Conducting your research

Data sharing

What happened? 

Participants are entitled to have copies of their own data - such as an interview note or a recording - and it is good practice to offer this as part of the process of seeking consent.  However, what is the researcher’s responsibility if the participant wishes to share their data? 

In one recent study, an adult interviewee requested a copy of her interview recording.  She wanted to share it with other family members, because she felt it would help them understand her perspective on some recent difficult events.  The researcher was concerned that the interview could upset those family members - but what could he do?

What did the researcher do? 

The researcher could not refuse to provide the recording - that was the participant’s right.  But he wrote and explained to the participant that he had taken advice from his organisation’s ethics committee, and explained the ethics concerns that he had (that the recording would be upsetting for other people).  He asked the participant to consider not sharing the recording, and that she should consider other ways of talking to the family members, and reflect for a while on the possible consequences of sharing the recording.