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Safely sharing sensitive data


Sensitive data are data that can be used to identify an individual, species, object, or location that introduces a risk of discrimination, harm, or unwanted attention. Major, familiar categories of sensitive data are:

  • human medical/health and personal data, including information about secret or sacred practices
  • ecological data that may place vulnerable species at risk.

Sensitive data can be published!

Publishing your data, or just a description of your data, means that others can discover it, reuse it and cite it.

ANDS Guide to publishing and sharing sensitive data

The ANDS Guide - Publishing and sharing sensitive data outlines best practice for the publication and sharing of sensitive research data in the Australian context. This comprehensive Guide provides straightforward, step-by-step advice  about  what you need to know and do before publishing and sharing your sensitive data, including:

  • confidentialising your human and sensitive ecological data
  • what's legal
  • what to include in a consent form requesting data publication and sharing
  • sharing sensitive data that you did not collect
  • making data discoverable: metadata
  • conditional access to data: what is it; how do I do it?
  • licensing your data
  • depositing your data
  • a comprehensive guide on most things you need to know about publishing sensitive data.

Publishing and sharing sensitive data poster

Sensitive Data Tree

Funders, publishers, ethics and sensitive data


Responsible sharing of sensitive data is required or encouraged by peak bodies and leading publishers in human research. Check out:



The ANDS Guide Data sharing considerations for Human Research Ethics Committees covers: the role of Human Research Ethics Committees in data sharing, legislation, funder guidelines and requirements, informed  consent  and  data sharing, de-identification, access control, licensing, and publishers and sensitive data.

Five safes of protecting confidential data

ANDS webinar (1 hour): Prof. George Altar (ICPSR and University of Michigan) and Dr. Steve McEachern (Australian Data Archive)

See how others publish sensitive data

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) has been gathering data on the mental, physical, and social health of over 50,000 women since 1995. The survey data are used by over 650 collaborators - most of whom are not part of the original research team.

Sensitive data in Research Data Australia

Advice on sharing sensitive data from here and abroad

More information