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Meeting summaries - Data Ethics Advisory Group

Summaries of meetings of the Data Ethics Advisory Group, by date.

19 May 2020

20 November 2019

11 September 2019

19 May 2020

Agenda - 19 May 2020


Advisory Group: Professor Juliet Gerrard (Chair), Dr Amohia Boulton, Dr Will Koning, Dr Nessa Lynch, Kirikowhai Mikaere, Professor Colin Simpson

Stats NZ secretariat: Dale Elvy, Travis Ancelet, Nienke van Dijken

Apologies: Dr Ang Jury, Kate O’Connor

(Virtual meeting on Teams)

1. General welcome

Professor Gerrard opened the first virtual meeting of the Group by welcoming all of its members.

Apologies were extended on behalf of Dr Ang Jury and Kate O’Connor.

2. Declaration of conflicts of interest regarding the Data Ventures agenda item

Professor Simpson declared a potential conflict of interest regarding costings he received from Data Ventures for inclusion into two research grant proposals. It was noted that the costings and research proposals were undertaken after the Group had developed draft guidance for Data Ventures. Based on this, the Group unanimously agreed that there was no need for Professor Simpson to be excluded from the discussion on finalising the guidance.

3. Finalising guidance on the updated Data Ventures Population Density Project submission

The Group had a brief discussion about the draft guidance they had developed for Data Ventures around their Population Density Project. Members agreed to finalise the guidance after one minor change was made.

4. Update about new and outstanding items for the Group’s agenda

The secretariat provided the Group with a summary of the submissions received to date and an overview of current discussions with agencies interested in bringing their work to the Group.

A short prioritisation discussion was had to inform the items that would be considered in the Group’s next meeting.

5. Discussion about the Group’s membership

Ahead of the Group’s formal review, the Group discussed how they feel the year has gone, how they should operate in the future, and whether the current membership structure of the Group is appropriate.

The secretariat began the discussion by providing a summary of how the Group was established and its members were selected. The discussion then shifted to the upcoming review of the Group and the secretariat provided a brief overview about how the review would operate and what the Group could expect the review to consider.

Once the scene-setting was complete, each member of the Group provided their insights about the Group’s operation and what should be considered as part of the Group’s review. Common themes brought up by members included:

  • whether the Group’s advice should be binding;
  • the Group’s relationship with the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand;
  • whether the Group should provide its guidance to Ministers as well as officials; and
  • whether the Group could also be commissioned by Ministers.

The Group also had some discussion around making sure that their role was never seen as creating too many obstacles or overly critical. It will be important to get the right balance.

6. Opportunity to discuss response to COVID-19

Group members had a free-form discussion about their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and reflected on the changes they had seen in their professional and personal environments.

Members also shared their perspectives on how they were seeing data used locally and internationally.

7. Other business and close

The meeting closed with members indicating their willingness to have another virtual meeting in around a fortnight.

20 November 2019

Agenda - 20 November 2019


Advisory Group: Professor Juliet Gerrard (Chair), Dr Amohia Boulton, Dr Ang Jury, Kirikowhai Mikaere, Dr Nessa Lynch, Kate O’Connor, Professor Colin Simpson.

Item contributors:

  • Damian Edwards, Associate Deputy Secretary, Education System Policy, Ministry of Education
  • Professor Stuart McNaughton, Chief Education Science Advisor
  • Philip Stevens, Group Manager Analysis, Research and Evaluation, Ministry of Education
  • Allan Vester, Former Principal, Edgewater College and Chair, Sector Reference Group for the Equity Index.

Guest experts:

  • Dr Ana Koloto, Director Research and Evaluation, Ministry for Pacific Peoples
  • Anna McDowell, Senior Manager - Integrated Data, Stats NZ
  • Professor Richie Poulton, Professor of Psychology, University of Otago.

Stats NZ Secretariat: Travis Ancelet, Sabena Blackhall, Dale Elvy.

Apologies: Dr Will Koning.

1. Welcome and introductions from the Chair, Professor Juliet Gerrard

Professor Gerrard opened the day by welcoming our returning members and reaffirming the Group’s role as a friendly mechanism established to advise rather than chastise.

The Group also extended their welcomes and made introductions to the Group’s new member, Kirikowhai Mikaere, who will fill the seat reserved for a representative of the Māori Co-Design Group whilst it is being established.

Members formally co-opted Dr Ana Koloto, Director Research and Evaluation at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, into the Group for this meeting. Dr Koloto was invited to attend this meeting at the request of the Group Chair. This was to ensure that the perspective of Pacific Peoples was adequately represented given the potential impacts of the Equity Index.

Apologies were extended on behalf of Will Koning who was unable to attend the meeting.

2. Review of Previous Meeting

The Group discussed whether they were happy with how the previous meeting had been run and where they thought improvements could be made. Through discussion members requested:

  • more time be allocated for discussions with item contributors on future agendas
  • that contributors be advised to keep presentation short to maximise discussion time
  • a facility for a post-meeting follow-up teleconference call ahead of finalising feedback to agencies
  • that future meetings were longer to allow for at least two items to be discussed by the Group
  • that the cover sheets for completed submission forms be changed to improve clarity and ease of reference.

Members considered and approved the move to a 2-stage triage format for receiving submissions. This would involve submitting agencies completing a short form to allow the Group to make decisions on whether and when an item makes it onto a meeting agenda. Successful agencies would then complete a longer, more detailed form closer to the date of the relevant meeting to ensure up-to-date information for discussion.

Members discussed the work they were hoping the Group’s new intern would undertake. The intern is currently anticipated to undertake an international stocktake of similar groups and their work, and produce a paper for the Group’s use and reference. The scope of this work will be refined in discussion with members.

3. Discussion of updated materials and documents

Members approved the Group operating documents:

  • Terms of Reference
  • Terms of Membership
  • Operating Model
  • Submission Form(s).

Please note that, in variance to the agenda provided, the Group used the remainder of the time set aside for approving documents to discuss their questions on the Equity Index ahead of meeting with Ministry of Education representatives. 

4. Declaration of conflicts of interest relating to upcoming agenda items

There were no conflicts of interest declared ahead of discussing the Equity Index.

5. Discussion of item: Equity Index

The Group was provided with a presentation on the Equity Index being developed by the Ministry of Education. This was led by Damian Edwards, who was supported in his presentation by Philip Stevens, Stuart McNaughton, and Allan Vester.

Members queried several aspects of the Index before deliberating what they had heard, in private without the item contributors present.

The Group identified some areas where they required further information from the Ministry of Education ahead of formulating their advice and this was requested by the Secretariat following the meeting.

6. Priorities for the next meeting and any other business

The meeting closed with members requesting that a teleconference call be set up between members ahead of delivering their final guidance so that they could discuss the additional information requested from the Ministry.

Members also reviewed the current forward agenda of items submitted to the Group and outlined the items they consider high-priority for discussing at future meetings.

11 September 2019

Agenda - 11 September 2019


Advisory Group: Professor Juliet Gerrard (Chair), Dr Amohia Boulton, Dr Ang Jury, Dr Nessa Lynch, Dr Will Koning, Kate O’Connor, Professor Colin Simpson

Guest expert: Liz MacPherson, Government Chief Data Steward

Item contributor: Robert Chiu, Data Lead, Data Ventures

Stats NZ secretariat: Sabena Blackhall, Dale Elvy

1. Welcome from the Government Chief Data Steward, Liz MacPherson

Liz MacPherson opened the day with her ambitions for the Group, grounding members in its origin, development and the role she sees it fulfilling in the data landscape.

Liz then provided an overview of the wider landscape in which the Group sits, highlighting existing ethics framework and initiatives, before highlighting the need to streamline and standardise these approaches – a role she sees the group playing a key part in. 

2. Welcome and introductions from the Chair, Professor Juliet Gerrard

Professor Gerrard built on the foundation laid by Liz, outlining the importance of establishing the Group as a supportive mechanism to guide and improve the ethics of data use across government. She emphasised that, as an unknown, people may have reservations about the Group but that these should be viewed as opportunities.

3. Group welcome and introductions

The Group then delivered individual introductions of themselves outlining their skills, experience and where they felt there is need to add value to the ethics and safeguards of the current data system.

4. Discussion of draft group processes

The Group then focussed on discussing and refining their operations. This included:

  • the Application Form – members were keen for more detail to be provided at this stage and requested that new questions be included on the form such as ‘what ethical considerations or frameworks have you used in developing this project’. They also indicated support to include ethical principles on the form to guide applicants.
  • the Feedback Form – members requested this follow a structure where sections highlight:
       i. what was good about the item
       ii. suggestions for improvement
       iii. where the Group had concerns
       iv. where they were satisfied
       v. when it would be appropriate to check back in with the Group.
  • triaging items for inclusion on the agenda – members requested that applications be condensed into a table with a high-level summary followed by key time considerations to help guide decisions on what items to discuss. It was also requested that the deadline for applications close sooner so members would have the opportunity to identify and recruit external expertise where appropriate.
  • conflicts of interest – it was agreed that conflicts of interest, both on-going and ad hoc, will be declared at the start of each meeting and the appropriate means of addressing these decided on a case-by-case basis by the Group. It is also requested that the secretariat hold a ‘register of interests’ to better capture potential conflicts.

5. Declaration of conflicts of interest relating to upcoming agenda items

A conflict of interest was declared by Will Koning with regards to his company’s proposed use of Data Ventures products.

  • This was declared at the start and it was deemed appropriate for him to remain for initial discussion and then leave the room at points where the conflict could interfere with the independence of advice given. This was approved by all members and undertaken at the appropriate point in the meeting. 
  • Will was later asked to leave the room so the Group could discuss whether they felt the conflict had been appropriately handled. This was unanimously agreed.

6. Discussion of item: Population Density Project Pilot

The Group were provided with a presentation on the Population Density product being developed by Data Ventures. This was led by Robert Chiu, Data Lead, Data Ventures.

Members queried several aspects of the project before deliberating what they had heard in private, without the Data Ventures representative present.

The Group identified some areas where they required further information from Data Ventures ahead of formulating their advice and this was requested by the secretariat following the meeting.

Group guidance on Population Density Project Pilot

7. Priorities for the next meeting and any other business

The meeting concluded with the Group requesting that updated copies of operational documents be circulated ahead of the next meeting.