Human Genetics

, Volume 130, Issue 3, pp 441–449 | Cite as

Genomic databases access agreements: legal validity and possible sanctions

  • Yann JolyEmail author
  • Nik Zeps
  • Bartha M. Knoppers
Review Paper


Large-scale, public genomic databases have greatly improved the capacity of researchers to do genomic research. In order to ensure that the scientific community uses data from these public resources properly, data access agreements have been developed to complement already existing legal and ethical norms. Sanctions to address cases of data misuse constitute an essential part of this compliance framework meant to protect stakeholders in genomic research. Yet very little research and community debate has been done on this most important topic. This paper presents a review of different sanctions that could be invoked in cases of non-compliance from data users. They have been identified through comprehensive research and analysis of over 450 documents (journal articles, policy, guidelines, access policies, etc.) related to this topic. Given the considerable impact on users of even the milder sanctions considered in our paper, it is essential that stakeholders strive to achieve the highest degree of standardization and transparency when designing controlled-access agreements. It is only fair, after all, that users be able to expect that the border between acceptable and unacceptable conduct is clearly delineated and predictable in controlled-access policies. This suggests the importance for researchers to undertake additional empirical studies on the clarity and accessibility of existing database access agreements and related policies in the near future.


Database Administrator Research Integrity Access Policy Research Misconduct Access Agreement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful for the financial assistance of the International Cancer Genome Consortium and would like to acknowledge the contribution of all members of the EPC. We are particularly grateful to Prof. Martin Bobrow for his wise words of advice on the importance of not over-sanctioning users and to Mr. Francis Hemmings for his research assistance on the overview of available sanctions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deptartment of Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, Centre of Genomics and PolicyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Deptartment of Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, Centre of Genomics and PolicyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.St John of God PathologySubiacoWestern Australia
  4. 4.School of SurgeryThe University of Western AustraliaCRAWLEYAustralia

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