30 May 2023

On 2 May 2023, the Bioethics Advisory Committee (“BAC”) issued a consultation paper on the ethical, legal and social issues arising from big data and artificial intelligence (“AI”) use in human biomedical research (“Consultation Paper”). The consultation period is from 2 May 2023 to 1 July 2023.

The Consultation Paper seeks public feedback on the following key themes:

  • Responsible data usage, including how researchers or developers should ensure that data fed into the algorithm is not biased or results in bias-driven outcomes when developing AI algorithms;
  • Data ownership, custodianship and stewardship, particularly the application of ethical principles of respect for persons, justice, accountability, proportionality, solidarity, consistency and need for stakeholder engagement, examples of which include whether a person who had provided biological materials or data but had not participated in the subsequent processing or analysis should have intellectual property rights in the data, and how large volumes of biomedical data shared across countries in international research collaborations should be managed;
  • Data privacy, accessibility and security, including how providers and researchers can ensure robust and proper access control while maintaining data privacy, and how institutions or organisations managing data stored in multiple on-site servers or cloud repositories can ensure appropriate data accessibility through the application of ethical principles and values of respect for persons, solidarity, proportionality, integrity, transparency and accountability;
  • Data anonymisation, de- and re-identification of data, including how the risks of re-identification can be managed when linking data from multiple sources, and whether genetic data should be treated differently from other types of personal and health data through the application of ethical principles and values of respect for persons, justice, consistency, solidarity, proportionality, and accountability;
  • Revisiting consent in the arena of big data and AI, such as how the benefits of biomedical research can be shared with participants whose data is used through the application of ethical principles solidarity and justice;
  • Use and storage of legacy and posthumous data, including how legacy and posthumous datasets can be used and stored ethically; and
  • Ethical considerations and issues specific to AI, particularly the attribution of responsibility for wrong decisions by AI, how equitable access to AI technologies can be ensured in research globally, and how a robust AI model security can be built.

Summary of response

A summary of the main feedback received, together with the final report and recommendations, will be published on the BAC website and REACH Portal by the end of 2023.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the BAC website www.bioethics-singapore.gov.sg: