Ethics and epistemology in big data research

Wendy Lipworth*, Paul H. Mason, Ian Kerridge, John P. A. Ioannidis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Biomedical innovation and translation are increasingly emphasizing research using “big data.” The hope is that big data methods will both speed up research and make its results more applicable to “real-world” patients and health services. While big data research has been embraced by scientists, politicians, industry, and the public, numerous ethical, organizational, and technical/methodological concerns have also been raised. With respect to technical and methodological concerns, there is a view that these will be resolved through sophisticated information technologies, predictive algorithms, and data analysis techniques. While such advances will likely go some way towards resolving technical and methodological issues, we believe that the epistemological issues raised by big data research have important ethical implications and raise questions about the very possibility of big data research achieving its goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489–500
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Big data
  • Epistemology
  • Ethics
  • Real world data


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