Ethics of Using Other Researcher’s Data

It is good practice to make data collected in research projects available to others. A recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine [1] says that just using such data is ‘parasitical’, and suggest that researchers who use archived data should collaborate with the researchers who collected the original data. The CLAHRC WM Director disagrees. While there may be times when collaboration with the originators of the data is a good idea, it should not be expected or required. The original researchers are ‘invested’, and in many occasions it is in the public and scientific interest for the new investigations to maintain independence. It is best that data ‘gifted’ to the research community should be just that – a gift. Also, the original researchers might have lost interest, retired or died. Reinhart and Rogoff’s magisterial database of economic data is a case in point.[2] Independent re-analysis of the data they had collected and magnanimously made available to other researchers sometimes produced conclusions different to the original.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Longo DL, & Drazen JM. Data Sharing. New Engl J Med. 2016; 374: 276-7.
  2. Reinhart CM, & Rogoff KS. Growth in a Time of Debt. Am Econ Rev. 2010; 100(2): 573-8.

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