The Research for Ethical Data Science in Southern Africa (REDSSA) project has the overall aims of producing
new knowledge in regard to the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of conducting data science research,
to develop evidence-based, context specific guidance for the conduct and governance of data science initiatives
such as DS-I Africa, and to strengthen the culture of responsible data science in Southern Africa. The project
will be conducted in three phases.
Phase 1 is research intensive and will obtain empirical data on key stakeholder views regarding the development
of data science guidance to inform governance of DSI-Africa Research Hubs in Southern Africa. This phase will
start with conceptual research and normative analysis of the ELSI issues related to data science. Important
concepts to explore will include data sovereignty where data protection is balanced with responsible data
sharing. Given that digital data is often experienced as intangible and abstract by the lay public, the project will
employ crowdsourcing as a form of citizen science to inform the development of innovative educational tools that
could be adapted for stakeholder engagement in data science in the DS-I Africa network. Using these tools, we
will conduct in-depth interviews with key stakeholders to ascertain their experiences with ELSI-data science
related challenges, gaps in current guidance and their views on procedural and substantive aspects of guidance
development in data science governance. Key themes that emerge from the empirical research will underpin our
approach to co-creation of guidelines, procedures and policies required in the DS-I Africa consortium. During
phase 1, ethics consultants embedded in the Research Hubs will address emerging ELSI concerns.
In Phase 2 of this project, we will develop guidance documents informed by phase 1 research and by best
practices in international data science research guidance, the limited experience and existing literature to date
concerning data science research and governance of data management in Southern Africa. Importantly, such
guidance will be informed by the values of solidarity, sharing and mutual benefit - important concepts in Southern
African moral frameworks based on communal good. This approach is congruent with health data ecosystems
that require different stakeholders to work collaboratively for health innovation. The results of these policy-related
activities will be tempered with key concerns and principles identified in our conceptual and empirical work and
will provide locally grounded, practical guidance on the ELSI of data science research conducted in the hubs.
In Phase 3 of the project, we aim to amplify the impact and enhance the sustainability of our research and
governance activities by creating ELSI networks and communication channels focusing on data science in
Southern Africa. This will involve establishing an ELSI Data Science Southern African Network (EDSSAN) to
respond to evolving ELSI concerns in DS-I Africa Research Hubs beyond the funding period, hosting annual
conferences, and leveraging existing local networks.