Data reuse and sharing


Industry practice is increasingly moving towards research data being made available for use in multiple research projects by a research team and use by other researchers.

Some grant agencies, most notably the NHMRC and the ARC, now encourage the sharing of (unidentified) data from projects they fund.

In addition, some journal publishers require evidence of open access before agreeing to publication or at the least will want access to datasets for verification of publication data tables.

Privacy legislation can impact on the possibility of reusing or sharing research data. Participants should give consent for any future reuse and this is usually done via the participant information sheet and consent form. For more information on how to choose the correct participant information sheet and consent form, see Choosing the Most Appropriate Participant Information Sheet and Consent Form (PDF, 68.34 KB) (opens in a new window)

To enable data sharing and reuse researchers should seek extended or unspecified consent.

If you need secure data storage, want to collaborate with researchers internal or external to the University, or you need computing resources to analyse your data, you can either contact your IT relationship manager or Peter Bugeia (Intersect eResearch Analyst). For an overview of workflow when using CloudStor, see Using CloudStor and the Collections App (PDF, 182.52 KB) (opens in a new window)

Data access questions in the HREA

In order to facilitate data sharing in future projects, researchers need to plan for this and explain the plan in their ethics application.

The HREA form asks the following:

Q3.17 Describe any foreseeable future activities for which information/data collected and/or used in this project may be made available

  • Future use may include sharing information with other researchers, secondary use of information for related research, publishing the data for unrelated research and non-research purposes and other possible uses.
  • Include in your response any limitations on future use.
  • Include in your response any expectations or requirements by funders, publishers or others to make data available.
  • Consider the NHMRC Statement on Data Sharing.

Q3.18 Describe any ethical considerations relating to the planned or possible future use of information/data in this project

  • Consider whether non-identifiable data could be used in future research.
  • Consider the ANDS 'Publishing and Sharing Sensitive Data' Guide.
  • Ethical considerations may include your potential obligations to act on the findings of your research in the future.
  • Consider who will have ongoing custody of data or research outputs, including any intellectual property ownership.
  • If data will be made available for any purpose, describe how the approach will protect participant privacy. See the Publishing and Sharing Sensitive Data Guide
  • Consider whether appropriate consent for the future use of data has been sought.

The HREA project description template has a section called Results, Outcomes and Future Plans which includes the following items:

  • Plans for dissemination and publication of project outcomes
  • Other potential uses of the data at the end of the project
  • Plans for sharing and/or future use of data and/or follow-up research
  • Anticipated secondary use of data.

Requests for new uses of already collected data

Data from projects that have already commenced or finished the data collection process, and which haven't factored data sharing into the ethics application may not be able to do so.

Researchers must respect any confidentiality and consent agreements they made when collecting the data. Researchers who have used the Western Sydney consent form which states that the data collected will only be used for that project (specific consent) will not be able to reuse or share the data without seeking participants consent for that re-use or sharing. There are practical and ethical considerations in re-contacting people for new consent.

If an amendment to reconsider consent is submitted, the HREC will consider issues such as:

  • What the data was originally collected for and any statements made to participants about use.
  • Whether seeking consent for re-use from participants is feasible.
  • Why the data needs to be reused, including who is initiating the re-use, how the data will be used in a new project and the benefits of that project.
  • How the data is impacted by Privacy Legislation.
  • Whether the data:
    • is health data
    • will be accessed and reused in non-identified form only
    • is of a sensitive nature; participants were assured of confidentiality; or other reasons why a participant may object to its reuse.
  • Whether the researcher is the originator of the dataset(s) to be reused; the IP arrangements for the data.
  • Under what terms the data will be used or shared (future access and control).

Data access for publication verification

Journals may ask for access to data so that research results can be verified. This should not be the raw data but the aggregated, non-identified data associated with the publication findings and any tables etc. generated for the publication.

Access to this data, for this purpose, is allowed.

Role of the University Library

Research data is an asset of the University. In line with funder requirements and sector best practice, the University's Open Access to Research (opens in a new window) and Research Data Management (opens in a new window) policies state that research data must be properly managed, stored, backed up, archived, described and where possible made freely available for reuse in ResearchDirect (opens in a new window)

The Library plays a key role in research data management and should be notified when research data and datasets are generated in University research. Notify the Library about a dataset (opens in a new window)

Further information can be found on the Library website (opens in a new window) or email: lib-research@westernsydney.edu.au for assistance.