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Public Health Genomics. 2011;14(6):319-24. doi: 10.1159/000324705. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

Public perspectives regarding data-sharing practices in genomics research.

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Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.



Genomics research data are often widely shared through a variety of mechanisms including publication, meetings and online databases. Re-identification of research participants from sequence data has been shown possible, raising concerns of participants' privacy.


In 2008-09, we convened 10 focus groups in Durham, N.C. to explore attitudes about how genomic research data were shared amongst the research community, communication of these practices to participants and how different policies might influence participants' likelihood to consent to a genetic/genomic study. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcripts were complemented by a short anonymous survey. Of 100 participants, 73% were female and 76% African-American, with a median age of 40-49 years.


Overall, we found that discussants expressed concerns about privacy and confidentially of data shared through online databases. Although discussants recognized the benefits of data-sharing, they believed it was important to inform research participants of a study's data-sharing plans during the informed consent process. Discussants were significantly more likely to participate in a study that planned to deposit data in a restricted access online database compared to an open access database (p < 0.00001).


The combination of the potential loss of privacy with concerns about data access and identity of the research sponsor warrants disclosure about a study's data-sharing plans during the informed consent process.

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