BootcampSD: Planning to use sensitive data

Planning to use sensitive data
Section 10 of 10


Creating or using sensitive data requires careful planning. Planning should take place at the start of a project, before any actual data gathering or generation has taken place. It is strongly recommended that all researchers produce a Data Management Plan. A Data Management Plan for a project working with sensitive data should consider the following areas:

  • How will the data be gathered safely? This might include the use of encrypted hardware or files, appropriate consent procedures
  • How will the data be stored securely? How quickly and frequently data will be backed up, secure storage options for data (the University of Bristol recommends its Research Data Storage Facility for the long-term secure storage of sensitive research data), any specified arrangements for the secure storage of third party data
  • Anonymisation and modification techniques. How you will ensure the data is suitably and effectively amended, separate storage of any ‘key’ to identifiers
  • Documentation and metadata. What information will be provided so that others can understand the data, any changes which have taken place in order to remove sensitivities, details of any original third party datasets and where they can be obtained
  • Data sharing. Which data will be suitable for sharing, what repository will be used and any controlled access requirements, any embargo periods on the release of the data.
  • Many major funders have their own DMP templates which they expect researchers to complete as part of a grant application process. Alternatively, the University of Bristol has also produced a generic template for researchers through the DMPonline tool.

    Quiz: which of the following details related to sensitive research data should be included in a Data Management Plan:

    1. Type of encryption used for sensitive interviews
    2. Ethical and legislative considerations
    3. Only information on the data which will be shared
    4. Only details of original data I will generate

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