Conference on Data Protection in Social Science Research

Data protection pervades many aspects of life, but it is also of considerable importance for research.

The new EU General Data Protection Regulation, which will enter into force in May 2018, intends to further strengthen data protection of individuals in the European Union. The regulation has very important implications for research, including research in social and behavioral sciences.

Participants of the conference “Data Protection in Social Science Research”, which was hosted at LISER on 17th October, discussed the challenges that the data protection regulation imposes on research, but also identified a number of opportunities that the new law brings.

“The right to data portability (Art. 20 in the GDPR) opens potential avenues for research – researchers could design studies for which participants are asked to bring their own data, for example from social security providers, health insurers, public institutions or even private companies such as Facebook”, said Prof. Michael Bosnjak, Director of the Leibnitz-Institute for Psychology Information.

Dr Anne Sofie Fink Kjeldgaard from the Danish National Archives sees the new data protection regulation as a “driver for development of user services for metadata and data as open as possible and as restricted as necessary, following on the ideas about Open Government and Open Science”.

In spite of the awareness about the importance of data protection in research, concerns were raised that we need to at all costs avoid any potential negative repercussions for research, such as restraining access to data for research purposes (for example access to register data used as sampling frames by universities and research institutes). In addition, the potential differential impact of data protection spreads across different actors such as national statistical institutes, universities, research institutes and private companies. The considerable burden to implement all safeguards was evoked by participants.