Extending Support for Publishing Sensitive Research Data at the University of Bristol


The University of Bristol Research Data Service was set up in 2014 to provide support and training for academic staff and postgraduate researchers in all aspects of research data management. As part of this, the data.bris Research Data Repository was developed to provide a publication platform for research data generated at the University of Bristol. Initially launched in 2015 to provide open access to data, since 2017 it has also been possible to publish access-controlled datasets containing sensitive data via this platform.

The vast majority (90%) of datasets published are openly accessible, but there has been steady demand for access-controlled release of datasets containing information that is ethically or commercially sensitive. These cases require careful management of additional risk: for example, where datasets contain information on human participants, balancing the risk of re-identification with the need to provide robust data that maximises research value through re-use. Many groups within the University of Bristol (for example, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) have extensive experience and expertise in this area, but it became apparent that there was a need to provide additional support for researchers who were not able to draw on the experience of these established groups. This practice paper describes the process of setting up a dedicated service to provide training and basic disclosure risk assessments in order to address these skills gaps, and outlines lessons learnt and future directions for the service.

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