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Secondary Uses of Personal Data for Population Research


In genomic research, cohort and large-scale population studies are proliferating along with accompanying infrastructures (databases and biobanks). Population-based research links samples and data from multiple sources often obtained for other purposes. The normative frameworks of many countries are largely based on 1980 OECD principles which limit the uses of personal data, especially for secondary purposes. These limits, now found in legislation, policies and research guidelines, pose major barriers to population-based research.

This text examines similarities and differences between epidemiology, public health research and genomics. It also distinguishes between primary and secondary uses of personal information. In a comparative and critical analysis of the normative landscapes of five countries, Québec (Canada), Germany, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, three barriers are identified: the impracticability of re-consent; the shortcomings of the review process (ethics and privacy) and certain multi-jurisdictional issues. Recommendations are proposed.

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Correspondence to Bartha Maria Knoppers.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License ( ), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Fortin, S., Knoppers, B.M. Secondary Uses of Personal Data for Population Research. Life Sci Soc Policy 5, 80 (2009).

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