My first research project at the University of Wisconsin was matching signers of the Wisconsin Recall Petition to participants of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. During this project I was able to get great insight into research at an academic institution. And one of the things that came along with research at an academic institution is proper education on the ethics of research, particularly surrounding human subjects.
I was required to pass a set of modules established by the Institutional Review Board before I could start any research. However, in data journalism, there is no way to ensure that people will understand ethical standards regarding research.
The Associated Press (AP) will release guidelines in their next Stylebook surrounding the use of data in journalism, but the AP’s reach is limited.
Anyone can start a blog online and not have any clue about AP ethical guidelines just as anyone can download a data set online and manipulate it.
There is more data available to people than in the history of the world. However, we must all remember that there are people behind every datum and we must treat those people with respect and promise to tell the truth in the data.