Big Data

For Better Hearts


New paper

Responsible data sharing in a big data-driven translational research platform: lessons learned


Published: 30 December 2019, BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making

Authors: S. Kalkman, M. Mostert, N. Udo-Beauvisage, J. J. van Delden & G. J. van Thiel





To foster responsible data sharing in health research, ethical governance complementary to the EU General Data Protection Regulation is necessary. A governance framework for Big Data-driven research platforms will at least need to consider the conditions as specified a priori for individual datasets. We aim to identify and analyze these conditions for the Innovative Medicines Initiative’s (IMI) BigData@Heart platform.



We performed a unique descriptive case study into the conditions for data sharing as specified for datasets participating in BigData@Heart. Principle investigators of 56 participating databases were contacted via e-mail with the request to send any kind of documentation that possibly specified the conditions for data sharing. Documents were qualitatively reviewed for conditions pertaining to data sharing and data access.



Qualitative content analysis of 55 relevant documents revealed overlap on the conditions: (1) only to share health data for scientific research, (2) in anonymized/coded form, (3) after approval from a designated review committee, and while (4) observing all appropriate measures for data security and in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations.



Despite considerable overlap, prespecified conditions give rise to challenges for data sharing. At the same time, these challenges inform our thinking about the design of an ethical governance framework for data sharing platforms. We urge current data sharing initiatives to concentrate on: (1) the scope of the research questions that may be addressed, (2) how to deal with varying levels of de-identification, (3) determining when and how review committees should come into play, (4) align what policies and regulations mean by “data sharing” and (5) how to deal with datasets that have no system in place for data sharing.


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Published on: 04/29/2020