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 funder expectations for sharing and reuse

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

The NHMRC Statement on Data Sharing states that:

NHMRC encourages researchers to disseminate and share their research data through publicly accessible databases or repositories. However, NHMRC understands that the level of detail in which data could be shared may be limited by a wide range of factors (e.g. ethics (particularly consent), legal, IP)… Researchers are therefore encouraged to share data with as much breadth and depth as possible, while taking into account their ethical-legal obligations, and providing sufficient metadata to allow others to reuse their data.

Data sharing can greatly benefit a researcher and the research community, for further information please see Why share research data?