Ethics and data sharing

When research involves obtaining data from people, researchers are expected to maintain the high ethical standards set out in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, both during research and when sharing data.

However, research data - even sensitive and confidential data - can be shared ethically and legally via the following strategies:

  • including provision for data sharing when gaining informed consent
  • protecting people's identities by anonymising data where needed
  • considering controlling access to data

Meeting expectations for sharing and reuse

Sharing research data is now actively encouraged by funding agencies such as the ARC and NHMRC.

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Jointly issued by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research outlines the following data sharing requirements:

  • research data should be made available for use by other researchers unless this is prevented by ethical, privacy or confidentiality matters. (Section 2.5.2)
  • researchers have a responsibility to their colleagues and the wider community to disseminate a full account of their research as broadly as possible. (Section 4.4)

Australian Research Council (ARC)

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Funding Rules for 2012 state:

The Final Report must justify why any publications from a Project have not been deposited in appropriate repositories within 12 months of publication. The Final Report must outline how data arising from the Project has been made publicly accessible where appropriate. (Section 13.3.2)

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

The revised Funding Agreement of the National Health and Medical Research Council states:

If required by an NHMRC policy about the dissemination of research findings, the Administering Institution must deposit any publication resulting from a Research Activity, and its related data, in an appropriate subject and/or open access repository (such as the Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research Inc. archive or databases listed under the National Centre for Biotechnology Information) in accordance with the timeframe and other requirements set out in that policy. (Paragraph 12.9)

Revised Policy on Dissemination of Research Findings (2012)

As of 1 July 2012 the NHMRC requires any publication arising from an NHMRC supported research project be deposited into an open access institutional repository within a twelve month period from the date of publication.

In a February 2012 editorial article about open access, the CEO of the NHMRC stated that:

The next steps will be improving public and other researchers’ access to publicly funded data. NHMRC is a signatory to the Joint Statement on Data Sharing of Public Health Research, demonstrating our commitment to the timely and responsible sharing of public health data.

Why share your data?

Please see Why share research data?