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.
There are circumstances where no form of consent can be obtained. These situations are exceptional and will need case-by-case review and clear arguments to satisfy the requirements of ethics review boards.
There can be varied reasons why consent is not possible. Limited capacity may prevent a person from being fully informed. Data may have already been collected for another purpose that did not require consent, such as government administrative data. Consent may not be technically feasible in some very large scale projects. Data may have been collected years ago when formal consent procedures were not standard practice. Finally, if knowledge of the research would invalidate the method, then it may not be possible to inform participants in advance.
Because the principle of consent is so important, proceeding without it is possible, but will be subject to rigorous ethics review. In general, such research will have to meet three conditions:
It is also possible to share data without explicit consent, but special consideration must be given to each situation. Relevant factors include:
Here is an example where the UK Data Service has accepted data without explicit consent for sharing:
Apperly, I A (2017). Behavioural and eyetracking data using the Director task. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-852224
The UK Data Service advises that data sharing without explicit consent can be permissible on a case-by-case basis if the factors above are given proper consideration. In such cases, we communicate with depositors to ensure that they clearly understand their and our responsibilities for deposited data.
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