In the world of statistics and data science, ethics holds fundamental significance. Thus, it directly aligns with the ISI's mission to protect and promote excellence in the field. Upholding ethical standards is paramount for establishing and maintaining the integrity of global statistical institutions, ensuring the credibility of statistical endeavors, and contributing to the definition and promotion of statistical practice.
Ethics serves not only as a moral imperative but also as a foundational element in safeguarding the principles and integrity of statistics and data science within the scope of our mission.
As part of our commitment to supporting the international statistical community, ethics plays a pivotal role in cultivating public awareness of the value of employing reliable, accurate, and methodologically sound approaches in statistical work.
In our dedication to enhancing support for statistical communities in developing countries, ethical guidelines are indispensable for constructing robust frameworks conducive to sustainable development and equitable outcomes.
The ISI Advisory Board on Ethics (ABE) was established in 2010. The ABE advises the Executive Committee and Council on relevant ethical issues, and recommends or undertakes activities for promoting observance of ethical principles in statistics. The work of the Board is based on the ISI Declaration on Professional Ethics and guided by ISI’s mission and its relevant objectives:
- Promoting excellence in the practice of statistics.
- Supporting the international statistical community in promoting the establishment and maintenance of sound statistical institutions.
- To promote and disseminate research and best practices in the statistical sciences.
- To establish an appropriate role for the ISI in promoting public awareness of good statistical practice and its value to the community, and in supporting good practice.
- To enhance the ISI’s support for the statistical community in developing countries.
The role of the Advisory Board
Provide advice to the Executive Committee or Council of the ISI on how to respond to ethical issues that are brought to its attention by the Committee or Council.
Assist the Executive Committee or Council with providing advice on ethical issues to individual ISI members or institutional members seeking such advice.
Recommend the Executive Committee or Council on activities that the ISI should pursue to address emerging ethical issues, especially the promotion of good practices.
Suggest activities regarding Ethics for each World Statistics Congress.
The Advisory Board goes beyond responding solely to matters referred by the Executive Committee or Council. It actively proposes specific actions related to emerging ethical issues, which may arise from new principles or guidelines.
Types of activities the Advisory Board can consider:
- Meetings at the World Statistics Congress or elsewhere to discuss and support ethical principles in emerging areas of concern.
- Given that documents and presentations from these meetings can often provide very useful reference material, the Board might propose the preparation of publications, articles in existing ISI publications, or a web page with this purpose in mind.
- It might recommend establishing ad hoc committees, working groups, etc. to provide advice to the Executive Committee or Council on specified areas that are outside the areas of expertise of the Advisory Board or require detailed consideration.
- Where advice on ethical or integrity issues is sought by a member or institution (as distinct from asking the ISI to intervene on their behalf), the ISI should attempt to respond consistent with its objective to enhance the ISI’s support for the statistical community in general, and in developing countries in particular. The Advisory Board should assist the Executive Committee and Council to the extent requested and feasible. Any advice should be guided by the ISI Declaration of Professional Ethics.
- The Board may co-opt experts in particular fields (preferably ISI members) or set up working groups to investigate particular issues.
- Modalities and processes with respect to Terms of Reference 1.
- Investigate in the light of the ISI Declaration of Professional Ethics the facts to ensure that allegations of ethical breaches are correct and to better understand the issues at hand;
- Draw the issue to the attention of the relevant Association of the ISI and ask if they want to be involved;
- Co-opt experts to the Advisory Board if the relevant expertise does not already exist on the Advisory Board;
- Circulate a draft of the advice to the Executive Committee and/or Council to all stakeholders for comment; and
- Finalise the advice and forward to the Executive Committee and/or Council together with a summary of comments received during the stakeholder consultation.
Role of the EC and Council concerning ethical issues
Policies and strategies concerning the Declaration on Professional Ethics are discussed and decided by the ISI Executive Committee (EC) and Council. Decisions on actions concerning ethical issues are taken by the EC, mainly following advice from the Advisory Board on Ethics (ABE).
The ISI strategy on professional ethics
Following recommendations by the ABE and discussions in Council, the EC approved the following strategy for ISI actions on professional ethics. The most appropriate strategies would be taken depending on the circumstances.
- The ISI can write letters of support to the statisticians that have been affected. This can be reassuring during what must be a difficult time for them.
- We can write to the authorities in the country expressing our concern. This is unlikely to have much direct influence but might provide a useful source for quotation. On the other hand, it can result in some quite aggressive responses.
- We can approach the relevant international agency urging their involvement. They are likely to have more influence than the ISI.
- We can ensure that media are aware of the situation. This may put some pressure on governments. If market sensitive statistics are affected, this may result in market reactions that may be to the disadvantage of the countries concerned. Countries may be less likely to dismiss statisticians in such circumstances if they think there is a price to pay.
- We can publish statements on the ISI website which would then be available for quoting by the media and others.
- We can work with other professional associations to provide a collective response. The impact of that could be far greater than acting alone. For example, in the Argentinian case the ISI did work with the American Statistical Association (ASA) in crafting a response.