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Research data management

Managing sensitive data

Ethical and legal issues

When working with data, you are expected to be aware of the ethical and legal issues surrounding your data. The management of sensitive data is a part of good research practice as it ensures you maintain high ethical standards to minimise the risk to participants, researchers and third parties including the University.


Sensitive data

There are many reasons data can be sensitive. Examples include:

  • Ethical issues surrounding personal or biometric data
  • Legal issues such as IP rights
  • Commercial interests or patents
  • Environmental issues such as the locating of endangered species
  • Security issues for organisations or countries

Any issues should be identified and addressed in your Data Management Plan.


Despite these issues, many data can be shared if you take the steps to address them responsibly and appropriately.

Strategies for handling sensitive data include:

  • Obtaining ethical approval
  • Complying with data protection legislation such as GDPR
  • Informed consent
  • Anonymisation
  • Controlled access
  • Licensing
  • Secure storage

The UK Data Service provides more guidance on managing legal and ethical issues


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