The Ethics of Biomedical Big Data

Volume 29 of the series Law, Governance and Technology Series pp 309-337


Researchers’ Duty to Share Pre-publication Data: From the Prima Facie Duty to Practice

  • Christoph SchickhardtAffiliated withUniversity of HeidelbergUniversity of Bamberg Email author 
  • , Nelson HosleyAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Brandeis University
  • , Eva C. WinklerAffiliated withNational Center for Tumor Diseases, University Hospital of Heidelberg

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The purpose of this chapter is to offer an ethical investigation into whether researchers have a duty to share pre-published bio-medical data with the scientific community. The central questions of the chapter are the following: do researchers have a prima facie duty to share pre-published data? And if so, what stakes and aspects of a concrete situation need to be taken into consideration in order to assess whether and to what extent researchers’ prima facie duty to share data applies? We will argue that based upon their basic duties to benefit society and to promote scientific knowledge, researchers have a prima facie duty to share data. We will also argue that in order to determine whether the prima facie duty applies in practice it is indispensable to take into account the stakes of the persons concerned as well as context dependent aspects. The chapter’s overall goal is to build an analytical and ethical framework that helps to assess with regard to concrete situations whether researchers’ duty to share data applies. To this end we analyse the concept of data sharing and clarify what data sharing might imply in practice. To offer an overview of the different stakeholders’ concerns we will analyse the normative-informational environment in which data producing researchers (to whom the prima facie duty to share data applies) are usually situated. In the last step we focus on the ethically relevant context dependent aspects and illustrate how they affect researchers’ prima facie duty to share data and stakeholders’ potentially conflicting stakes.