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Background

Novel digital tools and data sources are increasingly used for the surveillance, control and identification of risk for infectious diseases. For example, during the UK’s COVID-19 ‘test events’ researchers collected large amounts of data including: testing and wider public health data; detailed monitoring of ventilation; video capture and analysis of crowd behaviour; interviews, and surveys. The goal is to use non-medical data, including about people’s behaviour, to better understand disease transmission and implement effective public health interventions.

New forms of disease surveillance and control, such as this, that seek to combine information about people’s behaviour and lifestyle with more traditional clinical data also require access to selected data from personal electronic health and laboratory records and the potential to (confidentially) re-identify individuals found to be involved in outbreaks. This has major potential community benefits but may also: challenge patient confidentiality; disrupt traditional doctor patient relationships; change responsibility for health; or introduce unexamined value assumptions into healthcare delivery. Informed public discussion and an ethical framework will be essential.

This project will consider the ethics of using novel digital technologies and data sources for infectious disease surveillance, diagnosis, treatment and control.

Example topics could include:

  • Apps, wearable and personal health technologies for the diagnosis and prognosis of infections;
  • Geolocation and telecom data to identify relationships between movement and disease transmission;
  • Virtual medical care online tools used to prioritise patients for treatment.

The project should seek to identify and explore the ethical questions that are crucial to address in order to justify a legitimate and ethical use of novel digital technologies and data sources in context.

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE, RESEARCH METHODS AND TRAINING

This project will involve empirical bioethics methods which combine philosophical and ethical analysis with empirical research. It will provide a range of training opportunities in empirical bioethics research methods, including literature review, conceptual ethical analysis, qualitative research, data analysis.

FIELD WORK, SECONDMENTS, INDUSTRY PLACEMENTS AND TRAINING

The project will require qualitative interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders in the UK.

PROSPECTIVE STUDENT

This project would suit a candidate with a background in social/political sciences, bioethics or philosophy wishing to develop expertise in the field of empirical bioethics with an interest in population science, technology, and health care.

Supervisors