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SPHINX examplifies how to ensure transparency and accountability in European Research projects

While “fake news” as a term has only recently entered the public consciousness and brought to the forefront by recent events, misinformation -and sometimes complete lack of information- has been a staple issue plaguing all facets of our society. While there has always been a call for transparency even in the private sector -for several good reasons- the real weight and responsibility of transparency falls on the public where in addition to everything else, public funds are directly spend in projects. Such spending rightly calls for an even higher degree of transparency to ensure the appropriate use of such funds and it is something that the public is highly interested in. The public isn’t the only party interested in the transparency of research projects. Scientists, organisations, and various individuals may be interested in their methodologies and the results that surface from them. While not all information can be made readily available for several reasons, ensuring the highest degree of quality and quantity for such information can aid other projects, European and others alike, along with individual research and enterprising.

To ensure that the SPHINX project meets the high quality of information dissemination activities, that characterises most European projects the consortium has taken great care to assume an Open Access approach, – as permitted by specific data- following the respective Horizon 2020 guidelines to ensure that the results of the project results provide the greatest impact possible. Sphinx will ensure the open access to all peer-reviewed scientific publications relating to its results and will provide access to the research data needed to validate the results presented in deposited scientific publications.

However, providing access to that data is only part of the equation that will ensure a clear and coherent view of the findings of the SPHINX project and its methodologies. Having grown accustomed to a post internet world, we as a society have finally realised the importance of personal data, its role in our society and the grave consequences its mishandling can cause. To that effect, the European Union has created the General Data Protection Regulation, more commonly known as GDPR, in order to ensure that all organisations that come in contact with personal data of its citizens, handle their data properly. Concepts such as users’ informed consent, third party data usage, user’s right about their data, are all guaranteed by complying with the standards set by the GDPR and other laws concerning the handling of personal data.

The SPHINX platform itself isn’t expected to process any personal data because, any data used will be properly processed by pilot organisations by using several different anonymisation and pseudonymisation techniques, to ensure the protection of the data owners. The process of anonymising data means that all identifying elements are eliminated from a set of personal data so that the data subject is no longer identifiable. For data to be anonymised, no element may be left in the information which could, by exercising reasonable effort, serve to re-identify the person concerned. When data have been successfully anonymised, they are no longer personal data and data protection legislation no longer applies, and as such the SPHINX platform will not handle any personal data. To be certain though, said partners, as well as the SPHINX consortium itself, will make sure to comply with any relevant laws, such as the GDPR, where applicable.

In addition, the SPHINX project will set the foundations for future projects that they themselves will probably need to handle various amount of user data to operate. Having our minds at the sustainable development of our project, its components will be designed in such a way that proper data processing will be easily implemented and actualized in the future, without impairing our current development.

In order for the SPHINX project to ensure the high degree of transparency we talked previously about, it will comply with any relevant standards, frameworks and laws to make certain that any relevant publications and research data will not contain any personal information ensuring the highest possible degree of transparency and accountability.