As Open as Possible, As Closed as Necessary:

Empowering Transparency in Publications Based on Sensitive Research Data

Virtual Workshop Overview and Agenda

Friday, November 20, 2020 | 11:00am to 3:00pm EST


Organizers: DataPASS Alliance


Over the last two decades institutional stakeholders in the academic ecosystem have increasingly expected and facilitated research transparency. Today it is common for funders and editors to require or encourage grantees and authors to make accessible the data and materials that underpin their research results. Many factors impinge on the ease with which scholars can achieve research transparency, including the type of analysis they conducted, and the content and form of their research data.

Achieving transparency is particularly challenging when scholars have collected or generated sensitive data, such as those created through interacting with human participants. Openness is bracketed by the requirement for authors to comply with ethical commitments and applicable laws. Such compliance may limit the type or amount of sensitive research data they can share. Exactly how editors can facilitate transparency under these conditions is a key concern for many journals.

Fortunately, socio-technical infrastructure has been developing to provide a range of risk-reduction measures to help scholars to make their research more open while still protecting study participants. These security and confidentiality controls – which can be procedural, economic, legal, educational, and technical – restrict access to data or limit the potential for harm if access is permitted. Examples include secure multiparty computation, differentially private statistics, aggregation, noise addition, the removal of direct and indirect identifiers, secure data enclaves, and data use agreements.

This workshop builds on the organizers’ individual and collective focus on these important topics. It will further familiarize journal editors with a range of risk-mitigating strategies, so that they can develop informed, consistent, and ethical journal policies regarding the sharing of sensitive data, and support and guide authors whose scholarship is underpinned by such data.

The workshop is the fifth in a series on "Developing and Implementing Data Policies: Conversations Between Journals and Data Repositories." The series is designed to promote discussion among social science journal editors, personnel from data repositories, data librarians, and other relevant constituencies about current approaches to data citation, management, and archiving. As with previous events in the series, the workshop is being organized and led by various members of the Data Preservation Alliance for the Social Sciences (Data-PASS,, a consortium of social science data repositories: the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) at Harvard University; the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina‐Chapel Hill; the Inter‐university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan; and the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR) at Syracuse University.

Welcome and Overview - 11:00 - 11:30am ET

Colin Elman, Qualitative Data Repository – Overview Slides

Introduction of workshop organizers, clarification of workshop goals, and overview of workshop substance. We hope to encourage an open and inclusive conversation about the challenges and opportunities that arise when authors who (wish to) publish on your pages would like, or are required, to share the sensitive research data underpinning their manuscripts. What policies, guidance, and workflows need to be developed to encourage and help authors to make their data accessible?

Break-Out Session #1: Policies and Guidelines for Sensitive Research Data - 11:30am - 12:15pm ET

  • Guiding questions
    • Core decisions journals have to make
      • What data and materials will authors be called on to share?
      • When will they be called on to share them?
      • Under what conditions are exemptions granted (and what documentation needs to be provided)?
    • When / where / how / by whom will those get formalized
      • Internal to journal
      • Author-facing
    • For discussion: some excerpts from different journals’ data policies
  • Group A
    • Suited for editors who are in the early stages of planning their journal’s data policies, will focus on introductory questions.
    • Hosts: Rick Gilmore, Databrary and Colin Elman, Qualitative Data Repository
  • Group B
    • Intended for editors and journals with an extant data policy which encourages data sharing, will look at how such policies might acknowledge that authors sometimes rely on sensitive data and that they may be able to make them available using privacy protective mechanisms.
    • Hosts: Thu- Mai Christian, Odum Institute Data Archive and Diana Kapiszewski, Qualitative Data Repository
  • Group C
    • Intended for journals that require data sharing, the editors of which may be called on to grant waivers for sensitive data. It will discuss the role that privacy protective measures can play in allowing access to sensitive data.
    • Hosts: Merce Crosas, Institute for Quantitative Social Science/Dataverse and Margaret Levenstein, ICPSR
  • Break - 12:15pm - 12:30pm ET

    Lightning Introductions to Mechanisms for Protecting Sensitive Research Data - 12:30pm - 1:15pm ET

    Lightning Introductions Recording

    • Reviewing sensitive data with Differential Privacy
    • Storing Unaltered Data, Sharing and Restricting Access
    • Virtual data enclaves for sharing restricted data pre and post publication
    • From logical to technological approaches for verifying sensitive data
    • Break-out session #2: Sensitive Data and Journal Workflows - 1:15 - 2:00pm ET

      • The hosts of each session will ask for one volunteer to take notes on the discussion.
      • Guiding questions
        • What sorts of workflows need to be developed to accommodate the sharing of sensitive research data associated with manuscripts submitted to and articles published in your journal?
          • For instance, privacy protective measures will usually be employed in accordance with a prior commitment to an IRB (or its equivalent in other countries). Do editors have any responsibility to determine if authors have done what they told their IRB they would do?
          • If a journal requires data sharing, and an author requests a waiver to limit access to data using privacy protective measures, who has the agency to decide whether the waiver should be granted, and what kinds of documentary or other evidence will the journal consider?
        • Where will sensitive data underpinning publications published in your journal be housed?
          • If you plan to host them, what challenges will an author’s desire to use privacy-protective measures pose to you / the venue?
          • Will you allow authors to store their data in other venues?
        • Who needs access to shared sensitive data, and at what point in the publishing process is that access necessary?
          • Review, pre-pub verification, post-pub verification
      • Group A
        • Suitable for editors who are just beginning to consider how to work sensitive data into their workflows; will focus on introductory questions; also appropriate for editors who have questions or concerns about qualitative data specifically.
        • Hosts: Colin Elman, Qualitative Data Repository and Margaret Levenstein, ICPSR
      • Group B
        • Intended for editors who have begun to develop their workflow for sensitive data and have developed questions or concerns in the process
        • Hosts: Rick Gilmore, Databrary and Social Science / Dataverse and Diana Kapiszewski, Qualitative Data Repository
      • Group C
        • Designed for editors who have a functioning workflow for sensitive data and would like to optimize it or consider other options, including providing access to reviewers or for pre-publication verification
        • Hosts: Thu-Mai Christian, Odum Institute Data Archive, and Merce Crosas, Institute for Quantitative

      BREAK - 2:00 - 2:15pm –
      Closing Session Looking Forward and Next Steps - 2:15 - 2:45pm ET

      Margaret Levenstein, ICPSR and Merce Crosas, Institute for Quantitative Social Science / Dataverse

      Closing session recording

      What can repositories do to support you as you continue to develop policies and workflows to help your authors make their publications as open as possible, and as closed as necessary? Potential interest in signing a joint statement on some of these matters that could raise awareness and trigger productive processes “upstream” from manuscript submissions to address some journal challenges? A “Journal Editors’ Discussion Interface” in-development will provide a platform to continue this conversation.