments, comments or decisions outside his area of expertise.
Dealing with Ethical Issues • Generally there are two approaches of dealing with ethical issues in Official Statistics namely: a. preventing the occurrence of ethical problems b. coping with ethical problems
Dealing with Ethical Issues cont’d a. Preventing the occurrence of problems Possible preventive action includes any of the following: • studying and documenting previous ethical problems • developing and disseminating case studies that illustrate ways of addressing ethical issues based on real or imaginary cases • providing education and training on ethics in the mainstream education curricula and statistical agency training programmes.
Dealing with Ethical Issues cont’d • developing agency specific mechanisms of dealing and responding to ethical issues. • disseminating the agency ethical standards to the public • developing and applying a range of substantive, methodological, operational and legal safeguards.
Dealing with Ethical Issues cont’d b. Coping with ethical problems • Under this approach, the following strategies can be employed: • speaking up about the perceived ethical problem • consulting informally with other colleagues/peers • writing a report on the issue indicating how the perceived action is violating established professional, agency or government-wide norms for statistical work. • informing one’s supervisor about the concern • using the Ombudsman’s Office • going public.
Resources • PowerPoint presentation by George Sibanda on Ethical Issues in the collection of Statistics. • http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/statorg/FP-English.htm • http://unstats.un.org/unsd/WS%20%202005%20ISI%20paper.pdf • http://unstats.un.org/unsd/dnss/fundprinciples.aspx • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics