When collecting, using and sharing research data, ethical considerations and legal obligations guide the way.
Ethics are an integral part of a research project, from the conceptual stage of the research proposal to the end of a research project. Within the EU the RESPECT project has drawn up professional and ethical guidelines (Institute for Employment Studies, 2004) for conducting socio-economic research. The RESPECT Code of Practice is based on three main guidelines:
Depending on the type of data you collect you will have to deal with different laws. Whereas Intellectual Property legislation applies to all data, collecting personal data has its own laws to adhere to. Importantly, from 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR; European Union, 2016a) will apply to any EU researcher or researcher in the European Economic Area (EEA) who collects personal data about a citizen of any country, anywhere in the world.
Many research funders and journals expect or require data sharing (i.e., data to be made available in a data repository). Especially for (sensitive) personal data, there may be a perceived tension between data sharing and data protection. In the coming paragraphs, we will show how a combination of gaining consent, anonymising data, gaining clarity over who owns the copyright to your data and controlling access to data can enable the ethical and legal sharing of data.
First, we will get you started on the topic of ethical review. Starting with an ethical self-assessment will help you identify the key ethical and legal issues in your study beforehand, which will maximise your data's value whilst protecting your participants.