Newswise — A partnership between the University of Warwick and IBM is to offer researchers guidance through the ethical minefield of using big data and real time analytics.

Following an existing successful academic partnership between the two organisations IBM is providing $20,000 (£12,000) to support the development of new postgraduate training.

Emma Uprichard associate professor at the University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM), and co-director of the Warwick Q-Step Centre said: “There is a growing recognition that many professional codes of ethics relating to research and practice are increasingly 'not fit for purpose' given the challenges of big data and real time analytics.

“Researchers are increasingly turning to online tools with little or no ethical guidance other than some vague semblance that it is important to bear in mind basic key principles. Therefore, thanks to IBM, we will be developing online materials that can be used to develop and deliver successful training sessions in this area.”

The money has been granted by the IBM Faculty Awards which is a competitive worldwide programme intended to foster collaboration between researchers at leading universities worldwide and those in IBM research, development and services organisations.

The three day module will be offered to postgraduate students across CIM, Warwick Business School, computer science, Politics and International Studies (PAIS), and sociology as well as other students from a variety of disciplines that are increasingly using big data. Currently researchers gain 'informed consent' and provide assurances concerning privacy, confidentiality and anonymity when using data for studies. However as there is a diverse range of public and interlinked data available online that can be easily ‘scraped’ and ‘mined’ the ethical situation has become more complex.

Dr Uprichard will be working with colleagues Dr Maria Liakata, computer science, and Dr Arne Strauss, Warwick Business School, to develop the three day workshop on ethics of big data and data linkage. The training will be based on a similar module built and delivered by IBM at the University’s Warwick Business School. Work conducted by IBM into big data ethics will be used to shape the course content.

Paul Martynenko, IBM’s Vice President and Technical Executive, Europe said: “Many companies are now where science was 25 years ago and there has been so much development in the use of big data and data analysis. IBM’s Distinguished Engineer, Mandy Chessell and global executive, advanced analytic solutions, Colin Shearer, have both provided advice and guidance to the project.

“I have no doubt that the training developed by IBM and the University of Warwick will be of great use to many businesses.”

Speaking today (Wednesday 11 November) at the official launch of the course Professor Christina Hughes, the University of Warwick’s pro-vice-chancellor (teaching and learning), and Chair of the Advisory Board of the Warwick Q-Step Centre, said: “The award supports the tremendous opportunity to situate Warwick as a leading university for both research and teaching in the digital arena.

“What have we done here at Warwick is demonstrate how important it is that we invest in this big data for the future of social science and for the future of the UK's contribution internationally to cutting edge – and importantly, ethical - data research and teaching more generally.”


Photocaption: (l-r) Paul Martynenko, IBM’s Vice President and Technical Executive, Europe & Dr Emma Uprichard associate professor

For further details please contact Nicola Jones, Communications Manager, University of Warwick 07824 540863 or [email protected]

Notes to editors

Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies The Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM) was established at Warwick in 2012 to foster innovative and experimental forms of knowledge production through a sustained focus on methodology. CIM is dedicated to expanding the role of interdisciplinary methods through new lines of inquiry that cut across disciplinary boundaries, both intellectually and institutionally.

Warwick Q-Step Centre The Warwick Q-Step Centre has been established to host the Q-Step programme at the University of Warwick. Its aim is to deliver a step-change in quantitative skills within one of the strongest UK and global Social Science Faculties. It has substantial and long-term University investment in infrastructure, staff and other resources. For further details go to

Q-Step is a £19.5 million programme designed to promote a step-change in quantitative social science training. Over a five-year period from 2013, fifteen universities across the UK are delivering specialist undergraduate programmes, including new courses, work placements and pathways to postgraduate study. Expertise and resources will be shared across the higher education sector through an accompanying support programme, which will also forge links with schools and employers. Q-Step was developed as a strategic response to the shortage of quantitatively-skilled social science graduates. It is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). For more information go to

IBM Faculty Awards is a competitive worldwide program intended to:Foster collaboration between researchers at leading universities worldwide and those in IBM research, development and services organizationsPromote courseware and curriculum innovation to stimulate growth in disciplines and geographies that are strategic to IBM.

Register for reporter access to contact details