Invitation for Discussion: LSA Resolution

Those readers who are members of the LSA will have received an invitation to vote on two resolutions. One of these is directly relevant to the ethics committee:

Whereas modern computing technology has the potential of advancing linguistic science by enabling linguists to work with datasets at a scale previously unimaginable; and

Whereas this will only be possible if such data are made available and standards ensuring interoperability are followed; and

Whereas data collected, curated, and annotated by linguists forms the empirical base of our field; …

Therefore, be it resolved at the annual business meeting on 8 January 2010 that the Linguistic Society of America encourages members and other working linguists to:

  • make the full data sets behind publications available, subject to all relevant ethical and legal concerns; …
  • work towards assigning academic credit for the creation and maintenance of linguistic databases and computational tools; and
  • when serving as reviewers, expect full data sets to be published (again subject to legal and ethical considerations) and expect claims to be tested against relevant publicly available datasets.

We’d like readers to identify potential ethical concerns relating to this resolution, so that a set of more explicit guidelines can be developed. Here are a couple:

  • Did the research participants give permission for the raw material to be made available?
  • Is there personal or identifiable information in the data set? Are participants happy for that to be made available?
  • Is the material coded with appropriate metadata?
  • Is the material available in a form that’s actually usable to other linguists?
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3 Responses to Invitation for Discussion: LSA Resolution

  1. drword563 says:

    One issue that is not trivial when archiving linguistic data is the difference between earlier (or none) and later consent documents. For example, we didn’t ask participants in our research 30 years ago whether we had permission to post their data to the Web, because there was no Web. And finding people to ask them again can be difficult or impossible.

  2. cahillm says:

    Just a quick comment on the way to running off… I would think that the LSA Ethics Statement would be good to explicitly steer people to, to identify a lot of the potential ethical concerns. Rather than come up with a new list or document, can that do? If not, would that document need revision?

  3. Evan says:

    This doesn’t help with older data, but it might be helpful to develop some guidelines and sample language (similar to the “whereas” section, but reworked) for researchers to use in speaking to their IRBs/writing protocol to justify making this information public

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