Data and Intelligence Network: ethics framework

Sets out the principles our network will adhere to when running data and intelligence projects so we can deliver insight on the pandemic and wider data issues at pace while keeping ethics at the forefront of our thinking.

How to use the Ethics Framework

The Framework consists of a set of values and principles that can be used by the D&IN either to apply to strategic decisions or to help frame problems or solutions for which members of the D&IN are seeking to use data or digital technology. These are questions and prompts that will be found in much of the existing information governance systems in Scotland, but the processes and speed with which the D&IN will apply them are specifically designed for the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both the Framework and how it is applied will need to be reviewed regularly. A full review will be required should the work of the D&IN extend beyond the public health emergency.

At the outset of projects being proposed the teams making the proposal will complete an initial template which includes a problem statement as well as initial information on both information governance and ethics. At this stage the team will be asked to complete an Ethics Assessment. This is to ensure the solutions to the problem can be designed in an ethical way – asking not whether something can be done, but whether it should be done. Then continuing to refer to the Ethics Assessment throughout the project to highlight and address potential issues during the project lifecycle. The development of an ethics assessment should be done by the 'problem owner' and their team, it will be a core element of design. We would encourage the use of the prompts and questions to help explain both the public benefit and potential harms of the work candidly. These should help identify the work necessary to manage the pandemic and highlight where what is proposed goes beyond this purpose, into research or analysis which may be of academic interest or be an innovative approach as well as having public benefit. Making transparent these additional elements will help to properly assess potential public interest.

We also recognise that the scale and scope of projects undertaken by the D&IN vary widely: some are limited in scope and can expect to be completed in hours or days, while others will have a profound and potentially long term impact on end-users. The Framework is designed to help the owner of the problem to identify the scale of work as well as the risks and benefits early in the process so that ethics, transparency and public involvement can properly be taken into account and be proportionate. The thinking it requires and the information it helps to distil should aid the project or programmes to complete the permissions required by the Public Benefits and Privacy Panels and the other required compliance documentation.

Think of Ethics Assessment as a map with key questions to help you think about your project design and its impact. The ethics assessment should be a dynamic document that is used to review and evaluate the work at the end of the project. This will help your team and others to understand the impact of your project from an ethical perspective.

The Ethics Framework should be used:

  • To inform decisions on the governance of the D&IN emergency
  • To guide the development of projects and programmes to manage the health emergency
  • form the scale, scope and public benefit of the work of the D&IN during the health emergency
Ethics Rainbow – Values and Principles
Image Showing the Ethical Values of Competency, Transparency, fairness, Purpose, Trust, Voice and agency.

Graphic Text:

  • Competence
  • Transparency
  • Fairness
  • Purpose
  • Trust
  • Voice
  • Agency


Competency: Adherence to the rule of law

Transparency: A systematic approach to communication, arming citizens with meaningful information

Fairness: Consistent treatment of citizens, empowering citizens' voices

Purpose: Responding to public health needs whilst balancing the rights of the citizen

Trust: These all lead to the building of trust in the activity of the network. Trust is earned through the consistent demonstration of adherence to these values

Voice and Agency: The public are both listened to and heard

These all lead to the building of trust in the activity of the D&IN. Trust is earned through the consistent demonstration of adherence to these values.


Responsible: Recognise the need to behave in a trustworthy way in the use of data and digital technology across systems and processes

Accountable: Be accountable and transparent to independent scrutiny and oversight, use reliable practices and work within your skillset

Insightful: identify the limitations of the data and digital technology being used and recognise unintended bias, identify and apply mitigation

Necessary: Identify reasonable and proportionate requirements to meet that need

Beneficial: Start with a clear articulation of need, public benefit and risks during the public health emergency

Observant: Implement all relevant legislation and codes of practice, including any relevant emergency legislation for the Pandemic

Widely Participatory: Embed public participation through the development, implementation and monitoring of the work of the D&IN.



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