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Ethical Risk Assessment in Biomedical Big Data

Date & Time:
09:00:00, Monday 14 March -
17:00:00, Tuesday 15 March, 2016


In biomedical research, the analysis of large datasets (Big Data) has become a major driver of innovation and success. ‘Biomedical Big Data’ (BBD) describes the complex and new set of technologically-driven phenomena focusing on analysis of aggregated datasets to improve medical knowledge, public health, clinical care and commercial health and well-being devices and services. Machine learning and algorithmic categorisation can increasingly make sense of the seemingly endless data emerging from sensors, wearable devices, clinical observations, clinical trials, social and online platforms which provide insight into the behaviours and physiology of individuals. BBD is expected to provide new ways of understanding health and well-being at the level of the individual and society, for example by predicting behaviours, monitoring diseases and outbreaks, and providing risk stratification for individual patients. However, the collection, storage and analysis of BBD potentially raises serious ethical problems which may threaten the huge opportunities it offers.

The Oxford Internet Institute, in association with the Brocher Foundation, will be hosting an two-day symposium, bringing together expertise from academia, medicine, industry and the non-profit sector to assess the ethical risks posed by a number of emerging Big Data applications. Risk assessment is an important step in understanding the potential impact (effects and consequences) of any emerging technology. Applications across a variety of research, clinical and commercial domains will be analysed, including biobanking, public health surveillance, outbreak monitoring, digital epidemiology, behaviour tracking and profiling, and other types of biomedical research.


The symposium will focus on in-depth assessment of real-world cases presented by experts across the aforementioned disciplines, with an aim to constructing a map of ethical risks pertinent to emerging biomedical Big Data applications.


Speakers and attendees will be invited to submit articles and case studies to a special issue of Philosophy & Technology on ethical risk assessment in Biomedical Big Data.

Organising Team

Dr. Brent Mittelstadt and Prof. Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford


The symposium will be hosted by the Brocher Foundation at their conference centre on the shores of Lake Geneva in Hermance, Switzerland.


A registration fee of 150 CHF is applicable, and can be paid via the event website.

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