Ethics and research data management
La Trobe University has strict ethical requirements for research, especially research involving human participants. La Trobe University's Human research ethics page outlines these requirements which includes the submission of an ethics approval form.
The following recommendations concern your ethics approval application.
- Consider data management when completing your ethics application, in particular:
- the potential for data sharing and re-use
- privacy and confidentiality aspects
- participant consent
- relevant cultural sensitivities.
- Be explicit in your ethics application about any plans you have to make data available to other researchers or more broadly, or if this is something that you will consider in the future.
- Describe how you will protect participants’ privacy and confidentiality:
- How will you ensure that participants will not be identifiable?
- Will you seek informed consent from participants for proposed or potential data re-use?
- What access controls will be in place over the data?
- What re-use agreements have you already negotiated, or are you considering?
- Be explicit in your consent forms about any plans to make data available and who will be able to access the data. If possible, describe how the data would be accessed and potentially re-used but, if possible, avoid eliminating options you may not have thought of by being too specific.
- You may enhance your ability to share data later if you identify broad types of access rather than specific services that may be unsuitable or unavailable in future. For example, saying that you will publish data ‘through web-based institutional or subject archives or repositories’ will give you more flexibility than if you specify a single repository or archive that may not be available in future.
- Do not specify in your ethics application that you will destroy data at a certain time, until you have considered the significance of the data and the possibility that it may be used in follow-up studies or as a basis for new work by you or other researchers.
- Data does not have to be openly accessible to be shared for the benefit of future researchers and other interested groups. In many cases, mediated or restricted access could be appropriate.
- If you have confidential or sensitive data, you may be able to share it under certain circumstances, for example:
- if the re-users have to register
- if the re-users make an application to an ethics committee or project board
- if a formal re-use agreement protecting participant confidentiality is in place.
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