Consent for data sharing

Informed consent is an ethical requirement for most research and must be considered and implemented throughout the research lifecycle, from planning to publication to sharing.

Failure to properly address issues of consent may restrict the opportunities for initial use of data, the publishing of your results and the sharing of the data.

Overview

Discussing and obtaining consent for participation in research, for use of information gathered for analyses, publications and outputs, and for sharing and reuse of data beyond the research can be a one-off occurrence or an ongoing process. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.

 Type of  consent  Advantages  Disadvantages
One-off consent

Simple

Least hassle to participants

Research outputs not always known in advance

Participants will not know all info they will contribute

Process consent Ensures active informed consent

May not get all consent needed before losing contact with participants

Repetitive, can annoy participants

One-off consent is simple, avoids repeated requests to participants, and meets the formal requirements of most Research Ethics Committees. Consent is gained early in the research process and covers all aspects of participation and data use. For research where no confidential or sensitive information is gathered (e.g. surveys), or where data collection is a one-off event, this is usually sufficient and most practical. It can be difficult to gain consent in one go in exploratory research or where not all data uses, research outputs and even methods are known in advance.

Process consent takes place throughout the research cycle. Consent for participation in research, for data use and for data sharing and reuse can be considered at different stages of the research, giving participants a clearer view of what participating in the research involves, which information they contribute and what the data to be shared consist of. This is recommended in ESRC's Research Ethics Framework and is important in a research design which involves more than one point of contact with a respondent.

Retrospective consent

Consent for reuse of data can also be sought after their research contribution is complete. However if a participant cannot be traced, the status of publishing or sharing the collected data may be uncertain.

Informing participants

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