Last Updated: December 9th, 2014
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The sharing of genomic and health-related data for biomedical research is of key importance in ensuring continued progress in our understanding of human health and wellbeing. The challenges raised by international, collaborative research require a principled but nevertheless practical Framework that brings together regulators, funders, patient groups, information technologists, industry, publishers, and research consortia to share principles about data exchange. Such a Framework will facilitate responsible research conduct.
This Framework is developed under the auspices of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health. Its mission is to accelerate progress in human health by helping to establish a common Framework of harmonized approaches to enable effective and responsible sharing of genomic and clinical data and to catalyze data sharing projects that drive and demonstrate the value of data sharing.
This Framework provides guidance for the responsible sharing of human genomic and health-related data, including personal health data and other types of data that may have predictive power in relation to health. In particular, it highlights, and is guided by, Article 27 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 27 guarantees the rights of every individual in the world “to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” (including to freely engage in responsible scientific inquiry), and at the same time “to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific…production of which [a person] is the author.” (As set out in Appendix 1, many other international conventions and national laws, regulations, codes and policies also guide responsible data sharing behavior).
This Framework is guided by the human rights of privacy, non-discrimination and procedural fairness. At the same time, it considers all human rights principles relevant, complementary and interrelated, founded as they are on respect for human dignity. Since science proceeds only with the broad support of society, respect for all persons is a primary driver underlying all other derived principles. In particular, this Framework establishes a set of foundational principles for responsible research conduct and oversight of research data systems in the realm of genomic and health-related data sharing. It interprets the right of all people to share in the benefits of scientific progress and its applications as being the duty of data producers and users to engage in responsible scientific inquiry and to access and share genomic and health-related data across the translation continuum, from basic research through practical applications. It recognizes the rights of data producers and users to be recognized for their contributions to research, balanced by the rights of those who donate their data. In addition to being founded on the right of all citizens in all countries to the benefits of the advancements of science, and on the right of attribution of scientists, it also reinforces the right of scientific freedom.
The value of this Framework is that it: offers political and legal dimensions that reach beyond the moral appeals of bioethics and provides a more robust governance framework for genomic and health-related data sharing; speaks to groups and institutions, not just individuals; stresses the progressive realization of duties; and urges action by governments, industry, funders, publishers, and researchers to create an international environment for responsibly sharing data.
This Framework will be elaborated by subsequent Policies (Appendix 2) on particular issues such as ethical governance, consent, privacy and security. The Framework and its subsequent Policies should be used in projects around the world (whether Global Alliance “inspired” or not) such that they become the tools that approval entities, recognized by different jurisdictions, will turn or refer to for guidance. Recognizing diversity of legal and ethical approaches and being responsive to emerging issues, both this Framework and its Policies are intended to provide leadership in this domain for wider discussion.
Purpose. The purpose of this Framework is to provide a principled and practical framework for responsible sharing of genomic and health-related data. Its primary goals are to:
Interpretation. Without ascribing legal meaning, this Framework should be interpreted in good faith and is to be understood as a whole. The Foundational Principles and Core Elements are to be understood as complementary and interrelated, as appropriate and relevant in different contexts, countries and cultures. This Framework will be supported by Policies for guidance in particular issues such as, but not limited to, ethical governance, privacy and security, and consent. For the purposes of this Framework, “data sharing” includes data transfer or data exchange between data users, or where data are made available to secondary researchers, either openly or under specified access conditions.
This Framework is intended for all entities or individuals providing, storing, accessing, managing or otherwise using genomic and health-related data, including data donors, users, and producers. This includes, but is not limited to, researchers, research participants and patient communities, publishers, research funding agencies, data protection authorities, hospitals, research ethics committees, industry, ministries of health, and public health organizations.
The Foundational Principles of this Framework guide the responsible sharing of genomic and healthrelated data. They also facilitate compliance with the obligations and norms set by international and national law and policies.
It is good practice for those involved in genomic and health-related data sharing to have core elements of responsible data sharing in place. The following Core Elements of the Framework aid in the interpretation of the Foundational Principles to individuals and organizations involved in the sharing of genomic and health-related data. The Core Elements should be interpreted in a proportionate manner that acknowledges different levels of risk and community cultural practices. This Framework applies to use of data that have been consented to by donors (or their legal representatives) and/or approved for use by competent bodies or institutions in compliance with national and international laws, general ethical principles, and best practice standards that respect restrictions on downstream uses. Endorsement of the Framework does not preclude the development of particular guidance via Policies for specific populations (e.g. children) or issues (e.g. ethical governance, privacy and security, and consent).
This Framework for Responsible Sharing of Genomic and Health-Related Data is the result of the work of many people and committees. Developed under the auspices of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, the Framework was initially formulated by an international committee (Regulatory and Ethics Working Group) representing a wide spectrum of the bioethics, genomics, and clinical communities. Collaborative input was provided from individuals as well as biomedical, patient advocacy, and ethical, policy and legal organizations, committees, and projects from all regions of the world. These include, but are not limited to: