In the Shire … Sharing

I was delighted to be invited to participate in SportsTech 2012.
The event was “geared towards presenting technological solutions for grass roots sports. It’s about managing and co-ordinating sports efficiently and effectively”.
It was held in the Sutherland Entertainment Centre.
I have posted a copy of my presentation here. I am grateful to Alex Mednis for the invitation to present some ideas about sport and technology.
I thought the input from the speakers was outstanding. Graham Annesley, Member for Miranda and the NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation opened the Conference. Graham provided an excellent context for the conference and his discussion of technology gave me a great start to my presentation.
The speakers were:
Jeff Vlahovich, Cancer Council NSW
Chris Woutersz, Aware Education
Rex Levi, Sutherland Shire Junior Water Polo Association
Kerry Turner, NSW Department of Sport & Recreation
John Reid, Australian Drug Foundation
Joshua Sprake, Sutherland Shire Junior Water Polo Association
Assoc. Prof. Paul Jonson, University of Technology, Sydney
Kelly Dowling-Jones, Clayton Utz
Nadia Di Lorenzo, Yogabody
Alex Mednis, thinkrelativity


  1. Some thoughts on privacy and athletes’ data
    Thanks Keith. Your work brings into focus some of the issues that I’ve been thinking about for a while. The Association for Research Ethics Committees in the UK recently held a symposium entitled ‘Sports Science Research Ethics: Heroes of Villains?’ At it I made a short presentation. Basically, what I argued was something like this…
    Data ownership remains unclear in the sport and exercise sciences. Some of my colleagues at Cardiff Metropolitan University have recently finished a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and from my non-specialist perspective, it’s simply amazing what’s now possible. The SESAME project shows clearly the ease and speed with which vast volumes of data can be captured, analysed and shared. This has brought into focus some questions about privacy, access to data and ownership. In the UK, the subject association / learned society for the sport and exercise sciences, BASES, has a code of conduct – but it doesn’t help to resolve all of this tensions that exist.
    At the outset, there is a proper question to ask about what actually counts as ‘data’. Some matters are uncomplicated – competitive performance is often a matter of public record. Analysts with different priorities may be interested in, for example, performance levels over time, performance change, rate of change, coaching effects, technical benefits and so on. Other aspects of an athlete’s ‘data set’ (and I use the term ‘athlete’ in the generic sense) might include wider health indicators and information about lifestyle patterns (e.g., nutrition, sleep), even psychological anxieties and insecurities, not to mention indiscretions. So, who owns those data?
    The BASES Code of Conduct (2009) is clear: “All clients have the right to expect the highest standards of professionalism, consideration and respect”. But that leads us to the second operational problem – who are the ‘clients’? There is an attempt to bring some clarity to this too: “Throughout [the] Code of Conduct the word ‘client(s)’ includes all participants”. Can you see where this is going? … So who are the ‘participants’? The Code is silent on that.
    There might be a number of interested stake-holders in addition to the athlete. Depending on the sport, these might include sponsor, franchise owner, manager, coach, medic, team-mate, QANGO, national governing body, media, union, professional association. Under different sets of circumstances, any or all of these might have a legitimate claim to an individual athlete’s data.
    The Code is clear on some principles:
    • All clients have the right to expect the highest standards of professionalism, consideration and respect,
    • … [A]ll BASES members must preserve the confidentiality of the information acquired in their work which must not be devolved without prior written consent of a client. All clients must be informed that they have a right to a copy of such information relating to them …
    And also, interestingly:
    • Members should seek to maximise the accessibility of research findings and, wherever appropriate, publish them in the interest of both science, and sport and exercise.
    The argument is anchored around the idea of privacy. The excellent book by Mike McNamee and his colleagues, ‘Research Ethics in Exercise, Health and Sports Sciences’, helps with this: “[Privacy] refers to the ability to keep to ourselves information about ourselves that we choose not to disclose to others” (p. 94). It seems clear that privacy is also a contested concept, context-sensitive and, to some extent at least, individually prescribed.
    This helps a bit. But it doesn’t assist in resolving some genuine conflicts of interest between, say, franchise owner, coach, medic and athlete. In ‘The Ground of Professional Ethics’ Daryl Koehn does provide a professional practice solution including the advice to (i) act in the interest of the client (not necessarily her/his wishes), (ii) service the client with discretion, (iii) maintain a sense of responsibility.
    In reality though, for elite athletes especially, this advice is open to interpretation.

    • What a detailed comment, Scott.
      Thank you for making time to write such a thought-provoking set of observations. I am going to reflect and respond.
      I am delighted we are engaging this way.
      Best wishes


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