On March 17, 2022, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) National Coordination Office (NCO) and National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a “Request for Information on Federal Priorities for Information Integrity Research and Development.” The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is pleased to offer the following comments in response to this request.
ARL Comments on US Federal Priorities for Information Integrity Research & Development
May 15, 2022
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on US federal priorities for information integrity research and development, particularly as it pertains to the challenge of misinformation and disinformation, and building a healthy information ecosystem with an informed and engaged public. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) applauds the Biden-Harris administration for its leadership in scientific integrity, trust in government, and this attention to research and development to “advance the trustworthiness of information, mitigate the effects of information manipulation, and foster an environment of trust and resilience in which individuals can be discerning consumers of information.” Library and information science, archival theory and practice, and the field of digital stewardship in particular have much to contribute to a rigorous, evidence-based research agenda on information integrity. ARL and its member libraries partner with research institutions, civil society, and the broad scholarly community to advocate for policies that balance openness, transparency, privacy, accountability, preservation, and integrity of the record of public discourse. And libraries of all types are community-engaged institutions and trusted sources of data and information.
The information ecosystem is global and requires global collaboration to safeguard principles of open communication, integrity and visibility of the record of discourse, human rights, and equitable access to digital information and services. ARL submits the following comments on behalf of its 126 members of the research library community in the United States and Canada:
Today’s information ecosystem is vastly complex and constantly evolving; it is shaped by an enormous array of factors and interests. Understanding how information can be manipulated as it propagates through this ecosystem is a grand challenge, requiring interdisciplinary collaboration among many domains, including computer science and other technical fields, information science, and social and behavioral research, and indeed many other disciplines.
In recent years, the extent of concentration and commercialization of social media and other internet platforms have introduced new challenges; the platforms’ operation is opaque, they manipulate attention and behavior as well as distribute information; and they often leave little record for accountability or to support research and analysis. The ability to fabricate very convincing video and audio materials (so-called deep fakes) and the growing scale of computationally generated materials make it ever more difficult to assess information as it circulates. The widespread and systematic introduction of propaganda into the ecosystem has also raised the stakes.
We believe that this Information Integrity Research and Development (IIRD) Interagency Working Group can be helpful in a number of areas:
(1) Ethical research practices for the new environment, including research subject consent and ethical use of artificial intelligence, for example. Affected communities, including Black, Indigenous, and other historically marginalized groups need to partner in the development of new consent frameworks.
“New methodological norms should include engaging technologists, community partners, and civil society organizations in the production of data pipelines, beginning from the ethical principles laid out by the Association of Internet Researchers, which includes advocating for meaningful informed consent throughout all stages of research (Association of Internet Researchers, 2019)” (Donovan, 2020).
(2) Accountability, including algorithmic transparency and researcher access to data collected by social media platforms.
(3) Information literacy writ large: education resources, practices, and technology that provide students and the general public with the skills and competencies to identify fabrications and falsifications, and to help identify authentic information and records.
The field of digital stewardship offers both values and capabilities to inform the IIRD Interagency Working Group with respect to information trustworthiness. ARL is pleased to see the formation of an Information Literacy Task Force through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
(4) Methods and research to rapidly identify attempts to influence public behavior and belief, particularly across multiple platforms and channels, and efforts targeted to specific audiences.
Wilson and Starbird (2020) recommend coordinated, cross-platform collaboration in these endeavors.
(5) Ensuring that the lasting scholarly and cultural record and supporting information is preserved, and comprehensively captures important events and ideas. This record must be secure against attacks and subversion.
Librarians are trusted experts with access to sources of evaluated data and information, and their physical and digital spaces are sites of lifelong learning. With their professional ethical principles of user privacy, inclusion, and equitable access, and a professional practice oriented to respecting provenance, preservation, and versioning, librarians are well positioned as research partners in the work of the IIRD Interagency Working Group, as well as serving as channels for community participation and engagement.
Mary Lee Kennedy
Association of Research Libraries
Altman, Micah, and Philip N. Cohen. “The Scholarly Knowledge Ecosystem: Challenges and Opportunities for the Field of Information.” Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics (January 31, 2022). https://doi.org/10.3389/frma.2021.751553.
Altman, Micah, Karen Cariani, Bradley Daigle, Christie Moffatt, Sibyl Schaefer, Bethany Scott, and Lauren Work. 2020 NDSA Agenda for Digital Stewardship. (Alexandria, VA: NDSA, 2020). https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.05474.pdf.
Donovan, Joan. “Redesigning Consent: Big Data, Bigger Risks.” Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review (January 14, 2020). https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-006.
franzke, aline shakti, Anja Bechmann, Michael Zimmer, Charles Ess, and the Association of Internet Researchers. Internet Research: Ethical Guidelines 3.0 (Association of Internet Researchers, 2019). https://aoir.org/reports/ethics3.pdf.
Lynch, Clifford. “Managing the Cultural Record in the Information Warfare Era.” EDUCAUSE Review (November/December 2018): 94–95. https://www.cni.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/managing-cultural-lynch.pdf.
Wilson, Tom, and Kate Starbird. “Cross-platform Disinformation Campaigns: Lessons Learned and Next Steps.” Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review (January 14, 2020). https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-002.
About the Association of Research Libraries
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 126 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise; advances diversity, equity, and inclusion; and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.